Having "proved to the whole world how well Russia can play football", midfielder Igor Bezdenezhnykh says "everything is possible for this ambitious team."
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Igor Bezdenezhnykh seized his opportunity in Russia's qualification for the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship with a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw with Germany.
Bezdenezhnykh had only appeared in 24 minutes of Russia's first two matches in Greece, but his big moment came on Monday. Chosen by coach Dmitri Khomukha to take the place of the suspended Dzhamaldin Khodzhaniyazov, he left his coach with a major selection headache for the semi-final with an inspired performance.
"I feel very happy today and am full of positive emotions," the midfielder told UEFA.com. "The coach has trusted me by giving me a place in the team and I proved that I deserved it."
It was the No17's shot which was deflected into his own goal by Thilo Kehrer to bring his team level before his composed finish from just outside the penalty area gave Russia the lead just on the stroke of half-time.
Russia were pegged back again to 2-2, but that was nevertheless enough for a place in the semi-finals as group winners. "It's unbelievable," Bezdenezhnykh said. "We've proved to the whole world how well Russia can play football and that we are good enough to go through to the semi-final. It's absolutely fantastic."
Unlike most of his team-mates, Bezdenezhnykh cannot draw on the experience of winning the European U17 Championship in Slovakia two years ago, but he is now part of the squad looking to emulate that achievement and carry their progress forward at the next age level.
"We have a bright future and we have proven we can hold our own against top teams," Bezdenezhnykh added. "Russia were considered as outsiders for the group, but we proved that we were good enough and deserved this."
Next up are Greece, who may be considered outsiders in Larissa on Thursday. The hosts stand between Russia and a first U19 final appearance, although a partisan home crowd can be expected to urge on Greece as they seek to go one better than 2007 and 2012, when they finished as runners-up.
"We have an ambitious team and we're going to try to get to the final now," Bezdenezhnykh added. "We know Greece and respect them. They're going to be good opponents and will certainly have the fans behind them, so it's going to be a difficult game. But everything's possible."