Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 24 News List

EURO 2008: Hiddink works his magic for Russia

MIRACLE MAN Having taken the Netherlands and South Korea to World Cup semi-finals in 1998 and 2002, Guus Hiddink led Russia into the Euro 2008's last eight

AFP , INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA

Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson fails to save a shot by Andrei Arshavin, rear right, of Russia during the Euro 2008 Group D soccer match at the Tivoli stadium in Innsbruck, Austria, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: EPA

Guus Hiddink's reputation as a miracle worker was given further credence on Wednesday as a young Russian side overcame a vastly more experienced Swedish one 2-0 in their Euro 2008 Group D clash to progress to the last eight at the expense of the Swedes.

The 61-year-old Dutchman — whose side will face his compatriots in the last eight on Saturday — looked on with a broad smile on his face as goals by Roman Pavlyuchenko in the 24th minute, for his second of the tournament, and Russian player of the year Andrei Arshavin in the 50th minute sealed a deserved victory.

Russia progress to their first ever knockout stages of a major tournament since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, and their meeting with the Dutch will be a repeat to a certain extent of the 1988 final when present Dutch coach Marco van Basten scored in the 2-0 victory over the Soviets.

Hiddink, who took the Netherlands to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, where they lost on penalties to Brazil, and then South Korea to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals, said that his young bunch — who have the youngest average age of all the sides at Euro — had recorded a famous win over the side with the oldest average age.

“This is a huge win for a side still under construction, with lots of young players and some experienced players,” Hiddink said. “It gives me real pleasure to work with them. In the course of the past three weeks these youngsters have learned a lot.”

Swedish coach Lars Lagerback was gracious in defeat.

“I would like to congratulate the Russians, who really play joyful soccer,” said the soon to be 60-year-old veteran handler. “I think they saw rapidly where they could hurt us and they exploited our weaknesses perfectly.”

Quarter-finals line-up

All kick-offs 18:45 GMT

• Last night

Portugal vs Germany (at Basel, Switzerland).

• Today

Croatia vs Turkey (at Vienna).

• Tomorrow

Holland vs Russia (at Basel).

• Sunday

Spain vs Italy (at Vienna).

SOURCE: AFP


Russia produced their usual flowing soccer in the early stages with playmaker Arshavin — coming back after a two match suspension — pulling the strings, and the unimaginative Swedes, who did start with star striker Zlatan Irahimovic despite his knee problem, content to sit back on the whole.

It was the Russians who went closest to opening the scoring in the 20th minute as Yuri Zhirkov unleashed a fierce volley from the left side of the penalty box which just crept past the far post of the Swedes, Arshavin having provoked the corner with a cheeky chip which forced Andreas Isaakson into a tip over.

However, they got a deserved lead in the 24th minute as Pavlyuchenko tucked away a finely made goal for his second of the tournament, having been set up by Zenit-St Petersburg’s rampaging fullback Alexander Anyukov.

The Swedes hit back almost immediately as veteran striker Henrik Larsson got on the end of a long ball and his header clipped the bar much to the relief of Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

The Russians were just playing the most delightful soccer, some of the best of the tournament, and in the 36th minute they went desperately close to doubling their lead as the redoubtable Pavlyuchenko was fed inside the box and his chip beat Isaakson only to clip the post.

The ball was crossed in again and Zhirkov fired fiercely on target only for Isaakson to produce a marvelous tip away save to leave it at that point the Russians having had 13 shots to the Swedes three.

Sweden, though, could not be discounted and Swedish captain Freddi Ljungberg forced Akineev into a scrambled save in the 44th minute but the Swedes failed to take advantage of the corner.

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