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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Kanchelskis backs Russians
Russia squad
Kanchelskis says Russia have a good chance

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Andrei Kanchelskis is backing Russia to qualify from World Cup Group H.

The former international, who has played in the UK with Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton and Rangers, thinks the first game against Tunisia will be crucial.

Open Quote
If Beckham plays against Sweden he is bound to be worried about a repeat of his injury
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Andrei Kanchelskis

"Russia have a good chance," Kancheslskis told BBCRussian.com.

They have played poorly in recent internationals, losing four of their past five games, but Kanchelskis is undeterred.

"These were friendlies, if you look at the Russia qualification campaign, they managed to beat two great teams - Yugoslavia and Switzerland," he says.

However, qualifying success should not be grounds for complacency.

"Yugoslavia was a mess at that time, players had many problems with coaches, some didn't even want to play for the country," Kanchelskis adds.

Evenly matched

"If Yugoslavia was in good form, it would have been harder for Oleg Romantsev's team to defeat them.

And the Swiss players were demoralised after losing their first game at home."

Kanchelskis reckons Japan, Belgium and Russia are all pretty evenly matched. "Everything will depend on the outcome of the first game."

The former Russia winger also thinks David beckham should not be risked by England against Sweden.

"England are totally unpredictable," he said. "They can put in brilliant performances, like, against Germany, and then play really poorly, like against Greece."

Open Quote
One of the African teams will be a major surprise - and you shouldn't rule out Brazil
Close Quote
Andrei Kanchelskis

"My view is that you shouldn't play a footballer if he has been out for several weeks.

"This is the World Cup. Every game matters greatly. If you lose once, one can say that you are pretty much out of the tournament.

"You need to put on the pitch only those who are 110% fit and Beckham is not ready.

"If he plays against Sweden, he is bound to be worried about a repeat of his injury.

"That's perfectly normal - any player coming back from injury would feel the same."

Kanchelskis believes there are five or six teams in with a good chance of winning the World Cup.

"Principal among these are the holders France, Argenitine, Italy and Spain.

I think one of the African teams will be a major surprise. And you shouldn't rule out Brazil - they definitely have the quality."


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GROUP H
  P GD PTS
JAPAN 3 +3 7
BELGIUM 3 +1 5
RUSSIA 3 0 3
TUNISIA 3 -4 1

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