Russia looks to seal last eight slot
WARSAW - Agence France-Presse
Aleksander Kerzhakov. AFP Photo
Russia will aim to storm into the Euro 2012 quarterfinals on June 16 when it faces bottom-of-the-table Greece, after missing the chance to pop the champagne by drawing 1-1 with co-hosts Poland.
But Group A underdogs the Greeks will not be content to play the role of extras in the Russians’ movie, aiming to bring some cheer to a homeland locked in a political and economic crisis.
A draw will suffice to clinch Dutch veteran Dick Advocaat’s Russia a berth in the last eight, but they aim to display the form that enabled them to demolish the Czech Republic 4-1 in their tournament opener last week.
“We need to forget that a draw will also put us into the knockout stage and score. Once, twice... as much as we can,” said goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, one of seven Zenit St Petersburg players who have started both of Russia’s Euro 2012 matches.
“Our fate is still in our own hands,” he said.
The picture is very different for Greece, who know it is do or die.
“We are going after one result,” underlined their Portuguese coach Fernando Santos.
“My faith in my team is total.
“There is a chance and we have to focus and believe that it is possible,” he added.
But the Euro 2004 champions will be painfully aware that they are not masters of their destiny, even if they take three points. Russia currently tops the group on four points, while the Czechs have three, Poland two and Greece one.
Advocaat, who took over from compatriot Guus Hiddink in May 2010, has won plaudits for building a side with attractive, free-flowing play and blooding young talent such as CSKA Moscow’s Alan Dzagoev.
The 21-year-old has scored three goals so far at Euro 2012.
For Advocaat, a Euro 2012 success would be a fine way to bow out.
He is set to leave his post after the tournament to return to club management at PSV Eindhoven.