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Russia's Dutch trainer, Guus Hiddink, has not ruled out remaining
Russia's Dutch trainer, Guus Hiddink, has not ruled out remaining in charge of the national team after his contract expires in 2010.

Hiddink, who led Russia to the semifinals of Euro 2008 in the summer, is due to step down as national team coach after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

However, speaking to Sport-Express, the 61-year-old said he could not exclude the possibility that he may stay on. His decision, he told the paper, would depend on if he felt "needed."

"I want to help Russia with my knowledge and experience," he said, while admitting he was not "the world's youngest trainer."

He also spoke of his support for a possible Russian bid to host the 2018 World Cup, noting however that there were at present not enough top-class stadiums in the country.

"Russia's potential is enormous," he commented. "It just needs to be realized."

Hiddink took over the Russian national side in 2006. Despite some initial resistance to having a foreigner in charge of the team, the vast majority of the country has now been won over. Indeed, such was the affection felt for Hiddink that a number of babies were named in his honor after the side's 3-1 victory over Holland in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008.

Under Hiddink, Russia has risen up the FIFA rankings and impressed the world with frequent displays of attack-minded soccer. The beautiful game, so long a source of anguish and shame in modern Russia, is now alive and well in the world's largest country.

Russian players have spoken of their admiration for Hiddink, favorably comparing his relaxed manner to the "Iron Fist' style of previous national side trainers.

"Two days before the game with Holland, Hiddink gave the team a day off," Dynamo Moscow defender Denis Kolodin said. "No Russian trainer would ever have done that."

Hiddink's young side faces vital World Cup qualifiers against Germany in Dortmund on Saturday and Finland in Moscow four days later without several key players.

Striker Roman Pavlyuchenko is expected to be out for three weeks after limping off the pitch on Sunday with a partially torn knee ligament, and the side had already lost Kolodin and Spartak Moscow midfielder Dmitry Torbinskiy to injury. But Zenit striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who missed his club's 8-1 win over Luch Energiya at the weekend, is expected to be fit for the two games.

Russia began their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win at home to Wales on September 10. Finland and Germany played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in Helsinki the same evening. The other teams in the group are Azerbaijan and Lichtenstein.

There are nine groups in total in the European qualifying 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.

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