MOSCOW (Reuters) - Former captain Andrei Arshavin and experienced striker Pavel Pogrebnyak have been overlooked again by Russia coach Fabio Capello for this month’s World Cup qualifier in Northern Ireland.
Capello kept faith with forward Fyodor Smolov and midfielder Oleg Shatov, naming the young Anzhi Makhachkala duo in his 27-man squad on Thursday for the Group F match in Belfast on March 22.
Russia also face Brazil in a friendly at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground in London three days later.
Capello said he regards the return match against the Irish, the team Russia beat 2-0 in the group opener in Moscow in September, as the most important of the remaining qualifiers.
“With a win in Belfast we would take a huge step towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” the Italian told the Russian FA’s website (www.rfs.ru).
Shatov, 22, scored on his debut when he helped Russia to a 2-0 win over Iceland in last month’s friendly having been called up at the last minute after several senior players withdrew.
Smolov, a few months older than his Anzhi team mate, was also on target on his debut, finding the net after nine minutes in a 2-2 draw against United States in November’s friendly.
Capello has not been afraid of blooding players in his ageing squad after replacing Dick Advocaat as Russia boss following the team’s poor showing at Euro 2012.
He decided to drop Arsenal forward Arshavin, who is no longer a regular for his club, and Reading striker Pogrebnyak.
The Russians have made a flying start to their World Cup campaign under the former England manager, winning all four of their matches.
Capello said he would trim his squad to 23 players next week.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeyev (CSKA Moscow), Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Sergei Ryzhykov (Rubin Kazan)
Defenders: Alexander Anyukov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexei Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), Vasily Berezutsky (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Kirill Nababkin (CSKA Moscow), Andrei Yeshchenko (Anzhi Makhachkala), Arseny Logashov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Dynamo Moscow)
Midfielders: Igor Denisov (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Shirokov (Zenit St Petersburg), Vladimir Bystrov (Zenit St Petersburg), Viktor Faizulin (Zenit St Petersburg), Alan Dzagoyev (CSKA Moscow), Denis Glushakov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Oleg Shatov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Oleg Ivanov (Terek Grozny)
Forwards: Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Alexander Kokorin (Dynamo Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (Anzhi Makhachkala), Maxim Grigoryev (Lokomotiv Moscow).
Reporting by Gennady Fyodorov, editing by Tony Jimenez