Euro 2004: Russia face tough task

Updated: 25 February 2007 09:07 IST

Russia go into Euro 2004 regarded by many as outsiders in Group A alongside Greece, with hosts Potugal and their close neighbours Spain.

Euro 2004: Russia face tough task

Moscow:

Russia go into Euro 2004 regarded by many as outsiders in Group A alongside Greece, with hosts Potugal and their close neighbours Spain favourites to go through to the second stage. Back in August 2003, Russia appeared to be limping out of the qualifying stages for Euro 2004. They stood third in their group, five points behind leaders Switzerland and three adrift of the Republic of Ireland in second place. Some drastic action was required and the Russian football authorities sacked the then coach Valeri Gazzaev, replacing him with Georgi Yartsev. The 55 year-old former Spartak Moscow manager was only given a short-term contract, but masterminded a remarkable turnaround. They went to Dublin and earned a draw and then beat the Swiss 4-1 in Moscow. As the Irish faded, Russia grabbed second place and a play-off match with Wales. A 1-0 aggregate victory appeared to have booked the Russians a place in Portugal for Euro 2004 and for midfielder Alexei Smertin, it was all down to the coach. Titov was a member of the Russian squad that overcame the Welsh, who then launched a legal campaign to get the whole team thrown out of Euro 2004. Eventually, the challenge failed and Russia could begin their reparations in earnest. First up for the Russians is Spain on June 12. Then come the hosts, Portugal, and then Greece. It's a tough group and for midfielder Marat Izmailov, Portugal are the team to watch, but he maintains his team will not be overawed when the competition starts. Russia will be hoping that their opponents in Group A will take points off each other and if they can approach their best, they have a real chance of making it to the second stage. Russia could yet prove to be the dark horses of Euro 2004 but a repeat of their victory in the inaugural European Nations tournament back in 1960 appears unlikely. (AP)

Topics : Football
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