Russia will do everything in their power to avoid the defeat they suffered against Spain in their opening game, in order to advance to the final of Euro 2008.
This semi final is the only match at Euro 2008 in which the two teams meet for the second time. On June 10th, it was Spain to impress and take away a 4-1 victory.
But things have changed since then for the Russians, who then went on to beat Greece, Sweden and the Netherlands consecutively.
Their change of form must be related to the return of Andrei Arshavin, who was suspended for the first two games.
In an interview with the tournament’s official website, Arshavin said that Russia should rely on themselves.
“Russia will play their normal way. We don’t play defensive football, we like to attack. But it doesn’t all depend on us. Let’s see how the Spaniards do.
“Maybe it makes it harder for us that we play such an open kind of football, because our opponent knows how to counterattack and they have some fast players. But we need to play our way instead of adapting to the opposition.”
Where Arshavin has been of great influence for the Russian team, he surely wasn’t alone. Fellow forward Roman Pavlychenko has been more than successful finding the net at Euro 2008 and will aim to keep doing so against Spain.
While Hiddink has a strong team to play with, he does also have a worry as striker Ivan Saenko may have to miss the Spain clash due to a foot injury.
The Euro fever in Spain meanwhile, is slowly starting to show itself. While the Spanish are used to watching their team go out in one of the earlier rounds of major tournaments, they are now closer than ever to a final victory.
In fact, more than 10,000 readers of sports paper Marca pledged to shave their heads if Spain were to win the tournament.
Spain have never really shown a lack of form at Euro 2008. After the convincing win over the Russians, they went on with wins over Sweden and Greece before beating Italy on penalties.
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas dreams of winning the tournament: “Everyone has that ten-minute spell when you’re trying to get to sleep and your mind drifts. That’s when I dream of lifting this trophy.”
“It’s going to be a beautiful match because these two sides are both committed to attack, they share a football philosophy. Russia have impressed me.”
Interestingly, Russia (then USSR) and Spain are the first two winners of this tournament. The Soviets won in 1960 and Spain did so four years later.
But neither team has managed to win the tournament again since then. The Russians came close a few times but failed to actually take the trophy. In their last final – also as Soviet Union – in 1988, they lost 2-0 to the Dutch.
Their last competitive meeting – excluding this year’s group phase clash – was at Euro 2004 when Spain won 1-0, but neither team would make it to the next round.
Belgian Frank De Bleeckere has been assigned as referee for this game, which will start at 20:45 local time in Vienna, Austria.
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