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  Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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The Russian national side face Spain in the semifinals
The Russian national side face Spain in the semifinals of Euro 2008 on Thursday, with the team looking to continue their fine run of form and progress to Sunday's final.

It was two weeks ago that the Spaniards outclassed Russia in their opening Group D match in Innsbruck, Austria. Since that humiliation, however, the Russians have been a side transformed, defeating Greece 1-0, Sweden 2-0, and the Netherlands 3-1.

Russia's Dutch trainer, Guus Hiddink, called his side's victory over his compatriots "almost a miracle," but the win was, in truth, a well-deserved one - the side's inspirational playmaker, Andrei Arshavin, giving a master class in attacking, positive soccer.

Indeed, Arshavin, suspended for the first two matches of Euro 2008, missed the first game against Spain, and Russia will be hoping that his return will see an entirely different performance by the national side.

Zenit St. Petersburg confirmed on Thursday that Barcelona had offered some $30 million for Arshavin. "We don't want to lose him," said Zenit official, Konstantin Sarsaniya. "We will discuss the offer with the player after Euro 2008."

Russia were guilty of a series of what Hiddink called "childish mistakes" in the defeat to Spain on June 12, and the side's defender Yury Zhirkov told journalists that, "We need to make sure we don't give the ball away stupidly - that was how Spain scored their first two goals against us in the first match."

Konstantin Zyrianov, the man who scored the only goal in Russia's victory over Greece, told Sovetski Sport that, "The Spanish are favorites - they all play in the top leagues. The only thing I can promise is that we will try not to repeat the mistakes of the past."

Russian fans will be hoping that their team can do more than that. After years of disappointment at international level since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the side's current success has come as more than a pleasant surprise to the country's long-suffering supporters. Some 700,000 people swarmed onto the streets of the Russian capital after victory against the Netherlands to celebrate not only the result, but also the sublime skills shown by the youngest team at Euro 2008.

"I don't know what will happen if they win the whole thing," Vladimir, a Moscow driver, said on the eve of the semifinal. "Those fans will tear the city apart!"

If Russia do make the final, they will face Germany, who beat Turkey 3-2 on Wednesday evening.


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