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Monday, May 20, 2002

Russia name experienced squad
Gennady Fyodorov

MOSCOW, May 20 (Reuters) - Russia coach Oleg Romantsev sprung few surprises on Monday when he named an experienced 23-man squad for the World Cup finals.

As expected, Romantsev included 33-year-old Celta Vigo playmaker Alexander Mostovoi, who doctors hope will be fit within two weeks after suffering a minor tear in his right hamstring in Sunday's friendly against Yugoslavia.

Also included were Tirol Innsbruck goalkeeper Stanislav Cherchesov, who turns 39 in September, and newcomers Dmitry Sennikov (fullback), Igor Semshov (midfield) and Alexander Kerzhakov and Ruslan Pimenov (both strikers).

Romantsev dropped four players - defender Omari Tetradze and midfielders Andrei Karyaka, Andrei Arshavin and Denis Laktionov - from a preliminary squad he named a week ago.

There was also no room in the squad for in-form Lokomotiv Moscow goalkeeper Sergei Ovchinnikov and CSKA Moscow winger Rolan Gusev.

Both players accused Romantsev of having a personal grudge against them.

"I was hoping that common sense would prevail in the end," Ovchinnikov told Russian daily Sovietsky Sport. "I still feel that you don't deal in such a way at this (World Cup) level, but I guess I was wrong."

Former Russia captain Igor Shalimov also criticised Romantsev for omitting Gusev and Ovchinnikov.

"If you are the national team coach, a professional, you have to put the team interests above anything else," said Shalimov, who made his international debut for the Soviet Union at the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy.

"It's nonsense when you have two of Russia's best players omitted from the national team for whatever reason."

Romantsev denied the accusations, saying he and his two assistant coaches all agreed on the selected players.

UNDER FIRE

The embattled Romantsev has already been under heavy fire from local media and fans since February, following Russia's disappointing showing in warm-up matches.

On Sunday, the Russians were subjected to a chorus of whistles and boos at Moscow's Dynamo stadium as they walked off the pitch after losing to Yugoslavia in a penalty shootout in their last friendly.

Russia's fourth defeat in five matches this year has severely dented the team's morale ahead of their departure for the World Cup on Saturday.

"By watching Russia in recent warm-ups I don't think this team is capable of causing any headaches for their opponents in Japan and Korea," said former Soviet international Alexander Bubnov, who played in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and now serves as the country's leading soccer analyst.

"Simply speaking, these is little style or substance in it."

The Russians have been drawn in the same first-round group as co-hosts Japan, Belgium and Tunisia for the finals, which start on May 31.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Ruslan Nigmatullin (Verona), Alexander Filimonov (Uralan Elista), Stanislav Cherchesov (Tirol Innsbruck)

Defenders: Yuri Nikiforov (PSV Eindhoven), Viktor Onopko (Oviedo), Igor Chugainov (Uralan Elista), Yuri Kovtun (Spartak Moscow), Vyacheslav Dayev (CSKA Mo scow), Andrei Solomatin (CSKA Moscow), Dmitry Sennikov (Lokomotiv Moscow)

Midfielders: Alexander Mostovoi (Celta Vigo), Valery Karpin (Celta Vigo), Dmitry Alenichev (Porto), Yegor Titov (Spartak Moscow), Dmitry Khokhlov (Real Sociedad), Sergei Semak (CSKA Moscow), Alexei Smertin (Girondins Bordeaux), Marat Izmailov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Igor Semshov (Torpedo Moscow)

Strikers: Vladimir Beschastnykh (Spartak Moscow), Dmitry Sychyov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Kerzhakov (Zenit St Petersburg), Ruslan Pimenov (Lokomotiv Moscow)

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