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[World Cup] With new captain, Russia ‘100% prepared’ for Korea faceoff

June 17, 2014 - 10:00 By Korea Herald

 CUIABA, Brazil -- Russia’s new captain Vasily Berezutskiy said Monday he was 100 percent prepared for Russia and South Korea’s World Cup opener in Brazil.

Anticipation is high for Russia’s Tuesday opener with Korea, which ends its 12-year World Cup drought four years before it hosts the World Cup.

Vasily Berezutski (Right) of Russia fights for the ball with Maris Smirnovs (Left) of Latvia during their friendly soccer match in Moscow, 16 August 2006. (Yonhap)

“I am 100 percent prepared (for Tuesday’s match),” said Berezutskiy at a press conference Monday. “There are no weak teams here, this is the World Cup. We are going to play as good as we can and we will wait and see what the results will be.”

Berezutskiy is a regular on the Russian national football team with 78 international caps, playing diverse roles in the defense and wide midfield. Head coach Fabio Capello said he chose him because he speaks English and it was important to communicate with the referee. 

Plagued with a lingering Achilles’ tendon injury, former skipper Roman Shirokov, who was a key cornerstone in Capello’s midfield, was dropped from the roster on June 6 just before the team headed to its camp in Itu, Sao Paulo. To compensate for the loss, Capello had been shifting his possession strategies to the flanks rather than in the middle.

“Of course Shirokov is a big loss for us,” said Berezutskiy. “However, the Russian team … is strong as a team. This is a collective effort. This is why we shouldn‘t be too fixated on the fact that his absence here will affect our game too much. And we are going to cope with his absence. It’s not such a big problem.”

Capello has touted a meticulous World Cup preparation, cautious not to arrive too early or too late to Brazil or even to Cuiaba, where it arrived a day before the match instead of the customary two. He said the squad was in the best physical shape possible ahead of its match with Korea, which it meets again after beating the squad 2-1 in November.

Korea, for its part, has reportedly spent hours poring over videos and picking apart the Russian players’ strengths and weaknesses to understand how to counterattack.

“The most important thing we did is to prepare properly, making sure that we would get to this match in excellent condition,” said Capello. “That is the most important thing to play against Korea, because we know that Korea is very well prepared both tactically and physically.

“We‘ve already played a game against them and we’re lucky to have already gotten to know them,” he added.

The last two teams to take the World Cup stage, Russia and South Korea make their debut in Group H on Tuesday (Wednesday 7 a.m. local time).

By Elaine Ramirez, Korea Herald correspondent (