Russia relied on flair to get them through qualifying, and on the eve of his team's UEFA EURO 2012 bow, coach Dick Advocaat said his team will continue along "our way" against the Czech Republic in Friday's Group A opener.
An exciting, attacking force which reached the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finals under Guus Hiddink, Advocaat has moulded his own Russia side in a similar image since taking over from his compatriot in May 2010. "If we're really honest, it's all about results. But we can't change our way of playing. That's our way, a more attacking way," said the Dutchman, whose team swept aside Italy 3-0 in their final warm-up encounter prior to the tournament. "It was a little flattering, but it gave the team a lot of confidence. It'll be totally different tomorrow against a totally different opponent."
While the Czechs will no doubt be fully aware of the menace posed by the likes of Andrey Arshavin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov, midfielder Roman Shirokov has recently ensured Russia's goal threat even comes from further down the pitch. He scored twice against Italy, but the FC Zenit St Petersburg man also contributed greatly as Russia ended up Group B winners thanks in large part to a defensive record which was the joint-second best in Europe. Given that, it is hardly surprising Advocaat swatted away suggestions his squad's experience will be a handicap rather than a bonus in Poland and Ukraine.
"It's not about how old they are, it's about how good they are. And we have some very good players," said the ex-Zenit coach, who is yet to decide whether Igor Akinfeev or Vyacheslav Malafeev starts in goal at the Municipal Stadium Wroclaw. "That's also the reason we've only been training once a day. We have to be aware that this team has played a lot of games. With one training session a day and with good treatment, it's been quite positive."
Like Advocaat, Czech coach Michal Bílek still has to settle on his starting XI. A groin injury sustained by Milan Baroš since the team's arrival in Poland means the Galatasaray AŞ forward may miss out with Tomáš Pekhart the most likely man to replace him in the Czechs' favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Bílek is also poised to hand David Limberský the left-back role as Michal Kadlec, who fills that berth for Bayer 04 Leverkusen, reverts to central defence.
Though his side qualified in less impressive fashion than Russia, Bílek sees no reason why the Czechs should feel overawed. "The group is very evenly balanced. I don't think we're the weakest team in it. I think we'll show our ambition, which is to get through the group. That would be a success for us," said the former international midfielder, who is heading into his maiden international tournament as coach after his team came through the play-offs. "As you get closer to the game, the tension increases, and I feel it as the players do. I wish time would go faster. We can't wait to get out there and play the game."
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