Sport » Championships
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russia advances to Euro-2008 for the first time in 20 years

Russia coach Guus Hiddink is looking forward to a quarterfinal match against his native Netherlands after securing advancement at the European Championship.

Roman Pavlyuchenko scored in the first half and Andrei Arshavin, coming off a two-match suspension, added a second after the break to beat Sweden 2-0 Wednesday and set up a match against the Netherlands on Saturday in Basel, Switzerland.

"It's a special game because I know the players, I know the coach and more people within the squad I worked with," Hiddink said. "But we play the style that they like to play. It has to be an interesting clash."

Russia finished second behind Spain in Group D with six points, three ahead of Sweden.

The youthful Russians outpaced the experienced Swedes to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. For Sweden, which only needed a draw to advance, it was the first group stage exit at a major tournament since Euro 2000.

"This a tremendous victory," said Hiddink, who has maintained his record of reaching the knockout stage in every international tournament he has coached at. He will now take on his home country, which he led to the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup.

"Holland is the best team in the tournament and ... it will be very interesting to play against such a strong team," Arshavin said.

Hiddink's move to pick Arshavin in his starting team paid off as the playmaker picked up a pass from Yuri Zhirkov in a fast Russian counterattack and scored with a right-footed shot in the 50th minute.

The goal stunned the Swedes, who had struggled to contain Russia's attack throughout the first half.

The Russians opened aggressively right from the kickoff, knowing they needed a win to stay alive in the tournament. Their pressure resulted in a string of corner kicks but no clear opportunities until Yuri Zhirkov's hard volley in the 21st went just outside Isaksson's left post.

Pavlyuchenko gave Russia the lead in the 24th after being set up inside the box by Aleksandr Anyukov following a series of quick passes that ripped open the defense.

Henrik Larsson had Sweden's best chance with a first-half header that hit the crossbar, but Russia nearly got its second goal in the 36th when Pavlyuchenko's shot hit the bar. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov headed the rebound to force goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson into a diving save.

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev stopped shots from Fredrik Ljungberg and Nilsson as Sweden surged before the break.

"I'm tired and very disappointed," the 36-year-old Larsson said after the match. "We didn't have a whole lot of chances. I had one on the crossbar, I can't remember many more."

Russia piled up chances as the Swedes opened themselves up to dangerous counterattacks by pushing forward toward the end of the game. Konstantin Zyryanov almost added a third for Russia when his shot deflected off Sweden defender Petter Hansson to hit the post.

The Swedes looked unusually sluggish except for the last 10 minutes of the first half and struggled to produce any real scoring chances.

Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored in Sweden's previous matches, never even came close. His best attempt was a weak second-half header that was easily stopped by Akinfeyev.

"I think we were too passive, especially in the first half," Sweden coach Lars Lagerback said. "We tried to lift ourselves up in the second half, but then they scored an early goal and it became an uphill battle."

Sweden won its opening group match against defending champion Greece 2-0, but lost to Spain 2-1 with David Villa scoring the winning goal in injury time. Russia bounced back from a crushing 4-1 loss to Spain to send Greece home with a 1-0 win in the second match.

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North Korea declares victory over USA
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