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Semak sheds light on Russian recipe

Published: Saturday 21 June 2008, 14.08CET
Russia captain Sergei Semak hailed the impact of his team's strikers but warned that his defenders would have to be at their very best against the Netherlands.
by Pavel Gognidze
from Leogang
Semak sheds light on Russian recipe
Russia players celebrate after reaching their first quarter-final as an independent nation ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics


Goals scored10
Total attempts78
Attempts on target31
Attempts off target32
Attempts blocked0
Attempts against woodwork1
Yellow cards5
Red Cards0
Fouls committed75
Fouls suffered61

Media Services

Published: Saturday 21 June 2008, 14.08CET

Semak sheds light on Russian recipe

Russia captain Sergei Semak hailed the impact of his team's strikers but warned that his defenders would have to be at their very best against the Netherlands.

Delight at securing qualification for the last eight has gone and, for Russia captain Sergei Semak, the focus is entirely on Saturday's UEFA EURO 2008™ quarter-final against the Netherlands. Avoiding defensive mistakes will be crucial, he tells, although the first priority is to ensure a full recovery in the 72 hours between Wednesday's 2-0 defeat of Sweden and the St. Jakob-Park showdown.

Impressive recovery
"We deserved to get to the quarter-finals, but now more than ever we need to show decent football against very strong opponents," said the 32-year-old. "Our No1 task is to recover and prepare well, even though we have just two days." With wins against Greece and Sweden, Russia have bounced back from their opening loss to Spain and, citing the reasons for their success, Semak continued: "First of all it's our good physical condition. Second, we didn't give up the style we adopted for the Spain match. In that game, we were unlucky. We committed a lot of mistakes. But we continued playing this way which exploits our strongest points of pace and quick transition."

Semak has worn the captain's armband in Austria/Switzerland, a decision by coach Guus Hiddink that surprised him, given he only returned to the squad in May after an absence of almost two years. The FC Rubin Kazan player said: "The trust of the coach – calling me into the team for a tournament like the EURO – is very pleasing. Not every player gets a chance like this. Even more of a surprise is that I became captain straight away." However, he is happier praising the impact of others, notably the man who skippered the side before him – forward Andrei Arshavin, who shone on his comeback from suspension against the Swedes.

Pavlyuchenko praised
"This is a man who thinks outside the box, who can decide the outcome of a match on his own. I think there is no doubt he is a star of the Russia team. So is Yuri Zhirkov, whose displays here have been very impressive," Semak continued. There is also special mention for striker Roman Pavlyuchenko. "I think Roman is the biggest revelation so far. He has always played well in the Russian league and was top scorer for the last two seasons, but I think nobody expected him to play like he is at the [UEFA] European Championship. I never doubted Zhirkov's class, but Pavlyuchenko, it seems, has become one of the leaders of this side."

Crucial ingredient
For all Russia's attacking quality, Semak considers defensive solidity as the crucial ingredient for victory against the Netherlands. "We need to be very careful in defence. The Dutch front line is stronger than ever. I think Ruud van Nistelrooy, Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder are having the tournament of their lives. Our full-backs Zhirkov and [Aleksandr] Anyukov like going forward and do it very well, but they need to remember their defensive duties and not get carried away". That said, the No11 does not foresee a radical change in approach. "I don't think we will drop our usual style of play – we will be as active up front as ever. If we can avoid mistakes at the back, we have a chance. Of course Holland are a very good team and have earned praise from everyone but this is football. When we step out there, anything can happen. We will create as many problems as possible for the Dutch."

Last updated: 21/06/08 21.15CET