MOSCOW, September 3 (RIA Novosti)
Russia striker Artem Dzyuba is wary of the physical threat posed by World Cup qualifying opponents Northern Ireland on Friday and Israel next Tuesday.
The 24-year-old Spartak Moscow striker was one of just three forwards named in Fabio Capello's squad, from which the Italian coach axed regular forwards Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko.
"Northern Ireland are combative team that will play defensively and, basically, in the air," Dzyuba said.
He called Tuesday's away day in Israel "particularly unpleasant."
"The Israeli team will be dangerous at home. We remember that they heave already beaten the Russians. We will have tough opponents, but we must beat them anyway."
Dzyuba was referring to the 2-1 defeat to the Israelis in 2007, a national downer after Russia's famous 2-1 victory over England in Moscow.
Winger Alexander Samedov couldn't split the opponents in terms of difficulty.
"Honestly, I can't say anything about the squad of Northern Ireland. Israel are quite a strong team that can deliver problems to anyone. I can't say who will be easier for us to play against - the physically strong or the technically strong."
The country is expected to throw off the disappointment of Euro 2012, where they failed to make the quarterfinals, and get off to a strong start in a group they are expected to challenge Portugal to win.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).