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Roman Pavlyuchenko revealed that some harsh words were spoken by Guus Hiddink before the win against Greece which brought Russia's Group D campaign to life.
Call to arms
The striker, named Carlsberg Man of the Match after the 1-0 victory in Salzburg, added that the coach's bad-cop routine was just what the squad needed. "Guus gave us a serious talking-to," said the FC Spartak Moskva player. "Everyone understood that if we drew or lost, it was pretty much game over for us. For a match like that, all the boys understood that a victory was the only thing that would do."
Saturday's success, which followed a 4-1 opening defeat by Spain, also provided the perfect response to the critics back home. "After Spain, the team were unfairly hung out to dry by the media and the pundits – it was very unpleasant to listen to all those negatives. But we wanted to prove that we have character, that we have a team and that we can play football," Pavlyuchenko said.
Repent at leisure
If Hiddink had helped to turn the air blue, his lone forward might, on another day, have been left red-faced after squandering three inviting chances at the Stadion Salzburg Wals-Siezenheim. However, fortified by his Man of the Match award and a restorative victory, the 26-year-old was happy to explain himself: "What stopped me scoring? I wanted to do things too quickly when I had those opportunities. That haste probably cost me a goal. The pitch was perfect, the ball was right, but I was in too much of a hurry."
So the only finger-pointing at Pavlyuchenko was when assistant coach Igor Korneev, and then Hiddink, were calling to him to keep Russia's first line of defence as high as the Greece central defenders. The side's solitary frontrunner said: "They didn't want me to let their back line push up as far as our midfield." Hiddink's attacking options should be reinforced by skipper Andrei Arshavin's return from a two-game suspension for the Group D decider against Sweden on Wednesday. "His presence will definitely lift the team – he is a quality player. It is hard to say what changes the coach will make though," said Pavlyuchenko, who was the team's goalscorer against Spain.
One thing he had no doubt about was the size of the task facing Russia at Innsbruck's Stadion Tivoli Neu. "Sweden are a tough and disciplined team so it won't be easy," he said. "To beat them we will have to play as a team ourselves. If we can do that, we will win. We were united against Greece and that's why we got the result. Let's see what happens."
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