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How Hiddink transformed Russia

Published: Wednesday 11 February 2009, 20.24CET
Chelsea FC are hoping that Guus Hiddink can have the same effect at Stamford Bridge as with Russia. uefa.com explains five key changes the Dutchman made to transform them into UEFA EURO 2008™ semi-finalists.
by Oleg Sokol
How Hiddink transformed Russia
Guus Hiddink is held aloft after qualifying Russia for UEFA EURO 2008™ ©Getty Images

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Published: Wednesday 11 February 2009, 20.24CET

How Hiddink transformed Russia

Chelsea FC are hoping that Guus Hiddink can have the same effect at Stamford Bridge as with Russia. uefa.com explains five key changes the Dutchman made to transform them into UEFA EURO 2008™ semi-finalists.

Guus Hiddink has revitalised the Russian national side since taking over in 2006 and Chelsea FC will be hoping he can do the same for them following his appointment on a temporary basis at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. uefa.com's Oleg Sokol, who has covered Russia's advance under Hiddink, explains five key changes the Dutchman made to Russia to take them to the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2008™.

No1: Rejuvenation
Hiddink was not universally welcomed by Russia fans, baulking at his reported €7m salary. Starting 2008 qualification with home draws against Croatia and Israel hardly helped. But Hiddink had two decades of experience to call on and decided to turn to youth, including the likes of Pavel Pogrebnyak, to produce an attacking brand of football that Roman Abramovich is reported to want at Chelsea. The London club's owner would like the results too – Russia's journey to the EURO semi-finals came with the youngest squad in the tournament, an average age of not far above 26.

No2: Mentality
Once Hiddink had the personnel he wanted, he aimed to instil a modern mentality in his squad, replacing a strict regime with one where trust was placed in the players. However, the rules he did lay down had to be kept; when Sergei Ignashevich was several hours late turning up at the hotel before a game against Poland, he was sent back home. The defender had told coaching staff days in advance he would be delayed but Hiddink was not satisfied with the reason.

No3: Off-field management
An appropriate trait considering his new part-time position, Hiddink is not just a coach, more a British-style manager. At his request, the team were given the best hotels, separate rooms and improved air travel. "We have forgotten about organisational problems since Hiddink took charge," Diniyar Bilyaletdinov told Sovetsky Sport Football magazine. "When non-football problems are solved you also have order on the pitch. I think that we have made huge progress under Hiddink."

No4: Atmosphere
"Hiddink is a wise coach," Russia captain Sergei Semak said. "He knows when he needs to be serious and when to make a joke." Proof of this was during UEFA EURO 2008™ at their Rottach-Egern training camp. The pressure was on, but Hiddink amused his players by eschewing the team bus and travelling by bicycle, even in the pouring rain. One day the bus tried to overtake the cycling Dutchman, and Hiddink's response to the driver's beep was a certain hand gesture. "That made us laugh," Semak said.

No5: Physical conditioning
The players do not just enjoy the atmosphere of the national team but also working with the top-class staff assembled by Hiddink. In the run-up to the EURO finals rehabilitation coach Arno Philips and physical trainer Raymond Verheyen spent time with the squad, Roman Pavlyuchenko for one losing 4kg. Russia's energetic extra-time quarter-final demolition of the previously unstoppable Netherlands was an indication of its effect. "One very good coach outplayed eleven talented Dutchmen," Andrei Arshavin told uefa.com. "Under Hiddink we are playing totally different football."

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