Russia set up a Euro 2008 quarterfinal with coach Guus Hiddink’s native Netherlands after a deserved 2-0 win over Sweden in Group D on Wednesday completed the line-up for the last eight.
The Swedes, who only needed a draw to progress from the opening group stage that ended on Wednesday night, join the already eliminated Greeks on an early flight home.
Like Romania on Tuesday before them and to an extent France, Sweden and Greece have paid the penalty for a lack of attacking ambition in a tournament that has been graced generally with scintillating and winning football in more ways than one.
Greece, who won Euro 2004 against all the odds and expectations, have returned to type as big-event whipping boys — they are the only one of the 16 finalists not to gain a single point after losing to Spain 2-1 on Wednesday.
Fans from co-hosts Austria and Switzerland, whose teams also made first-stage exits, are looking for other nations to support following their failure too in the group stage, and Russia’s dominant display will certainly have won them some new admirers.
Roman Pavlyuchenko side-footed home after a great interchange of passing midway through the first half in Innsbruck before Andrei Arshavin, playing his first match of the tournament after a ban, finished off a similar flowing move.
”We’re very proud of what the team’s achieved in this tournament but that’s not enough. The next goal is the Dutch,” said Hiddink, who coached The Netherlands to the World Cup semifinals in 1998 and now meets them in Basel on Saturday.
”Our problem is we have only two days to recover.”
Angelos Haristeas, who scored the winner in the Euro 2004 final, put Greece ahead in Salzburg with their first tournament goal but Ruben de la Red and Daniel Guiza, two minutes from time, made it three wins out of three for Spain.
Group winners Spain played a second string side ahead of Sunday’s last eight clash with world champions Italy in Vienna.
The tournament, which kicked off on June 7 and has not had a day free of action since then, does not pause for breath now that the finalists have been whittled in half to eight teams — the quarterfinals feature Portugal and Germany, Croatia and Turkey, The Netherlands and Russia, and Spain and Italy.
Germany play Portugal in the first quarterfinal in Basel on Thursday, but coach Joachim Loew will not be allowed to set foot on or even near the newly relaid St Jakob Park pitch after being banned from the touchline for one game by Uefa on Wednesday.
The punishment comes after he and Austria counterpart Josef Hickersberger were sent to the stands during Germany’s 1-0 Group B win on Monday for arguing with a fourth official.
Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel is also due to miss his side’s quarterfinal with Croatia on Friday and a possible semifinal after receiving a two-game ban for pushing Jan Koller and being sent off in the 3-2 win over Czech Republic on Sunday.
France coach Raymond Domenech could be poised for a much lengthier absence from international football after his team’s dismal elimination from the tournament on Tuesday.
The French Football Federation said a decision on whether Domenech remains national coach will be made on July 3 following their 2-0 defeat by Italy.
Swiss and Austrian minds are also starting to wander following their elimination in the week.
”You might find some Austrians start to support a team that is doing well but there is not one team we would naturally sway towards now, certainly not Germany,” said 24-year-old student Stephan Kohaut.
There is no love lost between the neighbours, but now the Swiss may have inadvertently upset the Germans too.
Switzerland’s teletext service has had to issue an embarrassing apology after it mistakenly subtitled Germany’s national anthem on Monday with obsolete lyrics no longer used because of their use during the Nazi era. — Reuters