Thursday 19 June 2008
Zenit schemer plots Dutch downfall
Andrei Arshavin has warned the Netherlands to expect Russia's attacking machine to click into top gear in Saturday's Basel quarter-final after the diminutive playmaker produced a Carlsberg Man of the Match performance to see off Sweden.
The FC Zenit St. Petersburg forward was instrumental as Guus Hiddink's offensive-minded side clinched second place in Group D with a 2-0 win over the Swedes on Wednesday. After seeing Russia spurn several chances to embellish the scoreline, Arshavin believes the Dutch may feel the full force of their goalscoring potential at St. Jakob-Park. "I don't think we needed to score that many goals in this game," the 27-year-old said. "We need to save them for the next games and I hope we will score a few against the Netherlands."
Having been suspended for Russia's first two matches, Arshavin was included in the starting lineup in Innsbruck and gave a timely reminder of his immense talent in a tie his country had to win. After his astute pass instigated the move that led to Roman Pavlyuchenko's 24th-minute opener, the No10 then launched and sealed the flowing move five minutes after the break which rubber-stamped a quarter-final ticket. "I think we played a good game," he said. "We had a lot of possession and went all out for attack. To be honest, when we took the lead we did get nervous because our target was so close. After we went 2-0 up, the Swedes threw everything up front and didn't care what the risks were. We could have scored even more."
A clinical edge will be required if Hiddink is to successfully mastermind his compatriots' elimination from the competition. Arshavin acknowledges that Marco van Basten's in-form team represent the stiffest test Russia could face. "If we didn't have to play the Netherlands, we would feel much better, because I think they are the best side here. But fate has it that we have to play the strongest team in the tournament in the last eight," the UEFA Cup winner with Zenit said. "I hope we will be able to match them." UEFA EURO 2008™ Technical Team observer, Jean-Paul Brigger, reckons Arshavin has the talent to trouble the Dutch. "It's not easy to come into a team that's working well but you can see from the way he touched the ball, he has all the skills," he said. "He's really a great player."