Hiddink preferred facing Italy than Spain

Basel, June 24:

Russia coach Guus Hiddink would have preferred his young, attacking team be playing world champion Italy in the European Championship semi-finals instead of Spain.

“I watched (the Spain-Italy quarter-final) and you think, I’d really like the Italians because tactically you can work against them. It is a team where lots of people stay in one place behind the ball, but that leaves space elsewhere where you can play,” he said.

“It didn’t happen, that’s a shame. Spain is a similar team to Russia — they want to play football. But if they go 1-0 up, they drop back and play on the counterattack.” Russia got a good look at how well Spain can play on the counterattack in their first Euro 2008 match, when David Villa scored a hat trick as Spain cruised to a 4-1 victory.

Since the thrashing in Innsbruck, Russia,however, have conceded only one goal in three matches — and that was to the Netherlands who scored nine times in their first three games.

Hiddink has slight injury worries, with midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, forward Ivan Sayenko and Alexander Anyukov all carrying minor injuries from the quarter-finals. Hiddink did not elaborate on their conditions. Bilyaletdinov and Anyukov did some light running at training, while Sayenko trained but finished earlier than the rest of the squad.

While they may be fit for Thursday’s semi-final match in Vienna, Hiddink will have to pick a team without central defender Denis Kolodin and attacking midfielder Dmitry Torbinski, who are both suspended after picking up their second yellow cards of the tournament against the Netherlands.

Torbinski stood out by scoring a goal in extra time after a floating cross from Andrei Arshavin against the Netherlands to give Russia a lead they never relinquished. Kolodin had a torrid time against Fernando Torres and Villa in Russia’s first game against Spain. But since then he has returned to form and been a key defender for Russia in their last three matches.

As he gained in confidence against the Dutch, Kolodin also pushed forward and unleashed a series of powerful long-range shots on Edwin van der Sar’s goal. One possible replacement for Kolodin would be Roman Shirokov. However, he played so badly in the first game against Spain that Hiddink dropped him and he has not played since. That leaves Vasily Berezutsky as favourite to start in central defense alongside CSKA Moscow teammate Sergei Ignashevich.

Hiddink said his team would put in a very different performance in the semi-finals than in their first match. That is in no small part thanks to attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin, who was serving a suspension for the first two Euro 2008 matches but has returned with two goals and two man-of-the-match performances since returning.