After topping a major tournament qualifying group for the first time in five attempts, Dick Advocaat’s Russia go to Poland and Ukraine looking to better their 2008 run to the semi-finals
MOSCOW: Russia enters the Euro 2012 championships seeking to repeat the success of reaching the semi-finals in 2008 and erase the nightmare of failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals.
Boasting an array of established talent drawn from Russian clubs and abroad, Russia could be a threat for any national side but are currently battling a list of injury worries and lack of solid match practice.
Without any trophy since the Soviet Union won the European Championships in 1960, Russia unexpectedly lit up the 2008 championships with a glittering performance from a then young side including star forward Andrei Arshavin.
Russia have been drawn with co-hosts Poland, the Euro-1996 finalists Czech Republic and the 2004 European champions Greece in Group A, with anyone’s guess as to who will qualify for the knock-out stages.
Russia’s Dutch national manager Dick Advocaat (pictured) — who is leaving after the championships — said that any two of the teams are capable of reaching the last eight.
Russia finished top of their qualifying group, two points ahead of runners-up Republic of Ireland, and won 2-0 their only friendly match since against their fellow Euro-2012 finalists Denmark in February.
“We are not the favourites for the upcoming event,” said Advocaat, whose late announcement that he will not be renewing his contract caused some disquiet in the Russian camp.
He will have to make up for the dismal failure of the side led by his predecessor and fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink to make the World Cup finals after being eliminated by minnows Slovenia.
The recent injuries of several of his front-line players may change the plans of the Dutch coach, who said he has already chosen the majority of his players. The return of CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev who overcame a knee injury has been welcomed.