On the eve of Russia's Group A opener against the Czech Republic, Dick Advocaat has described his side as "a nice outsider", warning his rivals: "We have a very dangerous team."
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Russia will tackle the Czech Republic on the opening day of UEFA EURO 2012 tomorrow hoping they can at least emulate their impressive semi-final place four years ago. For coach Dick Advocaat the current crop are capable of beating anyone, and the Dutchman told UEFA.com that Russia – unbeaten in their last 14 games – should be considered a "nice outsider" for the European title.
UEFA.com: Russia were very impressive during qualifying. Except for a 20-minute spell in Dublin when the Republic of Ireland scored twice, you pretty much dominated every single minute you played.
Advocaat: Yes, that's the way we like to play. Then again, you'll always come up against opponents who want to change that, but hopefully we can play the way we like.
UEFA.com: How important was your 3-0 victory against Italy for morale?
Advocaat: Very important. We played against Uruguay and Italy and you could lose [to teams like that], but the way we played gives the players confidence.
UEFA.com: Your team had not played together for quite a long time when you drew 1-1 with Uruguay on 25 May, yet in the second half especially you really pushed a side ranked third in the world.
Advocaat: Yes, the good thing is that more or less 80% of the team always plays; we don't make a lot of changes.
UEFA.com: You conceded just four goals in ten qualifying games to end with the second best defensive record. Is that one of the team's major strengths?
Advocaat: We have a good defence, but it is more a team performance. Defending starts up front and everybody has to play a part in that.
UEFA.com: Tactically, we've seen a change in Russia since you've taken over: you look to control the game more, rather than being mainly a counterattacking side.
Advocaat: We started this when we arrived. Everybody was playing 4-4-2; we changed to 4-3-3. We always try to play out of a 'control' situation, and you can only control the game if you have the ball.
UEFA.com: How do you assess the challenge in Group A? You have said on many occasions that Poland are going to be your main challengers.
Advocaat: Not only Poland, [because of their] home advantage, but every game is important for us – and the other countries as well. We have the possibility to go through, but probably the other countries will say the same.
UEFA.com: Andrey Arshavin has said that he believes Russia can beat any team if they want to, and you have expressed a similar sentiment.
Advocaat: We have a good team, we have the quality, and it is very important that the players start believing in that. So, yes, if we have the form and everything is going the right way, we have a very dangerous team.
UEFA.com: Do the players still look up to Arshavin? Is he probably the most crucial player, a talisman?
Advocaat: Yes, but he still has to improve his game. He did not play [much] at Arsenal, so I was very happy he went back to Zenit and started getting his form back. Arshavin is a player of moments – he can score out of nothing, and you don't have too many of that kind of player in the world.
UEFA.com: Your decision to go with the older generation has been completely vindicated. Is that a decision you made when you took over?
Advocaat: No, it has nothing to do with the older generation; it's because they were better players. If we could find better players than them, I would make the changes. We watched four or five games every weekend but did not see better players than the ones we have now.
UEFA.com: You're going to have one of the oldest squads in the tournament, with eight players over 30. Is this the last chance for this generation to win the title?
Advocaat: Realistically, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany have the better sides and better individuals. But, again, in a tournament like this [anything] can happen, as Greece showed in 2004. So we are a nice outsider.