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Russia face their moment of truth

Russia forward Dmitri Sychev says his team face a "do-or-die match" against Greece, an opportunity for Guus Hiddink's men to save their UEFA EURO 2008™ dream.

Dmitri Sychev says Russia must learn the lessons of their defeat by Spain
Dmitri Sychev says Russia must learn the lessons of their defeat by Spain ©Getty Images

Russia forward Dmitri Sychev says his team face a "do-or-die match" against Greece – an opportunity for Guus Hiddink's side to save their UEFA EURO 2008™ campaign.

Win or bust
After a 4-1 defeat by Spain in their Group D opener, Russia have no option but to win in Salzburg on Saturday according to the FC Lokomotiv Moskva attacker. "Of course it was bad [against Spain] but we have no other choice than to defeat Greece. We are only thinking of this," said Sychev.

All or nothing
"The importance of this match cannot be underestimated," the 24-year-old continued. "For us, every game now is do or die. We are all grown-ups and we understand that everything hinges on this game. We don't need any additional motivation." If Hiddink's men did require extra incentive, they would only have to read or listen to the criticism from journalists and supporters which has followed the Spain game. "We have been called for everything," Sychev said. "I won't judge as it's up to the fans to decide, although I have my own opinion which I don't want to voice. But if the supporters say that game was played without determination, what can I do? We are being made scapegoats, but should we win this weekend, we will become heroes. It's hard to understand Russia sometimes."

Sychev, who has been used as a right-winger by Hiddink, is well-acquainted with the ups and downs of life with the Russian national team. As a veteran of UEFA EURO 2004™, he has faced both Greece and Spain before in the group stage of a finals. Four years ago, Russia gained the upper hand against Saturday's opponents, winning 2-1 in the third round of group matches. "At the time we could not imagine that they would go on to win the tournament," said the 42-cap striker who has 15 goals for his country. "We were relaxed as we were already eliminated and because there was no pressure, it was easy to play. We just went out and won. Now the Greece coach is the same and the style of play is the same. They play hard in defence, but I can only think about our team at the moment."

Moving on
Another similarity with 2004 is that Russia lost their opening game to Spain, by 1-0 rather than by 4-1. Despite the contrasting scorelines, he sees only improvement in the squad in the four years since the Portugal tournament. "This time we lost to ourselves," he stressed. "Our mistakes were obvious and we conceded all four goals through our own fault, but we played without fear from the start whereas four years ago we had no chance. We had no hope and we were at a different level then."