MOSCOW - The collapse of the Soviet Union delivered a political blow to the country and undermined Russia's soccer team.
Shorn of players from the former Soviet Republics — with whom they had reached three quarter-finals and the 1966 semi-finals — they have failed since 1990 to qualify for three finals and in the two they did reach, in 1994 and 2002, they went out in the first round.
Now an ageing squad will be tasked with breaking new ground in Brazil in June.
Fortune has favoured them with a kind draw in Group H where aside from the highly-rated Belgians there are Algeria and South Korea, both of whom Fabio Capello's men should beat.
Few people believe FIFA would impose such a punishment on the hosts of the 2018 finals, unlike the former Yugoslavia who were expelled from 1992 European Championships and not allowed to participate in qualifying for the 1994 World Cup because of the Balkans War.
"Sport is out of politics, for me. I don't understand when someone boycotts a competition," Capello told CNN in March when asked about the US senators demand.