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What if USSR went to the World Cup 2018

This blogger Artur Yanturin of Russia copied my blog team.  His entry was written in November 2020, but mine was uploaded in October, 2020.  He seemed to be from the Soviet Union.  He wrote it in Russian.  He still copied mine.  Seriously, I am not from Russia.  He copied from a foreigner. He also copied many many of my blog entries.  His Spartak Moscow All-Time team entry of was published in October 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2017.  His entry of the Dutch-German rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.  

His Facebook and Instagram

Если бы сборная СССР поехала на ЧМ-2018

Этот блогер Артур Янтурин из России скопировал мою команду блога. Его запись была написана в ноябре 2020 года, а моя загружена в октябре 2020 года. Похоже, он из Советского Союза. Он написал это по-русски. Он все еще скопировал мой. Серьезно, я не из России. Списал с иностранца. Он также скопировал многие из моих записей в блоге. Его запись о московском «Спартаке» за все время была опубликована в октябре 2020 года, но моя была загружена в 2017 году. Его запись о голландско-германском соперничестве между «Реалом» и «Барселоной» была написана в 2020 году, а моя была загружена в 2014 году.

* Due to the conflict in Ukraine, I wanted to state clearly that the intention of this team was not to promote an unification of the former Soviet Union.

Russia World Cup 2018

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.
The Soviet Union had the best record in European Championships until the emerge of West Germany in the 1970's. For the World Cup finals, the Soviet Union failed to qualify for the World Cup only twice, in 1974 and 1978, and attended seven finals tournaments in total. Their best finish was fourth in 1966, when they lost to West Germany in the semifinals, 2–1.  However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the independent republics did not do well.  Ukraine reached the quarterfinal in 2006, but Russia who inherited the Soviet football records never advanced out of the group stage until the 2018 World Cup Finals.  

So what if the Soviet Union still exists, Russia was reinforced with more players from the other republics? As the host, Russia started the World Cup Finals with two easy wins before losing to Uruguay.  They then pulled an upset victory against Spain in the round of 16 before losing to the eventual World Cup Finalist Croatia.   Can the Soviets do better?

Team
GK: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow/Russia)
Akinfeev started his career in 2004.  He has spent his entire career with CSKA Moscow. He has won six Russian Premier League titles and six Russian Cups, as well as the UEFA Cup in 2005.  From 2004 to 2018, he played 111 times for Russia.  He captained the Russian team at the 2018 World Cup Finals.  He also went to 2014 World Cup Finals and four European Championships.
Igor Akinfeev
GK: Andriy Pyatov  (Shakhtar Donetsk/Ukraine)
Andriy Pyatov was bought by Shakhtar Donetsk from Vorskla in 2006, helping the club to win the 2008-2009 UEFA Cup.  For the national team, he has played 96 times since 2007.  He was the backup keeper at the 2006 World Cup Finals.  He also went to the 2012 and 2016 European Championship.

GK: Andrey Lunyov (Zenit Saint Petersburg/Russia) 
Lunyou started with Torpedo Moscow in 2009.  In 2015, he played for FC Ufa.  Since 2017, Lunyov has been playing for FC Zenit Saint Petersburg.  At the time of writing, he earned 7 caps for the Russian national team.  He was the backup goalkeeper at the 2018 World Cup Finals.

RB: Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow/Russia)
Mario Fernandes made his name with Gremio in Brazil, where he played from 2009 to 2012.  In 2012, he joined CSKA Moscow. In 2014, he played a single game for Brazil against Japan in a friendly match.  After receiving his Russia citizenship in 2016, he opted to play for Russia.  In 2017, he made his debut for Russia. During the World Cup Finals in 2018, he scored an important goal against Croatia in the quarterfinal.

RB: Igor Smolnikov (Zenit Saint Petersburg/Russia) 
Smolnikov played for many clubs in Russia before joining Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2013.  He played there until 2020 when he rejoined Krasnodar, where he played from 2012 to 2013.  He made his debut for the national team in 2013.  He played in the 2018 World Cup Finals. At the time of writing, he has 29 caps.

CB: Ragnar Klavan (Liverpool/Estonia) 
Klavan played for clubs in Estonia, Norway and Netherlands before making a name with AZ and Augsburg.  In 2016, he joined Liverpool FC in a deal that made him the most expensive Estonian player ever.  In 2018, he moved to Cagliari.  Since 2003, he has played over 127 times for Estonia.  He was their captain since 2012.  He was named  Estonian Footballer of the Year a record seven times, in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Ragnar Klavan
CB: Yaroslav Rakitskiy  (FC Shakhtar Donetsk/Ukraine)
Rakitskiy played for Shakhtar Donetsk between 2009 and 2018.  In 2019, he made a controversial move to Zenit Saint Petersburg. Zenit are based in Russia and the War in Donbass was ongoing.  Since his move, he has not been called up by the national team.  Before that, he played 54 times for Ukraine.

CB: Alexandru Epureanu (Istanbul Başakşehir/Moldova) 
Epureanu joined FC Sheriff Tiraspol in summer 2004. Since playing for FC Sheriff Tiraspol, he has gone on to play for Dinamo Moscow and Anzhi Makhachkala.  From 2014 to now, he played for İstanbul Başakşehir, winning the league title in 2020. He has won Moldovan Footballer of the Year in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2018.  Since 2006, he has 93 caps.

CB: Guram Kashia (Vitesse/Georgia) 
In 2006, Kashia started playing for Dinamo Tbilisi.  In 2010, Kashia moved to Vitesse, where he became their captain.  He won the KNVB Cup in 2017.  In June, 2018, he joined San Jose Earthquake.  For Georgia, he has played 79 times since 2009.  He was named Georgian Footballer of the Year twice, in 2012 and in 2013. In August 2018, he became the inaugural recipient of UEFA's #EqualGame award for his pro-LGBT rights stand in 2017 with Vitesse.
Guram Kashia
LB: Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg/Russia)
Zhirkov began his career at local club Spartak Tambov before joining CSKA Moscow in 2004.  In 2009 he moved to Chelsea. After two seasons, he joined Anzhi Makhachkala, who sold him to Dynamo Moscow in 2013.  He then signed for Zenit St.Petersburg in 2016.  Since 2005, he earned over 94 caps for Russia.  He was a star at Euro 2008.  He also went to Euro 2012,  and the 2018 and 2014 World Cup Finals.

LW/LB/AM: Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City/Ukraine)
Zinchenko made his Russian Premier League debut for Ufa in 2015.  In 2016, he signed for Manchester City, but he started with a loan spell with PSV.  He returned to Manchester City in 2017.  At the time of writing, he had 33 caps.  He also became Ukraine's youngest player to score an international goal at the age of 19 years and 165 days, beating a record held since 1996 by Andriy Shevchenko

DM: Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk/Ukraine)
Taras Stepanenko began his career with Metalurh Zaporizhya, where he played for 4 seasons.  Since 2010, he plays for Shakhtar Donetsk.  In 2010, he made his debut with the national team against Switzerland.  Since then, he had 57 caps.  He was a part of their team at 2016 European Championship, where he played all three games.

CM: Artur Ionita (Cagliari/Moldova) 
Artur Ioniță played for Zimbru Chișinău and FC Iskra-Stal Rîbniţa in Moldova before he played for Swiss team FC Aarau between 2009 and 2014.  Then, he played for Hellas Verona in Italy between 2014 and 2016.  In 2016, he joined Cagliari.  After 4 seasons, he joined Benevento in 2020.  Since 2009, he has played 45 times for Moldova.  He was Moldovan Footballer of the Year: 2014 and 2019.
Artur Ioniță 
CM: Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk/Ukraine) 
Viktor Kovalenko is a product of youth team systems of FC Shakhtar Donetsk.  Since 2014, he is a member of the club's senior team.  He won the Golden Boot of the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup with 5 goals.  In 2016, he made his debut for the senior national team.  At the time of writing, he has 22 caps.

AM/CM/LM: Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow/Russia)
From 2006 to 2007, Dzagoev played for Akademiya Tolyatti(Krylia Sovetov-SOK) of the Russian Second Division.  Since 2008, he plays for CSKA Moscow.  He was a star at the European Championship in 2012, where he was a joint top scorer with 3 goals.   He also represented Russia at both 2014 and 2018 World Cup Finals.  At the time of writing, he has 59 caps.

AM/CM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal/Armenia)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan started with Pyunik in 2006 in Armenia before moving to play in Ukraine. Between 2013 and 2016, he starred with Borussia Dortmund.  With Manchester United, he became the first Armenian to win a major European trophy.   Then, he played briefly for Arsenal before moving to AS Roma.  At the time of writing, he had 86 caps for Armenia.  He was also voted the CIS Footballer of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan
RW/AM: Viktor Tsyhankov (Dynamo Kyiv/Ukraine) 
Born in Nahariya, Israel, where his father Vitaliy Tsyhankov played as footballer.  In 2016, Viktor Tsyhankov made his professional debut for Dynamo Kyiv.  He was Ukrainian Premier League best player of season: 2018–19.  He was also Ukrainian Player of the Year in 2018.  For the national team, he made his debut in 2016 against Turkey in a World Cup Qualifier.

RW: Marlos (Shakhtar Donetsk/Ukraine)
Marlos began his career in Brazil with Coritiba. Then, he spent two years with Sao Paulo before moving to FC Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine.  Since 2014, he played for  Shakhtar Donetsk.  He was the Ukrainian Premier League Player of the Year: 2016, 2017, 2018.  In 2017, he decided to play for Ukraine.  He is the second Brazilian to play for Ukraine. At the time of writing, he has 17 caps.

RW/FW: Andriy Yarmolenko (Borussia Dortmund/Ukraine) 
Yarmolenko was an ethnic Ukrainian born in St Petersburg under the Soviet Union.  He joined the Dynamo Kyiv Youth Academy at age of 13.   From 2008 to 2017, he played for their senior side. After spending a season with Borussia Dortmund, he joined West Ham in 2018.  From 2009 onward, he has played 90 times for the national team.  He was the Ukrainian Footballer of the Year: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and Ukrainian Premier League Footballer of the Year : 2011 and  2014.
Andriy Yarmolenko
LW: Yevhen Konoplyanka (Ukraine/Schalke 04)
Konoplyyanka started with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in 2007.  He took the club to the Europa Cup Final in 2015.  From 2015 to 2017, he played for Sevilla and then, from 2017 to 2019, he played for Schalke 04.  He joined Shakhtar Donetsk in 2019.  Since 2010, he has 85 caps for Ukraine.  He was the Ukrainian Footballer of the Year: 2010, 2012, 2013 (jointly shared with Andriy Yarmolenko).  

AM:Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moscow/Russia)
Golovin debuted playing for  CSKA Moscow in  2014 .  In 2016, his club won the Russian Premier League.  For the national team, he helped Russia to win the UEFA under-17 Championship in 2013.  In 2015, he made his debut for the senior team.  He was a member of the 2018 World Cup team.  After the WC Finals, he joined AS Monaco.

ST: Artem Dzubya (FC Arsenal Tula/Russia) 
Dzubya began his career with Spartak Moscow, debuting in 2006.  In 2015, he moved to Zenit St.Petersburg.  He spent a loan spell with Arsenal Tula in 2018.  He was the Futbol Footballer of the Year in 2018,  RFU Footballer of the Year: 2018–19 and Sport-Express Footballer of the Year:2018-2019.  Since 2011, he has 47 caps.  After the 2018 WC Finals, he became the captain of the national team.

ST: Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar/Russia)
From 2007 to 2015, Smolov played for Dynamo Moscow.  He played on loan with Feyenoord, o Anzhi Makhachkala, etc.  He moved to Krasnodar in 2015, where he played until 2018 when he joined Lokomotiv Moscow.  He is Russian Premier League top goalscorer: 2015–16, 2016–17 and Footballer of the Year in Russia (Sport-Express): 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18.  He participated in the Euro 2018 and the 2018 World Cup Finals for Russia.
Fyodor Smolov

Honorable Mention
Guilherme Marinato (Russia), Sergei Ignashevich (Russia), Valeri Qazaishvili (Georgia), Jaba Kankava (Georgia), Ilya Kutepov (Russia), Yury Gazinsky (Russia), Vasili Berezutski (Russia), Roman Neustädter (Russia), Konstantin Rausch (Russia), Odil Ahmedov (Uzbekistan), Yevhen Khacheridi (Ukraine), Artem Fedetskyi (Ukraine), Artem Kravets (Ukraine), Artem Fedetskyi (Ukraine), Yevhen Khacheridi (Ukraine), Ruslan Rotan (Ukraine), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Ukraine), Vasili Berezutski (Russia), Roman Neustädter (Russia), Konstantin Rausch (Russia), Alexandr Kokorin (Russia), Aleksandr Samedov (Russia), Roman Zobnin (Russia), Ilya Kutepov (Russia), Denis Cheryshev (Russia), Alexandru Gatcan (Moldova), Fyodor Kudryashov (Russia).

Squad Explanation
-- I also did a Yugoslavia 2018 World Cup team.  I based the team upon the Croatian team at the World Cup. I was able to reinforce "Croatia" with Jan Oblak, Edin Džeko, Aleksandar Kolarov, Nemanja Matić, Miralem Pjani, etc.  However, this Soviet team is still relatively weak. None of the players were household names. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Igor Akinfeev and Yuri Zhirkov are the only well-known players outside of their own countries.
-- Unlike Yugoslavia 2018, I am not reinforcing the Russian team with players from the former Soviet Union, but I did use Russia as a reference since they are the only team at the World Cup Finals.  All of the former republics of USSR did poorly during the World Cup Qualifiers. Russia also did not have an impressive record leading up to the World Cup Finals.
-- I tried to base my team selection with the perspective of the situation before the World Cup Finals. 
-- The political disputes between different countries of the former Soviet Union were overlooked.  In this alternative world, Soviet Union is still a single country.  Politics of the post-Soviet Union will not be an issue.  
-- The Ukrainian players dominated the last three World Cup Finals participated by the Soviet Union (1982, 1986 and 1990). This team featured 9 Ukrainians, which is 39% of the team.  However, it is still lower percentage than the last three Soviet's World Cup team.
-- Russia also has 9 players, which is higher percentage than the Soviet teams in the World Cup Finals of 1982, 1986 and 1990.  In fact, their percentage of the team is the highest since 1966.
-- Georgia contributed 21% of all Soviet players in all World Cup Finals, but Guram Kashia is the only Georgian on this team.
-- No player from Moldova ever played for the USSR in a World Cup Finals.  I have two players from there, Artur Ionita and Alexandru Epureanu.  Also no Estonian player ever played in a World Cup Finals.  I have Ragnar Klavan.
-- Two players were born in Brazil, Mario Fernandes (Russia) and Marlo (Ukraine).
-- The real Russian World Cup team has only two players based outside of Russia.  This team consisted of 8 players playing outside the "Soviet Union".  
-- In the history of the USSR, Dynamo Kyiv sent the most players to the World Cup Finals.  They are followed by Spartak Moscow, Dynamo Moscow, Dinamo Tbilisi and Torpedo Moscow.  The five clubs consisted  81% of all Soviet players in the World Cup Finals.  On this team, however, only one player (Viktor Tsyhankov of Dynamo Kyiv) played for any of those 5 teams.
-- CSKA Moscow produced 13 players in total for the USSR in history.  They were the 6th club.  On this team, I have 4 players from CSKA.  Zenit Petersburg only sent 3 players to the World Cup under the USSR.  I have 3 on this team.  Shakhtar Donetsk never sent anyone to the World Cup under the USSR.  I have 4 on this team.
-- Igor Akinfeev and Andriy Pyatov were the obvious choices for goalkeepers.
--  Both Russian centre-back Viktor Vasin and Georgi Dzhikiya were injured and missed the World Cup Finals.  Sergei Ignashevich came out of retirement to replace them on May, 2018.  He turned out to be a key player for Russia at the World Cup Finals.  But if the team was still the Soviet Union, he would not come out of retirement because the team have plenty of alternatives. I took Alexandru Epureanu (Moldova) who was playing well in Turkey and Guram Kashia (Georgia) who was the captain of Dutch Eredivisie club Vitesse that season.  Ragnar Klavan (Estonia) is the most famous defender of the Soviet Union because he played for Liverpool.
-- Guram Kashia won the UEFA #EqualGame award in 2018. Whilst playing for Vitesse that year, he wore a rainbow armband, in support of LGBT rights, leading to a backlash in his own country.  He was awarded for his political stand.
-- CB Yaroslav Rakitskiy transferred to Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2019.  It was controversial move because of the "War in Donbass".  However, the World Cup Finals took place in 2018 before his transfer.  Furthermore, in this alternative world, the war did not happen.
-- The other Russian starting center back at the World Cup Finals was Ilya Kutepov, but his club career was not remarkable the season before. Vasili Berezutski (Russia), Roman Neustädter (Russia) and Konstantin Rausch (Russia) did not go to the WC Finals. I took them out of consideration.
-- Left wingback Oleksandr Zinchenko did not play much for Manchester City that season, but he is one of the more famous Soviet players.  I also took veteran Yuri Zhirkov who is one of the more experienced and famous players.  I left out Fyodor Kudryashov who was not as well-known outside Russia.
-- Taras Stepanenko had an on field incident with Andriy Yarmolenko during the Shakhtar-Dynamo derby in April 2016.  The pair played together at Euro 2016.  Their rivalry won't be an issue.
-- Henrikh Mkhitaryan transfered to Arsenal from Manchester United in January, 2018.  He had been inconsistent with both Arsenal and Manchester United, but I would still take him since he is probably "Soviet Union's" best player.
-- The 2017-2018 season would be Andriy Yarmolenko's first and only season with Borussia Dortmund.  He only had 3 goals and 2 assists in 18 Bundesliga appearances, but he was one of Soviet Union's best players.
-- I seriously considered Odil Ahmedov (Uzbekistan) who played in the Chinese Super League.  
-- Alan Dzagoev became one of Europe's young stars after Euro 2012.  By 2018, however, his career was derailed by injuries, but I hoped that he might finally live up expectation.  This would have been my prospective at the time of selection. * In the real Finals, he was injured on the first game.
-- Marlos was voted the best player in the Ukrainian league.
-- Roman Zobnin played every minute of World Cup Finals, but I have no spot for him. I also dropped Aleksandr Samedov who was a starter at WC Finals.
-- Denis Cheryshev did not play for the Russian national team between 2015 and 2018.  He barely made the Russian team at the World Cup Finals.  He won't get into this team because of Yevhen Konoplyanka and Oleksandr Zinchenko.  
-- I already have two right-side attackers in Marlo and Andriy Yarmolenko, but I still took Viktor Tsyhankov.  In 2018, Viktor Tsyhankov was only 20 years old.  He only played a handful of games for Ukraine, but he emerged as a new star in the Ukrainian league that season.   I also took two other youngsters from Ukraine, Viktor Kovalenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko.  The trio are considered to be the future of the "Soviet Union".
-- In 2018, Ruslan Malinovskyi was featuring regularly for Ukraine, but I prefer Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aleksandr Golovin and Alan Dzagoev.  I did not want to drop Viktor Tsyhankov for him.  At the summer of 2018, I would consider Tsyhankov's potential.  Of course, Ruslan Malinovskyi's career also improved after 2018, but I would not know that in June, 2018.  So I took Tsyhankov over him.
-- I only selected two strikers.  I studied Artem Kravets (Ukraine), but he seldom used by the Ukrainian national team that year.  So I only took Artem Dzubya (Russia)  and Fyodor Smolov (Russia).  Dzubya was the Futbol Footballer of the Year in 2018.   Smolov was the Footballer of the Year in Russia (Sport-Express) in the 2017–18 season.

Formation
Andriy Yarmolenko is one of the stars of the team, but I field Marlo instead.  He would have a role in this World Cup.  I do not have preference for either Igor Akinfeev or Andriy Pyatov.  Yaroslav Rakitskiy should also start over Guram Kashia.  I start Yuri Zhirkov now, but Oleksandr Zinchenko deserves the starting position as much.  He is probably the better player at the time of the WC Finals.




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