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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Faces Crucial Test Against 2nd-Place Iceland




After the victory comes the test. All the glory that Russia reaped in Paris with a 3-2 win over the world champion will be worth nothing if it doesn't win against Iceland on Wednesday at Dynamo Stadium.


The team that lost its first three European Championship qualifiers has awoken from its slumber and surprised its fans and its Group 4 rivals.


"I hope that this team's soul has appeared and won't disappear," Russian coach Oleg Romantsev said in Sport Express a day after the surprise defeat of France on Saturday.


Down in fourth place with only nine points, Russia is still an outsider to qualify for the 2000 European Championships. But a win Wednesday will draw Russia level with the surprise of the group, second-place Iceland. And with two relatively easy games in September home to Armenia and away at Andorra, it all may hang on Russia's final group game, home to Ukraine on Oct. 9.


But as the Icelanders showed in their first game against Russia in Reykjavik in September, they are no pushovers. A late goal gave Iceland victory and doomed previous manager Anatoly Byshovets. Unbeaten for 16 months, Iceland has drawn with Ukraine and France.


"There's no euphoria on this team," Romantsev said, "We have one more serious duel with a rival that hasn't lost a game yet. ... Iceland is a good, strong team."


A capacity crowd of 36,000 is likely as fans eager to see that rare beast, a successful Russian side, were snapping up tickets fast at Dynamo Stadium on Monday and Tuesday.


"Everyone wants to play well in front of the fans who have waited for victory so long," Romantsev said.


Russia will be without Yegor Titov and Alexander Mostovoi. Both were suspended after receiving yellow cards in Paris with Mostovoi also suffering from an abdominal injury after going off early in the first half. But Roma midfielder Dmitry Alenichev may make a surprise return from a rib injury that has kept him out for the past month.


Russia will also be hoping that Zenit striker Alexander Panov will continue the exuberant form that grabbed him two goals against France just two weeks after his match-winning performance in the Russian Cup Final.


It's unlikely that the other competitors for the top spot and automatic qualification will help Russia by slipping up Wednesday.


Ukraine, which leads the group with 14 points, is expected to beat Armenia in Yerevan on Wednesday, while Andorra at home to France will probably be fearing a goal frenzy as the French, third with 11 points, make up for Saturday's loss.


Dynamo Stadium, 36 Leningradsky Prospekt. Metro: Dynamo.


Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Tickets cost between 50 and 150 rubles. Admission for children is 10 rubles.


=== GROUP 4 ===


Team P W D L F A Pts


Ukraine 6 4 2 0 12 3 14


Iceland 6 3 3 0 7 2 12


France 6 3 2 1 10 6 11


Russia 6 3 0 3 16 10 9


Armenia 6 1 1 4 3 10 4


Andorra 6 0 0 6 2 19 0


Wednesday's Games


(home team listed first)


Andorra vs. France


Russia vs. Iceland


Armenia vs. Ukraine


Saturday, Sept. 4


Ukraine vs. France


Iceland vs. Andorra


Russia vs. Armenia


Wednesday, Sept. 8


Andorra vs. Russia


Iceland vs. Ukraine


Armenia vs. France


Saturday, Oct. 9


France vs. Iceland


Russia vs. Ukraine


Andorra vs. Armenia