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Party time for Russia after Hiddink´s heros make semis

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 Jun 2008

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Russia coach Guus Hiddink says he knows what his side's stunning 3-1 win over Holland on Saturday will mean to millions of Russians as their side reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals.

Russia's man-of-the-match Andrei Arshavin was the architect of the Dutch team's downfall as he tormented their defence and scored the third goal deep in extra-time to put his side in the last four.

And Hiddink says he expects there to be much celebrating back in Russia for the rest of the weekend after the side made the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“I knew from after we qualified for the quarter-finals that Red Square and other places around Russia would be filled with people celebrating long into the night,” said the 61-year-old, who has added to his reputation yet again here having guided Holland and South Korea to the 1998 and 2002 World Cup semi-finals.

“I have seen tremendous joy all over Russia and it gives more delight to the team to give joy to many millions of Russians.

“I am extremely proud of the team's achievement.”

Hiddink, who had already proved himself as a club coach by winning the then European Cup with PSV Eindhoven in 1988, said that he had been concerned by the lack of time for preparation his side had been given.

“We had just two days to recover after our win over Sweden (2-0) in the group stages.

“I didn't complain a lot, only a bit, before this very difficult game.

“We could hardly work tactically, we had just ten minutes at the stadium yesterday (Friday).

“To see the team produce such an unbelievable performance is amazing, I have not experienced something like that in my career.

“I think the team were superior technically in their control and physically over the Dutch which is tremendous because I know how well they (the Dutch) prepare.

“I don't mean it as an arrogant expression, but we were just better than them,” added Hiddink, who also coached Australia to the second round of the 2006 World Cup where they lost to a contentious penalty to eventual winners Italy.

Hiddink, who was at one point linked to taking over at Chelsea until Luiz Felipe Scolari got the job instead, only had one mild criticism of his young side.

“My only criticism of the team is that sometimes we commit too many fouls and we were too passive at the free-kicks (it was from one of them that Ruud van Nistelrooy equalised late in the second-half).

“In extra-time, we kept trying to get the second goal and they were duly rewarded by getting a third as well.

“I am very proud of all the players.”

Having said in Friday's pre-match press conference he would be happy to be a “Dutch traitor” if Russia beat his countrymen, Hiddink said he regretted making the comment.

He said: “I wished I hadn't said it after the press conference yesterday, in my opinion 'traitor' is a very bad word.

“Of course, in my position, I would have loved to have out-classed the Dutch team with an unexpected win, so I am very, very happy.

“The words was initially used by a Dutch jourmalist and I regret steping in, but I don't like that word.”

Russia striker Ivan Saenko said that it would be a victory that he and his team-mates would remember for a long time.

“It is important that we relish this win,” said Saenko.

“Guus Hiddink never stopped telling us that we could beat anyone.”

Arshavin, who was also Zenit St Petersburg's creator in chief as they beat Rangers in the UEFA Cup final, said that he was virtually lost for words.

“Simply put, I am just very happy,” said the 27-year-old, who was suspended for the first two matches.

“I really don't know what to say, the words escape me.

“We gave our all. Our coach had told us that the Dutch would be aggressive at the beginning of the match, but it was us who were more aggressive.

“The side who won had the best Dutch coach,” added Arshavin in an impish snipe at Holland's handler Marco van Basten.

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