Euro 2012: Russia seeks new Euro breakthrough

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.

Updated: May 14, 2012 14:33 IST
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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 -- 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.

However, the team's real strength will likely be tested in a friendly with four-time world champions Italy, which is scheduled to take place in Switzerland on June 1, just days before the Russian team's arrival in the Polish capital, Warsaw.

"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.

"Everything is possible at the European championship. Greece in 2004 and Russia in 2008 proved this, obviously."

Advocaat won the trust of Russian fans during a successful stint at Saint Petersburg club Zenit, which saw the side win the UEFA Cup in 2008 and earned him the nickname the "little general".

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.

Advocaat will likely count on experienced veterans at the European championships and there have been concerns about a lack of youthful talent.

But 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.

CSKA skipper Sergei Ignashevich, who was a definite starter in the centre of defence, is out for an unspecified amount of time with a toe fracture along with midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who suffered a similar injury.

Spartak players Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Sergei Parshivlyuk, both candidates for a place in the Euro squad, were also recently sidelined with injuries and remain uncertain.

The return of CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev who overcame a knee injury has been welcomed in the Russian camp.

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