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Set-piece planning pays off for Russia's Chernov

Two-goal Nikita Chernov said Russia had worked hard on the routines that broke Greece's resolve while Ramil Sheydaev played down his record-breaking strike.

Russia's Nikita Chernov celebrates scoring the first goal against Greece
Russia's Nikita Chernov celebrates scoring the first goal against Greece ©AFP

It was a busy evening at both ends of the pitch for defender Nikita Chernov as Russia reached a first UEFA European Under-19 Championship final with a clinical second-half display against Greece. Under pressure before half-time, Russia struck four unanswered goals in the second 45 minutes, Chernov getting two of them.

The CSKA Moskva centre-back scored once in qualifying too, but when did he last find the net twice in one game? "I don't remember exactly; six or seven years ago?" he told UEFA.com. "I'm very glad to have done it again and in such an important match."

Standing 1.88m tall, Chernov is a key part of Russia's attacking arsenal from set plays. "We practised several set-piece moves in our training sessions," he explained. "We knew Greece are very good defensively, that they play a tight game and it was imperative to take advantage of dead-ball situations. That was the key to unlocking a match that evaded us for 45 minutes. Everything went as planned in the end."

Highlights: Russia 4-0 Greece

In the opening period, however, Greece looked the more likely scorers and had the better chances, so what changed? "Our coach's half-time team talk," Chernov said. "He asked us to up our game, keep our lines close and compact, be quicker to and with the ball and not give Greece space to attack. His instructions worked and we won comfortably."

Russia face Spain in Sunday's final, their first at U19 level but another opportunity for this generation to prove they are special, two years after their European U17 Championship triumph. "I wasn't part of the squad that won the U17 title in Slovakia," said Chernov. "Should we win on Sunday, this will be my first European medal and it's very important for me. I'm thrilled at the prospect. We are all delighted to be in the final; now we want to win this cup."

One Russian player who was in Slovakia in 2013 was Ramil Sheydaev, who contributed the third goal from the penalty spot – setting a U19 record in the process with his 12th goal in the competition this season.

Ramil Sheydaev's record-breaking penalty
Ramil Sheydaev's record-breaking penalty©Sportsfile

"I don't think about records; to be honest, I didn't even know this was a record," said the Zenit forward, the top marksman in qualifying with ten goals. "The first thing on my mind is Russia winning. Records and personal statistics are not important."

That said, another strike against Spain – to add to the one Sheydaev scored in Russia's 3-1 group stage success – would be most welcome. "Of course I want to score in the final, but what's most important is the team's victory. But if Russia win and I score, it will be the best feeling ever."