Moscow: Russia’s love for Igor Akinfeev, their goalkeeper who spends much of his time picking balls out of the net, speaks volumes about the home team’s World Cup chances.
Now Akinfeev wants someone who can score to share the fame when the men in red get the party started against Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
“The team have to come out and play,” Akinfeev said after a 1-0 loss in a friendly to Austria on May 30 in which Russia did not register a single shot on target.
“If they do not, the score is not going to change.” The 32-year-old CSKA Moscow veteran is the World Cup star you may very well have never heard off.
The Russian captain has played more games for club (565) and country (106) than Soviet goalkeeping legends Lev Yashin and Rinat Dasayev.
He has won six league titles and been named Russia’s top ‘keeper 10 times.
Yet an injury in the early bloom of his career thwarted his move to the bright lights of the English Premier League and consigned him to a life of domestic accolades.
Akinfeev will guarantee himself international renown if he manages to see the hosts make the unlikeliest of impacts on the beautiful game’s biggest stage.