Aleksandr Kokorin the leading goalscorer in current Russia squad
Back in the national team after year-long absence
Kokorin’s Brazil 2014 goal almost sent Russia to knockout rounds
Having an entire country’s hopes on your shoulders at the age of 23 is not an easy task, yet this was the case for Russia striker Aleksandr Kokorin going into the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ Brazil. Kokorin almost justified the expectations: in the sixth minute of the final group-stage game against Algeria, which would determine who went through to the Round of 16, the striker scored a wonderful header. Unfortunately, the Sbornaya later conceded and the 1-1 draw sent Fabio Capello’s side crashing out of the tournament.
Since then Kokorin, who made the move from Dynamo Moscow to Zenit Saint Petersburg at the beginning of 2016, has divided opinion on the domestic scene. Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov opted not to include Kokorin in his squad for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 on home soil. It seemed his status as the biggest talent in Russian football was on the wane.
That all changed this summer, however. Italian coach Roberto Mancini took over at Zenit and presided over a major overhaul of the squad. To the surprise of many, the leader of the new-look Zenit was Kokorin himself. Mancini brought him inside from the wing to his favoured position of centre forward. The results were instantaneous, as the No9 began scoring and delivering assists, and currently stands as the top scorer in the Russian Premier League. This October – after a year out in the cold – he finally made his return to the national team.