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Russia storm into quarter final
Mitch Phillips | June 19, 2008 02:20 IST
Last Updated: June 19, 2008 04:23 IST
Russia [Images] produced their best performance of Euro 2008 [Images] when it was most needed on Wednesday, beating Sweden 2-0 to snatch second place in Group D to earn a quarter-final meeting with Netherlands.
Guus Hiddink's side had to win to progress while a draw would have been enough for the Scandinavians to advance.
But there was only one team in it as brilliantly-worked goals by Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin sent Russia into the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time since, as the Soviet Union, they lost to the Dutch in the Euro 1988 final.
"We're very proud of what the team have achieved in this tournament," Hiddink told reporters. "But that's not enough.
"The next goal are the Dutch (in Basel on Saturday). Our problem is we only have two days to recuperate.
"I don't have 20 A-players. Holland used their B-team last night (against Romania). Their A-team have had five or six days to recover."
The inclusion of Arshavin, suspended for the first two games, seemed to give Russia an injection of self-belief and they were unrecognisable from the side who laboured to victory over Greece and were thumped by Spain.
His direct running and some confident, slick passing in and around the box had Sweden hanging on from the opening exchanges.
Yuri Zhirkov sounded a warning when he drove a volley wide after 21 minutes and three minutes later Russia were ahead.
A clever pass allowed Konstantin Zyryanov to escape down the right and he played the ball inside to Alexander Anyukov. The dangerous midfielder then rolled it into the path of Pavlyuchenko who cracked home a first-time shot.
The striker almost had another later in the half when he fired against the bar after another neat exchange.
The Swedes issued a reminder of their own threat on the break as Henrik Larsson [Images] looped a header against the bar and Mikael Nilsson forced a sharp smothering save from Igor Akinfeyev at the end of the half.
It proved a key intervention as five minutes after the break Arshavin doubled the lead with another superb goal. An attack that began deep in their own half ended with Zhirkov setting up the playmaker to score with his outstretched right boot.
"I would like to congratulate the Russian team," said Sweden coach Lars Lagerback. "We knew they had a very good team.
"We were a little bit passive at the start and that's not what we planned. The Russians exploited that and scored a goal."
Lagerback added a few of his senior players were now likely to quit the international stage.
"We've got some older players in the team," he said. "I expect some of them will retire."
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008