Group D teams Spain and Russia will finally begin their Euro 2008 campaign on Tuesday, for a repeat of their 2004 opening game.
The two teams also faced each other in Portugal four years ago. Spain won the match 1-0, but both ended up missing out on the next round.
Spain manager Luis Aragones made a somewhat controversial decision by leaving Real Madrid star Raul out of his selection. But the Spanish should be able to rely on the qualities of Liverpool’s Fernando Torres up front.
Midfielder Cesc Fabregas should also be kept an eye on. Arsenal boss Arsene Winger even tipped Fabregas to become a star at this tournament.
With Spain’s last success being achieved 44 years ago, when they won the European Championships, the pressure will be mounting on the current team’s shoulders. Though always represented by individually very skilled players, the Spanish always seem to be lacking strength or luck as the tournament develops.
Russia, who reached their last final as the Soviet Union in 1988, were one of two teams – with Croatia – to reach Euro 2008 at the expense of England.
But things will be tough in Austria as manager Guus Hiddink can’t count on the qualities of striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who recently suffered a knee injury.
Hiddink’s plan was also to include Igor Denisov but the zenit midfielder rejected the invitation.
The first Group D match will be played at 18:00 CET in the Austrian town of Innsbruck. Referee is Austrian Konrad Plautz, assisted by Egon Bereuter and Markus Mayr as linesmen and Grzegorz Gilewski as fourth official.
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