Russia's 'Justin Bieber' seeks to take world by storm

Jun 07 2014, 12:01 IST
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Dynamo Moscow forward Alexander Kokorin, 23, had been seen as the great hope in Russian football since he was a teenager. (AP Dynamo Moscow forward Alexander Kokorin, 23, had been seen as the great hope in Russian football since he was a teenager. (AP
SummaryDynamo Moscow forward Alexander Kokorin, 23, has a vague resemblance to pop star Justin Bieber.

With the possible exception of head coach Fabio Capello, there are no superstars in Russia's World Cup squad.

There is one player, however, who - with time on his side - has the potential to reach the top and impress a global audience.

It would be no surprise if most fans outside Russia had not heard of Dynamo Moscow forward Alexander Kokorin, 23, but that is likely to change by the end of the tournament.

Kokorin, who has a vague resemblance to the Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, started his career in his home town of Valuyki, about 800 kilometres south of Moscow.

He moved to the Russian capital after being snapped up by Lokomotiv Moscow, but it was not long before he joined city rivals Dynamo.

Kokorin had been seen as the great hope in Russian football since he was a teenager and the hype increased when he scored on his Dynamo debut at the age of 17.

Now 23, he was named as Russian young player of the year in 2011 and continued his rapid progress by earning a call-up to the national team for Euro 2012.

Opportunities were few with Dick Advocaat at the helm, but that changed when Capello took over.

The Italian brought out the best in the Russian forward who has scored five goals for the national team, including Russia's quickest goal, after only 19 seconds against Luxembourg.

"In 2002 when Russia last played at the World Cup, I was only 11," Kokorin recalls. "I watched the games on a big screen in the centre of Moscow. At that time I could never have dreamed I would play there."

Barring injury, Kokorin is certain to be one of the first names in Capello's squad, and the ambitious forward has big plans for Brazil.

"The bare minimum for us is to get out of the group, which everyone is waiting for and we have to do," he said.

"The maximum we can achieve is being one of the top three ... Why not? This would be a fantastic achievement for our team. In terms of personal goals, I just want to play as many games as possible."

Kokorin plays as a second striker for his club, but Capello has used him on the left flank where he has developed a good understanding with Alexander Kerzhakov.

Kokorin's hero as a child was Ronaldo and like his idol, who also wore the No. 9 shirt, the Dynamo Moscow forward is not

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