Guus Hiddink is adopting a positive approach as he prepares his Russia side for their do-or-die UEFA EURO 2008™ Group D assignment with Sweden in Innsbruck.
Article top media content
Guus Hiddink is adopting a positive approach as he prepares his Russia side for their do-or-die UEFA EURO 2008™ Group D game against Sweden in Innsbruck, iterating: "There's no other way to play than by trying to win from the first minute."
Three points required
The sides are level on three points in the section having each lost to Spain and defeated holders Greece although Sweden have a superior goal difference, meaning Hiddink's side will be eliminated if the game at the Stadion Tivoli Neu ends in anything but victory for them. With a quarter-final against his native Netherlands the reward, the coach is keen to accentuate the positives, saying: "We're happy to have the opportunity to play this decisive game, especially when you see that other teams have gone home already. I'd have preferred the option to go for a draw but it's OK."
Andrei Arshavin is available for the first time in these finals after serving a two-match ban yet there are no guarantees the FC Zenit St. Petersburg playmaker will start as Hiddink ponders possible changes to a team he believes did a "decent job" in defeating Greece 1-0 on Saturday. "There's a lack of rhythm to Arshavin's game because he hasn't played recently. He's not match-fit so I don't know if he'll start," said the coach. Yuri Zhirkov and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov are also likely to be available, despite bruised knees picked up against the deposed holders and Dmitri Torbinski is recovering from fatigue.
'Easy to read'
The 61-year-old Hiddink has never before encountered Swedish opposition in his long coaching career, though with Russia having failed to beat the Scandinavian side in five attempts as an independent nation, he is under no illusions as to the task ahead. "Despite a population of eight or nine million, Sweden always manage to be in the big tournaments. They're easy to read; they're very clear in the way they play and have always had good results playing like this. We like to play very attacking football when possible but the dirty work – the defensive work-rate – also needs to be done. [Sweden] aren't easily upset nor do they panic. It's a very controlled and concentrated squad."
Ibrahimović in doubt
Sweden have progressed to the knockout stage at their last three major tournaments, although coach Lars Lagerbäck found himself fielding more questions about the state of Zlatan Ibrahimović's knee – which forced his half-time substitution in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Spain – than on how his team would go about gaining the point they need to advance. "We're not sure about Ibrahimović. We have an individual training plan for him," said Lagerbäck, already without Christian Wilhelmsson due to a hamstring problem while Niclas Alexandersson is struggling with a calf strain.
"Russia have a strong team offensively and we have to be very focused on that," the Sweden coach added. "All their players are good; they're very strong on the left side in particular. We always prepare in a similar way. There's nothing dramatic, it's just about being ready for all the eventualities that may arise. What we need to improve on is keeping the ball in the final third. It's very difficult to say who are the favourites as it's such a decisive game. It starts at 50-50 I think."