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Russia in disarray ahead of World Cup draw

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A masked Russian fan. PHOTO/File

A masked Russian fan. PHOTO/File

MOSCOW, July 24- The 2018 World Cup qualifying draw takes place in Saint Petersburg on Saturday with the national game of hosts Russia in total disarray.

Rudderless without a federation chief or coach Russia are in serious danger of missing out on Euro 2016.

They were left without a manager after the sacking last week of Fabio Capello following a lengthy contractual dispute and a string of below par results.

The search for the Italian’s successor has so far proved fruitless.

The appointment of a new head coach has been seriously compromised by a lack of leadership after Nikolai Tolstykh was forced out as president of the Russian Football Union (RFU) in May.

The RFU’s deputy head is 88-year-old Nikita Simonyan who says no major decisions would be made until a new federation president is elected.

The only candidate is Russian Sports minister Vitaly Mutko after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev agreed he could serve in two capacities.

Mutko is no stranger to the RFU, having served as its head from 2005 to 2009.

The RFU elections are on September 2, three days before Russia’s next Euro qualifier, a potentially decisive fixture against Sweden, lying second in their group.

Mutko has said that the team’s new manager would be appointed this month, insisting no foreign coaches were being considered.

“We need a Russian coach to finish the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign,” Mutko said this month.

“He should be familiar with Russian football to choose the country’s top players and win a place in the European championship finals.”

CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky is thought to be Mutko’s preferred candidate, although he has a long-term contract with CSKA that contains no provisions allowing him to simultaneously serve as national team coach.

Other names in the frame include Russia’s Under-19 manager Dmitry Khomukha, former national squad assistant coach Alexander Borodyuk and ex-Dynamo Moscow boss Stanislav Cherchesov.

Under Capello Russia won just two of its six Euro-2016 qualifiers, drawing with a weaker Moldovan team and losing twice to Austria.

That has left them struggling in third in Group G with four matches remaining and far from assured of securing a spot in next year’s championships in France.

Only the top third-place team among the nine groups qualifies for the tournament, along with the top two teams from each group.

In addition to the uncertainty that surrounds the future of Russian football, the RFU has debts that amount to 1.5 billion roubles ($26.3 million, 24.1 million euros), according to Mutko.

Mutko has pledged to revamp the country’s football governing body, which is in dire need of order.

“We will transform the RFU into the country’s most open and transparent organisation,” R-Sport news agency quoted Mutko as saying.

“But right now, we need to solve all the organisational and economic problems that the previous RFU management accumulated.”

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