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Croatia to measure Russia's resolve

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2007, 18.12CET
Guus Hiddink thinks a draw against Croatia would be "a good result" for Russia while striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov is hungry for goals in Zagreb this evening.
by Pavle Gognidze
Croatia to measure Russia's resolve
Russia celebrate a goal against Andorra ©Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 6 June 2007, 18.12CET

Croatia to measure Russia's resolve

Guus Hiddink thinks a draw against Croatia would be "a good result" for Russia while striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov is hungry for goals in Zagreb this evening.

Guus Hiddink thinks a point against Croatia would be "a good result" for Russia while striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov is hungry for goals in Zagreb.

Sensible ambition
Third in Group E, two points adrift of leaders Croatia, Russia travel to the Maksimir Stadium tonight knowing a positive result would put them in pole position to qualify for next year's final tournament in Austria and Switzerland. While fans may be yearning for a dramatic victory, Dutch coach Hiddink feels a draw to match the one Croatia earned in Moscow in September would be good enough. "A draw away against Croatia would be a good result," said Hiddink. "However, that is not to suggest we will go there to play for a draw - that is not in the character of the new Russia side."

Same formation
Fresh from a 4-0 win against Andorra in St Petersburg, Russia have taken 14 points from six qualifying games, but have yet to face the toughest tests in the section. Andorra and Croatia are hardly comparable opposition, but Hiddink is likely to stick with the 3-5-2 formation that he deployed against the Principality side, with Kerzhakov in a leading role. After scoring a hat-trick against Andorra, the Sevilla FC star is in stirring form, although he said: "I don't want to overestimate the win against Andorra or my three goals. Everybody in the team is smart and they understand what this victory was and how much the game in Zagreb will mean. It will be tens of times more difficult against Croatia but really I want to score against them."

Lively substitutes
Concerns over the fitness of in-form Diniyar Bilyaletdinov may force Hiddink's hand over team selection. FC Lokomotiv Moskva's midfield engine is nursing a thigh injury but may yet displace Dmitri Torbinskiy. Viktor Budyanski could be in line for another appearance after impressing as a substitute against Andorra along with Aleksandr Anyukov and Dmitri Sychev. If fans are still wondering how Russia will perform against Croatia, then so is the coach. Hiddink said: "This game [against Andorra] did not give us much of an idea about our chances in this European quest but the next match against Croatia will tell us a lot. Even I am wondering how we are going to play. It will be a real test for this young Russian side."

Last updated: 06/06/07 20.12CET

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