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A member of the Soviet Union squad that won the 1990 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, Nikolai Pisarev is looking to repeat that success as coach of Russia.
The former FC Torpedo Moskva, FC Spartak Moskva and FC Dinamo Moskva striker was part of the group that beat Yugoslavia 7-3 on aggregate to take the title 23 years ago. "I remember that team," the 44-year-old told UEFA.com. "There were three or four players competing for every place. The competition was tough, but we won. All the players from that team later played for top clubs. Of course, victory in the European U21 Championship set them on their way."
Pisarev hopes a similar fate awaits his young Russia side, having watched his charges gel in winning qualifying Group 6 and then a play-off against the Czech Republic. "The main strength of the team in qualifying was the fact they became good friends – they actually were a team," he explained. "They strived for this team, they willingly came to the get-togethers and looked forward to the games. And most probably this atmosphere was what ensured our success."
Absent from the U21 final tournament since reaching the last eight in 1998, losing 1-0 to Spain, Russia must face the Spanish holders in Group B, along with Germany and the Netherlands. "We are playing against the last three champions in this age group," said Pisarev. "But for us as coaches, it is more interesting to play in a strong group. [At UEFA EURO 2012] everyone said 'great – what an easy group' when Russia were drawn against the Czech Republic, Poland, and Greece, but it didn't turn out so well. Hopefully, we will survive this group of death."
With senior coach Fabio Capello keeping a close eye on his work, promising to come to Israel for the finals, Pisarev would like his side's efforts to benefit the senior team – and the whole of Russian football. "Usually the U21 winners or finalists achieve success at senior level," he said. "That is why I would like to get this generation of really talented players through to the final, and to win. It is a goal which we'll set the players. I think they'll agree that we need to go for the victory."
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