Russia had an unconvincing start to qualification when beating Andorra just 2-0 away and then losing at home to Slovakia.
However, a 3-2 win away at Ireland then spurred them onto greater things under coach Dick Advocaat.
They topped Group B with 23 points from 10 games, conceding just four goals in the process.
After qualifying they faced two fellow Euro 2012 finalists before naming their preliminary squad.
Russia drew 1-1 with Greece in November and then beat Denmark 2-0 in Copenhagen.