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Russia in the right hands with Slutski, says Semin

As a must-win game against Sweden approaches, former national team boss Yuri Semin tells UEFA.com Leonid Slutski is the right man to rescue Russia's Group G campaign.

Russia in the right hands with Slutski, says Semin
Russia in the right hands with Slutski, says Semin ©Getty Images

"It's absolutely the right choice," former Russia boss Yuri Semin told UEFA.com as CSKA Moskva boss gears up for his first game as national team coach – a huge game against Sweden.

Russia need to close a four-point gap on their Saturday visitors if they are to break into the all important top two in Group G, and Semin – Russia's coach in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying – feels Slutski can inspire the team following Fabio Capello's departure. "The team was in desperate need of change – and a change in mindset," the 68-year-old said. "The new coach will have difficulties improving the situation but he is already working with the players, training with them, and he knows the state of play. He can toughen them up mentally."

Now in charge of Premier-Liga side Anji Makhachkala, Semin knows the campaign so far has not been impressive: "Eight points from six games and third place isn't the result everyone was hoping for, and you can't call this group very difficult. I don't think the players have been at their best in any of the matches."

According to Semin, the 44-year-old Slutski has done well to restore the captain's armband to Roman Shirokov, who skippered the team at the 2014 World Cup but was later beset by injury problems. "Shirokov is a true leader – in the dressing room and on the pitch," said Semin. "And I'm not just talking about Spartak Moskva. He is a key player in any team. He is one of the most experienced players in the team too."

Yuri Semin feels Slutski is the right man
Yuri Semin feels Slutski is the right man©Getty Images

Semin is sure there have been worse Russia selections, but he feels the fact that the squad contains just one foreign-based player in Real Madrid left-winger Denis Cheryshev is a factor in their current fortunes. He noted: "They are weaker than the side with Aleksandr Mostovoi, Sergei Yuran, Igor Shalimov, Andrei Kanchelskis. They all played for strong clubs in Europe. Currently, almost all our players compete in the Russian Premier League. You can see they lack international experience and big-game know-how."

Russia should be at full strength on Saturday, with a trip to Liechtenstein to come on 8 September. Keeper Igor Akinfeev has overcome a slight knee complaint, and the only real queston mark is where the goals will come from: Artem Dzyuba is enduring a drought with Zenit, Krasnodar's Fedor Smolov last played for Russia nearly two years ago while injury and suspension have left Dinamo Moskva's Aleksandr Kokorin short of match fitness.

"The starting lineup for Saturday is almost ready in my head," Slutski said. "The players are laughing and smiling but also working hard. We respect Sweden and understand the importance of this match. Fear? No, that won't help in a situation like this."

Semin, meanwhile, offered "luck to Slutski and his team" but was mindful that one man could make all the difference in Moscow. "A lot will depend on Zlatan Ibrahimović," he said. "We all know he is a key player for the Swedes – last year he was missing and the teams drew 1-1 in Solna."

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