Russia are seeded first in Group B but coach Guus Hiddink will be taking nothing for granted against rivals such as Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland who caught the eye in recent campaigns.
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Russia coach Guus Hiddink is wary of the challenge Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland will pose after being drawn together with those teams, FYR Macedonia, Andorra and Armenia in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group B. Hiddink points to the "major progress" both countries have made, while Slovakia's Vladimír Weiss – who led his side to this summer's FIFA World Cup – hopes to use the experience gained from that campaign to mount another successful challenge.
Guus Hiddink, Russia coach
We were in pot 1 so we're supposed to be favourites, but look at what the Republic [of Ireland] did in qualifying for the World Cup. Slovakia also put in a very good performance. So, OK, we're favourites but it's not always easy. I'm satisfied with the draw. We have a good group and it will be a competitive battle. Of course, we have no other goal than to finish first. I hope we'll succeed, although we have to take into account the major progress Ireland and Slovakia have made in recent years. My eyes aren't closed to the fact we recently failed to qualify for the World Cup, which means we can't say we are automatic favourites to win this group.
Vladimír Weiss, Slovakia coach
We are in a similar situation to where we were before the World Cup qualifying campaign. One group of people say it's a tough draw, the other group say it's easy. We have some experience, and we know we will have to pick up good results against the stronger teams. At the same time, we will have to be successful against the less-fancied sides too.
Giovanni Trapattoni, Republic of Ireland manager
Before the games none are easy or difficult. All the groups are evenly balanced. Two teams are hard on paper – Russia and Slovakia – but we have shown in the past that we can play against any team, such as Italy or France. Ireland have shown that we can play against all the famous names. We can play with the same mentality and same belief [as in the World Cup qualifiers]. That is important. It is important that we play like we did in those last few games.
Mirsad Jonuz, FYR Macedonia coach
We are satisfied with the draw. We know all the other sides – we have played against them in various qualification campaigns – and I think we have a real chance to take second spot. We can approach these games as equals; it is a real chance for this generation. If we play as we have done these last six months, we could be in the running for second.
Vardan Minasyan, Armenia coach
I don't think we have a simple group. Slovakia have qualified for the World Cup while Russia and Ireland both reached the play-offs. We have difficult opponents and don't forget FYR Macedonia either – they could be tough. However, we will try to put in a decent performance and finish as high as possible. The Armenia team is going through a change of generation, and games against Russia, Ireland and Slovakia will give our young team decent experience.
Koldo Álvarez, Andorra coach
We knew it was going to be a very tough draw and that's how it turned out. Russia are a great side whom we know from UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying. Slovakia are going through a good moment, playing at a high level. The Republic of Ireland play with an intensity and speed that doesn't sit well with our style of play. Macedonia and Armenia are also superior to us but we won't give up against anyone. When it was least expected, we managed to beat Macedonia a few years back.