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With both confidence and expectations high after their unexpected success
With both confidence and expectations high after their unexpected success at Euro 2008, Russia kick off their World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign with a match against Wales in Moscow on Wednesday evening.

Russia, managed by Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, made the semi finals of Euro 2008, shaking off the disappointment of an opening 4-1 defeat to Spain to record consecutive victories over Greece, Sweden, and Holland,. Although they then lost again to Spain, the eventual winners of the tournament, in the last four, the defeat did not stop the side being greeted as heroes upon their return to Russia.

"I hope we start this qualifying campaign better than we did the last one," Guus Hiddink told a press conference on Tuesday, adding however that his young side had grown since the two home draws against Croatia and Israel that saw the team take just two points from a possible six in their Euro 2008 qualifying group.

Russia and Wales last met in the winter of 2003, in a play-off for Euro 2004. Following a tense 0-0 draw in Moscow, defender Vadim Yevseyev scored the only goal of the match in Cardiff to send Russia through to the finals in Portugal.

However, Yevseyev , who has not played for the national team since Hiddink took over, did not consider giving the team any advice for Wednesday's Wales match, telling sports.ru that, "Wales have a different side now, and we have almost a completely new team."

Wales, who began their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 home victory against Azerbaijan on Saturday, have lost a number of key players through injury.

"It will be the Russians' first game in this group and we know how good they are," Welsh manager John Toshack told the BBC.

"We saw their strengths in the European Championships but we go into the game in a good frame of mind," he said.

Apart from Wales and Azerbaijan, Russia face Germany, Finland, and Lichtenstein in their Group Four qualifying group. The side's next match is at home against Finland on October 11. They then follow this with a home game against Finland on October 15.

There are nine groups in total in the European zone. The first placed team in each group earns an automatic place at the 2010 World Cup, while the best eight second-placed teams will play off against each other. The 2010 World Cup is to take place in South Africa, the first time the competition has been awarded to an African country.

"We have to beat Wales and the Finns and try to take points off Germany," said Dinar Bilyaletdinov, the Russian midfielder whose surname caused commentators untold trouble at Euro 2008.

The match, which is a sell out, kicks off at 7:00 p.m. local time (15:00 GMT) at the Cherkizovo stadium in northeast Moscow. The game will be shown live in Russia on the Rossiya channel.


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