Salzburg, June 14:

Russia beat Greece to send the defending champions crashing out of Euro 2008 and set up a deciding final game against Sweden for a place in the last eight.

Konstatin Zyryanov scored the winner from close range in the 34th minute after Sergei Semak cashed in on Greek keeper Antonis Nikopolidis’s mistake. Angelos Charisteas wasted Greece’s best chances either side of the interval. Roman Pavlyuchenko could have added to Russia’s tally, but their win sent Spain into the last eight.

Konstantin Zyrianov’s first-half strike from close range proved decisive, although both sides missed numerous opportunities in an unexpectedly captivating encounter. It was billed as a match between the two worst teams at Euro 2008, and a criminally dull way to spend two hours of Saturday night.

Instead, Greece and Russia put on one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament so far, particularly in a frantic second half in which both sides created — and spurned — a host of chances.

The holders finally came out of their ultra-defensive shell as Otto Rehhagel switched to an adventurous 3-4-3 formation — although too late to stay in the competition. Russia played technically-excellent football, driven on by their wonderful left wing-back Yuri Zhirkov — constantly leaving gaps at the back on which their opponents could not capitalise.