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EURO friendly report card: Russia

Russia coach Leonid Slutski has lots to ponder after a straightforward 3-0 win against Lithuania was followed by a disappointing display in losing 4-2 to UEFA EURO 2016 hosts France.

Russia celebrate a goal in their 3-0 victory over Lithuania
Russia celebrate a goal in their 3-0 victory over Lithuania ©AFP/Getty Images

Saturday: Russia 3-0 Lithuania (Smolov 41, Golovin 61, Glushakov 72)
Kritsyuk (Guilherme 46); Smolnikov, Ignashevish, A Berezutski (Yusupov 46), Kombarov; Samedov (Ionov 46), Tarasov, Glushakov, Ivanov (Maximov 69), Mamaev (Golovin 46); Smolov (Kerzhakov 46)

Russia coach Leonid Slutski gave debuts to three players, including two keepers, at Moscow's Otkrytiye Arena. Stanislav Kritsyuk played the first half and Guilherme the second but neither had too much to do as Russia dominated. The third debutant, midfielder Ilya Maksimov, arrived in the 69th minute.

Tuesday: France 4-2 Russia(Kanté 8, Gignac 38, Payet 64, Coman 76; Kokorin 56, Zhirkov 68)
Akinfeev (Lodygin 46); V Berezutskiy, A Berezutskiy, Kuzmin, Zhirkov (Smolnikov 69); Golovin (Glushakov 79), Dzagoev; Shirokov (Mamaev 69), Shatov (Samedov 88), Kokorin (Smolov 80); Dzyuba

Aleksandr Kokorin scores against France
Aleksandr Kokorin scores against France©AFP/Getty Images

Slutski's plan to field his strongest XI in Paris was disrupted when Igor Denisov caught a cold on the eve of the match, the defensive midfielder's place taken by CSKA Moskva's Aleksandr Golovin, 19. Russia's display before half-time was one to forget, but the second half offered reasons for optimism. The visitors scored two quality goals and their movement was much better. A deserved defeat, however, provided food for thought for Slutski. 

What we learned
1) While Russia boast several quality goalkeepers, Igor Akinfeev remains his country's undisputed No1. 

2) Aleksandr Golovin and Terek Grozny's Oleg Ivanov offer solid cover in central midfield.

3) Russia increased their tempo in the second half of both matches. Consequently their build-up play was better and goals came easier.

Questions remain
• How does Leonid Slutski get his players to perform with the same intensity for 90 minutes?

• Can Russia's ageing defence avoid a repeat of the mistakes they made against a lively France team?

Russia's EURO star: Artem Dzyuba

• Should Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Russia's all-time leading goalscorer, return to the squad?

Room for improvement
Slutski's side usually get the better of lower or middle-ranked nations but come up short against top-class opposition such as France when they cannot dominate in midfield.

EURO certainties (if fit)
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moskva)

Defenders: Aleksei Berezutski (CSKA Moskva), Vasili Berezutski (CSKA Moskva), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moskva), Dmitri Kombarov (Spartak Moskva), Oleg Kuzmin (Rubin), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit)

Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Dinamo Moskva), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA), Pavel Mamaev (Krasnodar), Aleksandr Samedov (Lokomotiv Moskva), Oleg Shatov (Zenit)

Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Zenit), Aleksandr Kokorin (Zenit), Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar)

Media view
Evgeni Dzichkovski, Sovetskiy Sport columnist
The match in France was more scary than informative. There were few bright spots among the black holes in Russia's performance. Rare positives came in the midst of breakdowns in consistency, intelligence and team efficiency.