Little-known Russians relishing covert prep

Striker Maksim Kanunnikov insisted Russia's exclusively home-based squad will give them the element of surprise in Brazil.

All 23 players selected by Russia coach Fabio Capello for the FIFA World Cup play in the Russian Premier League, which has led some pundits to claim the Italian boss is the real star of the team.

But defender Vasili Berezutski believes there is no shame in Capello being the leading man for Russia, while Kanunnikov claimed their Group H opponents South Korea, Belgium and Algeria may struggle to prepare for a team they know little about.

"It's a positive thing for our team I believe, because everybody knows each other so we are really close in the team," the Rubin Kazan striker said on Saturday.

"Everyone knows each other really good. And on the other hand, nobody knows us from outside.

"We're not a well known team because everybody plays in our domestic competition."

Russia will begin their World Cup finals campaign against South Korea at Cuiaba's Arena Pantanal on Tuesday and Berezutski is likely to start in central defence alongside fellow veteran Sergei Ignashevich with the duo having amassed 175 international caps between them.

Neither defender has ever played outside Russia, with Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kerzhakov the only players in the squad who have significant experience outside their homeland, but Berezutski feels Capello's experience will be enough for the UEFA member nation.

"I quite agree with the people that say Fabio Capello, the coach, is the biggest star in our team because it's normal," the 31-year-old said.

"He's got a great and big personality and he's won a lot of trophies with different teams all over Europe. So I think it's normal people are speaking about this and I quite agree."

Russia are back at the World Cup finals for the first time since 2002.


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