Russia in memorable Euro 2008 win

Dutchman Guus Hiddink led his young Russian team to a memorable 3-1 win in Basel on Saturday over his Dutch compatriots—and into the semifinals of Euro 2008.

Hiddink’s skilful side surprisingly played the Dutch favourites off the park, and won with goals from Roman Pavlyuchenko, Dimitri Torbinsky and the majestic Andrei Arshavin, whose performance earned him the man-of-the-match award.

Russia have improved remarkably since starting out with a 4-1 thrashing from Spain, thanks to the guile of Hiddink—and to the explosion of Arshavin, suspended for Russia’s first two games.

Hiddink said it was a remarkable performance coming with little time to prepare after defeating Sweden 2-0 three days before.

“Regarding that and regarding the end of the game after 90 minutes, going into extra time, what they did was a tremendous, unbelievable achievement,” he said.

Hiddink added: “I think the team was superior technically, in the control and passing, but also tactically, and also the physical part superior to the Dutch game. We were better in our opponents in all components of the game.”

Many commentators questioned Hiddink’s decision to take Arshavin to the tournament despite the suspension, but have been silenced by superlative displays from the Zenit youngster against Sweden and now The Netherlands.

Russia were more artful, sophisticated and thoughtful than the bewildered Dutch all night—and should have won without needing extra time.

Dutch coach Marco van Basten praised the Russian performance and said they deserved their victory. He now leaves the national side to take on an appointment with Ajax.

It was also an international farewell for Dutch veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

“That’s part of football,” Van Basten said.
“I feel very sorry for Edwin van der Sar because I really wanted to give him a nice final in the national team. He is such a great goalkeeper and he deserves winning a tournament like this. We tried and didn’t succeed.”

He added: “We didn’t start well and didn’t play football like we did in the first three matches. I don’t know why. They were a little bit nervous perhaps.”

Dutch veteran Ruud van Nistelrooy took the battle beautifully into extra time with a headed equaliser four minutes from the end of normal time.

But the Russians were not to be denied their fully deserved win, which sets them up for a semifinal clash on Thursday against Italy or Spain.

Interestingly, the three quarterfinals played so far have all been won by teams who finished second in their first-round group, despite having less time to prepare for the quarters than the first-placed teams.

“Normally you are handicapped when the other side scores such a late goal, but we were dominant. We were physically and tactically dominant,” a delighted Hiddink said.

Although Van Basten had the luxury of resting most of his first-choice players for their last group game, it was the Russians who looked the fresher.

“We had some physical problems. My players simply had no more strength. That is a pity, but the Russians deserved the victory; they were clearly the better side,” he said.

Russia were far superior in the first half—with excellent movement and precise passing—and should have taken the lead. Their dominance continued after the interval. Pavlyuchenko’s volley took them ahead in the 56th minute, on a centre from the left from Sergei Semak.

Russia then missed good chances to put the Dutch out of their misery, and paid the price when Van Nistelrooy made it 1-1 by heading in a Wesley Sneijder free kick in the 86th minute.

A Dutch revival seemed on the cards. Instead, Van Basten’s team looked exhausted and Russia took advantage to create several good chances on the break.

Eight minutes from the end of extra time, with penalties looking, the magnificent Arshavin centred for Torbinksy to tap in from close range.

Arshavin then rounded off a remarkable performance by making it 3-1 with a cheeky shot that went through Van der Sar’s legs.—Sapa-dpa

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