Hosts Russia will be hoping to improve on their recent tournament performances and striker Fyodor Smolov will be key to his countries chances of progressing far at the 2018 World Cup.

Russia have failed to progress past the group stage in any World Cup while a run to the semi-finals of the 2008 European Championship is their best result in a major tournament.

Much is expected from the hosts this summer but they have been drawn in a tricky-looking Group A, alongside Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and Stanislav Cherchesov’s men are 2.60 to win their group.

Russia are expected to have plenty of experience in their 23-man squad and one player who can make a real difference is Smolov.

The 28-year-old has 30 caps for his country and has managed to score 12 goals in the process.

The striker has once again been in impressive form for Krasnodar, scoring 14 times from 21 league appearances so far this season, adding to the 38 league goals he bagged in the previous two campaigns.

Take Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Aleksandr Kokorin out of the equation and Smolov is the highest scorer for his country from the latest squad, highlighting his significance and importance to the team.

If Russia are to stand any chance of going deep in the competition, Smolov will need to be on top form and also enjoy good service from the players behind.

Depending on what formation Cherchesov decides to adopt for the World Cup, he could decide to partner the Krasnodar ace with Kokorin while Arsenal Tula’s Artem Dzyuba is another option.

The 29-year-old has scored five goals from nine league appearances this season and he could form a good partnership if given the chance to impress on home soil.

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