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Revived Russia cause Aragonés concern

Published: Thursday 26 June 2008, 1.58CET
Spain's Luis Aragonés showed his respect for Russia's attacking potential by revealing his own strikers will have added responsibilities in Thursday's semi-final.
by Graham Hunter
from Ernst-Happel-Stadion
Revived Russia cause Aragonés concern
Spain coach Luis Aragonés takes training on Wednesday ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

RussiaSpain

Goals scored7
 
12
Total attempts87
 
117
Attempts on target32
 
51
Attempts off target44
 
47
Attempts blocked0
 
0
Attempts against woodwork4
 
3
Corners41
 
35
Offsides12
 
15
Yellow cards10
 
8
Red Cards0
 
0
Fouls committed94
 
114
Fouls suffered88
 
116

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Published: Thursday 26 June 2008, 1.58CET

Revived Russia cause Aragonés concern

Spain's Luis Aragonés showed his respect for Russia's attacking potential by revealing his own strikers will have added responsibilities in Thursday's semi-final.

David Villa and Fernando Torres may be the most dynamic front pairing at UEFA EURO 2008™, but Spain coach Luis Aragonés wants them to add another trick to their repertoire by defending from the front in Thursday's semi-final.

Specific task
Although the pre-match excitement has been about the attacking potential on show in this repeat of the Group D opener which produced five goals, Aragonés chose to underline three times what he requires from his strike partnership against Guus Hiddink's team. "I want to see them pressing the central defenders, not just shadowing them. I want proper, high-energy pressing and I want them to rob the ball from Russia's defenders as early as possible," said Aragonés, before adding: "I've rarely seen a team break from box to box as quickly and in as high numbers as Russia."

'Deeply proud'
Aragonés will hope the fact Russia central defender Denis Kolodin, along with midfielder Dmitri Torbinski, is suspended will unsettle a defence which has only conceded once in three victories since letting in four against Spain. It is a remarkable turnaround, one even Hiddink admits to being amazed by. "That 4-1 defeat was the first game in a big tournament for many of my players," he said. "I'm amazed how much progress we've made since. That day we fell into the big trap of giving gifts to our opponents, but after a couple of analytical sessions, then work in training, everything was fixed. I'm deeply proud of three things our progress should achieve: putting Russia back in its place within European football, showing the world modern football can be beautiful and taking this group of players on a long footballing journey from where they began."

Interesting record
Losing in international semi-finals is a thorn in Hiddink's side – his Netherlands and Korea Republic teams went down in the last four of the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finals respectively – although both Russia and Spain have powerful records at this stage. Since becoming an independent nation, this is Russia's best performance at a UEFA European Championship but as part of the Soviet Union they won four semi-finals in the competition, only falling to Italy in 1968 on the toss of a coin after a 0-0 draw. Spain have won their two challenges at this stage, en route to winning the tournament in 1964 and then again in 1984 on penalties against Denmark. "You can win, you can lose but if you promote the concept of defending well and attacking with conviction when you have the ball then this is how modern football must be played," Hiddink said.

Colour change
It is precisely that offensive style which Aragonés wants Spain to block and then profit from. "We need to nullify their virtues and then punish their weaknesses. We won't man-mark Andrei Arshavin, he's simply one of five top-class players Russia possess. We won't change our style." There will, however, be a change in the colour of Spain's shirts from their famous red to yellow. "I don't like this new colour, personally," said the superstitious 69-year-old. "But so long as I don't have to wear it, the players can. Anyway, it's not yellow, it's mustard." With that the Wise Man of Hortaleza left his audience chuckling and headed for his date with destiny.

Last updated: 26/06/08 22.36CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/news/newsid=726506.html#revived+russia+cause+aragones+concern

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