Russia's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink admitted Spain had been the better side and deserved to be in the Euro 2008 final after his side's 3-0 defeat here on Thursday.
After a more cautious first-half Spain shook off the shackles in the second period and tore Russia apart with their crisp passing game.
And Hiddink, whose side had stunned Holland in the quarter-finals due to their physical condition, said that his team simply could not keep chasing shadows as Spain pinged the ball around.
“We lost against a very good Spain team,” said Hiddink, who saw his hopes of a major final dashed again having taken Holland and South Korea to the 1998 and 2002 World Cup semi-finals respectively.
“We were more or less on the same level for an hour but we couldn't keep it up.
“That was also their plan to make us tired, very tired so we couldn't mark as well and couldn't play as well in the second half.”
Hiddink had no complaints after his team had exceded all expectations in reaching this stage of the competition – since the fall of the Soviet Union Russia had never even got out of the group stages of a World Cup or European Championships so reaching a semi-final represented something of a breakthrough.
“I'm disappointed we lost but we can be proud that we reached the latter stages and third place is a tremendous success but tonight we faced a strong side and they deserved to win.”
Looking forward to the final Hiddink said it was difficult to separate Germany – who beat Turkey 3-2 in Wednesday's first semi-final in Basel, Switzerland – and Spain, although he admitted he had a softer spot for the Spanish, having had three relatively unsuccessful spells as a club coach there.
“I like teams who have the concept of playing an attacking game, who like to play, who enjoy the game,” he said.
“I like to see players who like to play and Spain have a lot of experience and love to play football.
“They can create chances as well and of course they have a chance against Germany.
“Germany have some good games and they have some scrappy games but they're always there where they want to be.
“This will be a match between a physically powerful team against a team that plays one-touch football – I can't predict who will win.”
Before this semi-final a lot had been written and said about Russia's playmaker Andrei Arshavin, who suddenly found himself at the top of many big clubs' wanted list, but he failed to perform on the big stage.
Hiddink was not blaming the Zenit St Petersburg forward, though.
“When he did well in the Sweden game after being suspended (for the first two matches) and then also against Holland it's normal that the team and he got lots of attention,” said the Dutchman.
“And then a lot of people are writing that he can be a top player in any league.
“He can but Spain focused on him and he had some difficult moments. But that's good for him to have a tough game and to see what he has to do to improve to survive in the big leagues.
“He's got the quality but it's good for him and for us to see the difficulties he has to overcome.”
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