- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) - Brazil-born goalkeeper Guilherme was given a spot on Russia’s national soccer team on Friday, the first of a wave of planned naturalizations of foreign players.

Guilherme has played in Russia since 2007 with Lokomotiv Moscow and could become Russia’s No. 2 keeper behind CSKA Moscow’s Igor Akinfeev if he impresses in friendlies against Lithuania and France this month.

Besides Guilherme, Russia is also considering naturalizing German-Ukrainian defensive midfielder Roman Neustaedter of Schalke and Brazilian right-back Mario Fernandes of CSKA.

The additions could strengthen a team which has recently lacked depth and relies heavily on aging veterans, particularly in defense.

Russia plays Lithuania in Moscow on March 26 and faces France in Paris three days later.



Friday’s squad for the friendlies also saw the return of Russia’s record goalscorer, Alexander Kerzhakov. The 33-year-old Kerzhakov has not played for his country since June after falling out of favor at Zenit St. Petersburg, but a loan spell at Swiss team FC Zurich has revitalized his career.

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This story has been corrected to show that Russia plays Lithuania on March 26, not Feb. 26.

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