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    28 February 2021 Sunday

    Russia waits to see semifinal opponent at Euro 2008 when Italy and Spain play in Vienna

    BASEL, Switzerland: After its stunning quarterfinal win over the Netherlands, Russia may get the chance to put right its one bad performance at the European Championship.Russia coach Guus Hiddink was to find out late Sunday whether his team will play Italy or Spain for a place in the Euro 2008 final.

    It was Spain that humbled Russia 4-1 in its opening Group D match and cast doubt on Hiddink's chances of extending his record of getting every team he has coached at an international tournament into the knockout round.

    That defeat on June 10 in Innsbruck is a distant memory now, and Russia is brimming with confidence after first beating defending champion Greece 1-0, then Sweden 2-0 and tournament favorite the Netherlands 3-1 in what must rank as one of the biggest shocks in a tournament full of them.

    "We are not scared of any team now," midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov said. "If we get to play against Spain, no problem, we can get revenge."

    A key difference between the Russia team that was thrashed by Spain and the one that will play in Thursday's semifinal match in Vienna is Andrei Arshavin.

    The Zenit St. Petersburg star was suspended for the first two games of the tournament after being sent off in Russia's last qualifier, a tense 1-0 win over Andorra.

    Arshavin has now played two Euro 2008 matches, scored in both games and twice been named man of the match.

    In Saturday's virtuoso performance against the Dutch, Arshavin tormented the Netherlands defense all night and totally took over the game in the decisive second half of extra time.

    First, he left the defense for dead on the left and floated a cross to the far post where substitute Dmitry Torbinski arrived to poke the ball in and give Russia a 2-1 lead. Then Arshavin popped up on the right and with no teammate to pass to, he rifled a low shot through the legs of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

    "He has tremendous skills. He knows how to dribble in defense," Hiddink said of Arshavin. "(Defenders) can run with him but they cannot really attack him. It is what nature gave him."

    Hiddink said he would let his players savor their victory before turning his attention to the semifinals.

    "I have not had any thoughts about that," he said. "Going into quarterfinals being an outsider and reaching that goal is already a big achievement, and then going into next round and semifinal, I think the first thing we do is rest two days and then focus on the opponent."

    The Associated Press

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