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Article:Euro 2008 Match Report Holland 1 - 3 Russia (after extra-time)

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I really enjoyed this game, and Guus Hiddink continues to prove that he's pretty much the best, bravest manager in football.

The first half was edged by the Russians, who play a really nice fluid system around Pavlyuchenko, whose height and smooth athleticism make him a fine lone striker (although he does miss a lot of chances). I'm not completely sold on Ashavin as a world star yet, because he's lightweight and not Henry- or Messi- explosive, but in this game, against lazy, undisciplined Dutch defending he made chance after chance, especially late on. Semshov does a fine, disciplined, tough-minded job anchoring the midfield (he had one great twisty one-on-one tussle with Affelay in the 2nd half that he comprehensively won) and,as you'd expect from Hiddink, they're very willing to get men forward, so most of the time when a player was looking for a cross he had three options (and they were committed to it even into extra time, which is brave and impressive and good for football).

The best chance in the first half was a free header for Pavlyuchenko that he really ought to have scored, and the CB Kolodin has an aewsome shot that he showed from distance a few times. In the 56th minute they got their deserved opener, when the big striker clipped home a lovely whipped cross from Semak. The Dutch lacked energy, didn't press very well and didn't commiot to attacking much, so their best chances were free-kicks that kept flashing across the face of goal before going out for goal kicks. That Russia didn't do anything about this was amazing, because having then been on top for the whole match, and had further decent chances to kill the game, in the 86th minute Ruud V-N headed home from another one of those exact same free-kicks. Robben being unavailable was hugely significant, but the Dutch lacked energy and discipline as a group, and I'm not sure he could have helped with that. Sneijder impressed me with his work-rate and his willingness to shoot off either foot, and Van Der Vaart found one glorious chipped pass on the spin in the 2nd half, but they didn't really beat people or get crisp interplay going at any point. Van Persie was like his normally is, which is in and out and enigmatic and wasteful (genuinely I don't understand why people rate him so highly).

Extra-time was again dominated by the Russians, and again a Hiddink team was brave and attacking and willing to take a game on (like South Korea, like Australia, like his PSV...). And they made more chances, and missed more chances, until the substitute Torbinski chased hard to reach an Ashavin cross and put the Russians ahead again. Van Bronckhorst was amazingly lazy for the goal, because Torbinski was behind the Dutchman when the cross went in, and he didn't even really have to hold VB off to score. The Dutch really were very sloppy again in their defending - the midfield didn't slide across to help the full-backs out at all, and if Russia had wanted to they could have worked chances down the flanks all day. Then right at the death Arshavin got a deserved goal, and again it was sloppy Dutch defending, with a throw-in just chucked 25 yards straight to him inside the box and neither CB within 5 yards of him.

I'm glad the Russians won this - their open, brave play deserved it, and they have as good a chance of winning it as anyone, now (especially if tonight's game goes to extra-time). I would fancy them against the Germans in every part of the game bar those set-pieces, where the Germans could get a hatful

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