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Titov believes Russia can impress at World Cup

© Reuters 2002

By Ron Popeski

MOSCOW, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Spartak Moscow captain Yegor Titov, twice Russia's player of the year, says he has no fears about getting the jitters before his first World Cup.

"I understand that this meeting of the world's strongest teams is a huge test, but if you're talking about jitters and cold sweats at night, then I've had nothing," Titov told Thursday's edition of Sport Express newspaper. "I'm 25 years old. At that age you no longer shake with fear."

Titov, widely tipped to be one of coach Oleg Romantsev's choices for Russia's coming friendly with Ireland, said the side going to Japan would have plenty of clout.

"Our team has really strong footballers, personalities," he said. "Ruslan Nigmatullin has received proposals from the best national league in the world, and in half a year's time I think Marat Izmailov will play for some super club."

Goalkeeper Nigmatullin last month signed a four-and-a-half year contract with Italian Serie A club Verona. He is also expected to see action in next month's friendly.

It remains unclear whether Lokomotiv Moscow's midfielder Izmailov, who underwent nasal surgery this month, will be fit.

The Russian side, in World Cup group H with Japan, Belgium and Tunisia, play Ireland in Dublin on February 13, Estonia in Tallinn on March 27 and France in Paris on April 17. Titov said only Tunisia remained "a riddle".

"I know Belgium well enough" he said. "The Japanese are sharp, like karate players, and solid." He dismissed suggestions that he performed better for Spartak than for the national side. "I am one among many on the national side. Alongside stars like (Ukraine's AC Milan striker Andriy) Shevchenko, I am a middle-grade player," Titov said.

"Our rivals are stronger than those Spartak face in the league. It's harder to play them."

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