Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov has recalled Zenit St Petersburg forward Alexander Kokorin from the international wilderness to his 27-man squad to play friendlies with South Korea and Iran in October. The 2018 World Cup hosts will take on South Korea in Moscow on October 7, while the friendly with Iran will take place in Kazan three days later.
Last season Kokorin was overlooked because of lacklustre performances with his club but also because of off-pitch behavior that Cherchesov labelled improper for a national team player. “A national team player should show professionalism both on and off the pitch,” Cherchesov told Russian television at the time, referring to an incident in March when Kokorin was sidelined after committing a road traffic offense.
Previously Kokorin was also sidelined after a video of him cavorting at a champagne fueled party in Monaco emerged shortly after Russia’s early exit from Euro 2016. However, Kokorin’s performances this season have improved drastically and the 26-year-old is currently the leading scorer in the Russian league with seven goals from 11 matches.
Krasnodar striker Fedor Smolov, the top scorer in the Russian league in the last two seasons who has recently recovered from a knee injury, is also in the squad. Cherchesov has also called up two players with experience of the German Bundesliga in Fenerbahce defender Roman Neustadter and Cologne’s Konstantin Rausch.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Arsenal Tula), Andrei Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg)
Defenders: Viktor Vasin (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat, Fedor Kudryashov (both Rubin Kazan), Georgy Dzhikiya, Ilya Kutepov (both Spartak Moscow), Roman Neustadter (Fenerbahce/TUR)
Midfielders: Alexander Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Mario Fernandes (all CSKA Moscow), Alexander Erokhin, Yury Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyayev, Igor Smolnikov (all Zenit St Petersburg), Alexei Miranchuk, Anton Miranchuk, Dmitry Tarasov (all Lokomotiv Moscow), Magomed Ozdoev (Rubin Kazan), Konstantin Rausch (Cologne/GER), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Yevgeny Chernov (Tosno)
Forwards: Anton Zabolotny (Tosno), Alexander Kokorin, Dmitry Poloz (both Zenit St Petersburg), Fedor Smolov (Krasnodar)