2008 Russia Euro Soccer Preview
by Doc's Sports - 05/29/2008
The leap that Russian soccer has made since bringing on manager Guus Hiddink has been remarkable since his takeover as head man in 2006. Previously he had helped his home nation Netherlands reach the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup, not to mention a wonderful job getting Australia into the second round of the 2006 World Cup. His resume is also boosted by stints as manager for seven different club teams over the last 20 years.
Russia's only recent European Championship appearances were in 1996 and 2004 and both were short-lived. Hiddink came on after the team failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
Euro 2008 earned Russia as a member of its tournament thanks to a second place finish in Group E. They had to fend off England with all their might, while first place Croatia was simply too strong. They secured a 1-0 win away to Andorra in their final match and received some magic luck by Croatia beating England at Wembley Stadium in London, especially when the English just needed to get a draw at worst to qualify.
Golden Player Watch - Dmitriy Sychev and Andrei Arshavin, F
The striking partnership of these two could go a long way for Russia to employ a Euro 2008 surprise this June. Just 24 and 27 years old respectively, the duo up front have already combined for over 70 caps and scored 25 times.
With all but a few players competing in Russia's top domestic league for club, this squad is well put together and seems to be gelling at the right time. A handful of footballers heading to Austria and Switzerland captured the UEFA Cup with home side Zenit St. Petersburg with a shock victory over Scotland's Rangers. Russian supporters were overjoyed with this wonderful effort and likely see Euro 2008 as another opportunity to continue their rise towards the top of world football.
Reason Why They Will Advance to Elimination Round
Guus Hiddink has undoubtedly left his impact on this team. He has them peaking and right now they are an exciting team to watch compete. Russia will be challenged in every match, and likely be dogged in each match against Sweden, defending champion Greece and Spain.
However, Russia can play with these nations. They can beat Sweden. They could channel the success of Greece from 2004 and when up against Spain they won't back down. Anything can happen, but this up-and-coming Russian squad is one not to doubt.
Group Play Schedule
Russia vs. Spain - June 10
Russia vs. Greece - June 14
Russia vs. Sweden - June 18