Vienna: Spain 3 Russia 0. The first half belonged to Spain, without goals. The second, even more so, with Akinfeev picking the ball out of his net three times. However, this young Russian team leaves UEFA 2008 with its head held high, having made many friends with its attractive attacking football. Apart from surpassing its objectives by far, Russia lit the flame which we expect to see shining brightly in South Africa, 2010.
Russia began the game by testing both Spanish flanks but found the way through systematically blocked. Russia’s first half-chance appeared after 15 minutes, when Roman Pavluchenko shot just centimetres wide from outside the area. By then Spain had rocked Akinfeev on 6’, when David Silva, David Villa and Fernando Torres combined, the Liverpool FC striker sending the ball straight at Igor Akinfeev, who had to be alert again five minutes later after Silva served Villa.
Russia began to stifle Spain’s attacks, but without putting anything back in return. Hiddink’s men found it impossible to launch attacks from midfield, the more so to penetrate Casillas’ area. On the half hour, Arshavin, marked out of the game by two or three Spanish players, managed to pass to Pavluchenko, who shot just outside the left post. And that was basically it for the next hour’s play.
On 34’, Villa had to leave the game, injured, and was substituted by Fabregas. If the first half ended with a bitter taste in Russia’s mouth, due to the frustration of seeing the flowing attack, coming from deep within the midfield, being stifled at every level and in every corner of the field, the second was even worse, hosting Spain’s three goals.
If anyone rejoiced at Villa’s misfortune, Cesc Fabregas was soon to dispel any hopes that Russia’s players might put a bad half behind them and carry on where the team had left off after demolishing Holland so brilliantly last Saturday.
1- 0 on 49’. Iniesta took the ball along the left flank and passed to Xavi Hernandez, running into position and slotting the ball past Akinfeev. Guus Hiddink tried to carve out some space by pulling off Igor Semshov and Ivan Saenko on 55’ and sending on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Dmitry Sychev.
The game continued threatening to provide Spain’s second goal and not Russia’s first. On 62’, Sérgio Ramos, this time from the right, isolated Torres, who kneed the ball to Akinfeev. Luís Aragones immediately exhausted his subs, calling on Xabi Alonso and Daniel Guiza, replacing Xavi Hernandez and the hapless Fernando Torres. On 70’, Akinfeev was forced to make two reflex saves.
On 73’, 2-0. Lightning counter attack, pass, Guiza in the area, goal. On 82’, 3-0, Fabregas making the goal, passing to the excellent David Silva. If we say that Russia’s first shot on goal came in the 88th minute...
In the two games between these teams in this championship, Spain won both, scoring seven goals and suffering one. Today (3-0), Spain won and deserved to win, just like on 10th June in Innsbruck (4-1). However, in the UEFA 2008, Russia convinced, by surpassing all its objectives and playing an attractive flowing attacking football, showing the capacity for organization and demonstrating a flair, incisiveness and determination unusual these days at this level. For this reason, we can say with all confidence, Do zavtra, Rossiya! See you tomorrow, Russia!