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Football | Europe

Fabio Capello © Action Images

Capello eyes automatic WCup berth



Russia manager Fabio Capello said on Wednesday that he was pleased with his first six months in charge and his side had a strong chance of automatic qualification for the World Cup finals in Brazil next year.

The Italian signed a two-year contract with Russia's Football Union (RFU) last July and has since steered the side to victory in all four of their World Cup qualifiers to lead Group F with a five-point margin over Portugal and Israel.

"I'm really happy with the fact that I decided to work in Russia," the 66-year-old former England coach told a news conference in Moscow.

"We have achieved good results already and have a good chance of qualifying automatically for the World Cup if we continue to perform this way."

Capello told reporters that he was happy with his team's rapid progress.

"I always try to experiment, to make plenty of substitutions during matches to give my players more chances to show their worth. And I'm really happy with what we have already achieved," he added.

"I've always had a high opinion of Russian football. Now my opinion is even stronger. I believe Russian football is progressing rapidly."

Russia are due to play a friendly match with Iceland in the Spanish resort city Marbella on February 2, which Capello will use to give young players more international experience.

The squad includes two new players from Terek Grozny – Oleg Ivanov and Igor Lebedenko – indicating that Capello is casting his net beyond traditional powerhouses such as Zenit St Petersburg and the Moscow clubs CSKA and Lokomotiv.

"We need to give the rookies a chance to feel part of the national squad. They have to understand the team's mentality and what their teammates and manager expects from them," Capello said.

Russia are also slated to play World Cup hosts Brazil on March 25, with Capello saying that the choice of venue – Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground – was "a matter of marketing, nothing else".

"It was too difficult to get Brazil to Russia for a friendly. Brazil have played their last friendly matches in Switzerland and London. Brazil are the hosts of the upcoming friendly and have the right to choose the venue," he said.

European champions Chelsea are owned by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, while increasing numbers of wealthy expatriate Russians have chosen to settle in and around the British capital in recent years.

Some 22 000 Russians were living in London in 2011, according to data from Britain's Office for National Statistics published in August last year.

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