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Russia's Andrei Arshavin has said the success of the national
Russia's Andrei Arshavin has said the success of the national side will boost interest in the country's league and attract investment, as well as bring more youngsters into the game.

Russian soccer has enjoyed a recent run of success, with Zenit St. Petersburg's UEFA Cup victory in May followed up by the national side making the last four at Euro 2008. As a result, a number of European countries have bought rights to Russian Premier League games, and the country's soccer is enjoying its highest profile for years.

"If the national team is successful, interest in soccer in the country will grow," Arshavin told the Russian sports paper Sport-Express. "We are kind of advertising billboards for the whole of Russian soccer."

"When we go out on the field, of course we are not thinking about this, but we basically understand that investment, a desire to get children involved in the game, and interest in the sport in society as a whole depend on how we perform," he told the paper.

The Russian Premier League is now at number six in the UEFA rankings, behind England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Accordingly, the 2009/10 European season will see Russia with three clubs in the prestigious Champions League for the first time.

Arshavin, who has been linked with a move to English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur or Turkish club Fenerbahce when the winter transfer window opens, also said he believed the national side had "strengthened, and grown to respect itself."

"The main lesson from this year is that we have realized that we can take on any team," he added.

The fortunes of the Russian national side were transformed in the summer of 2006 when the experienced Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, took over the team. Russia had been in the doldrums for many years, and interest in the national side was low. Hiddink has been credited with inspiring the team to believe in their abilities, creating an attacking-minded young side in the process.

Russia are currently battling for a place at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. On Saturday, despite outplaying their hosts for much of the second-half, they lost 2-1 to Germany in Dortmund. Wednesday evening however saw the side defeat Finland 3-0 in Moscow to move into second place in the Group 4 qualifying group.

The group winners earn an automatic place at the finals, while the best eight second-placed teams will play off against each other for the remaining four spots.

"I'd like to believe that we can battle for first place," said Arshavin, "and not for second with Finland and Wales."

The qualifying campaign takes a break for the winter, with Russia's next Group 4 match at home to Azerbaijan in March.


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