Saturday thriller: Holland vs Russia
If the Russians play like they did on Wednesday and the Dutch can replicate their form from the opening games then it could be a classic encounter. By Andy Clark
So the Dutch will face Russia in Saturday’s European Championship quarter final in Basel. And after the highly polished Russian victory over Sweden - a 2-0 which could have been four or five - it’s clear this will be no easy task. Added spice is the fact that the Russian coach is a Dutchman, tactical genius Guus Hiddink.
(Photo above right: Superstar Andrei Arshavin after scoring Russia's second goal against Sweden)
Hiddink has the Midas Touch when it comes to international management – he is idolised to this day in South Korea for getting the national team to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2002 and he did the same with the Dutch national team in 1998.
Hiddink even managed to get Australia to the second round of the World Cup in 2006 – this was the country’s first appearance in the tournament in 32 years.
And anyone who saw the Russians play against Sweden knows Hiddink is on top form – the team was lighting-fast on the break and created chance after chance against the Swedes who are renowned as being tough defensive opponents.
When Hiddink took on the job of national coach in Russia two years ago he said one of his main challenges was to break the attitude of defeatism. Qualification for Euro 2008, at the expense of England, meant that was already achieved. If things carry on this way he’ll be faced with his team having a superiority complex.
And that the Russians will be such strong opponents for the Netherlands on Saturday is also in part down to another Dutch coach, Dick Advocaat.
Advocaat is currently boss of Zenit St.-Petersburg, and he just led them to victory in the UEFA cup.
Many of the star players of the national team are from the successful Zenit side which also plays and attractive high-paced passing game.
Dick Advocaat was the Dutch national coach for the World Cup in 2006 and he was much maligned when the team went out in the second round after a bad-tempered clash with Portugal.
His victory in the UEFA Cup with Zenit was seen a personal victory and proof that despite the criticism at home he is still a top-level coach.
Adviocaat may find it difficult to know who to cheer for on Saturday as the two other Dutch coaches, Marco van Basten and Guus Hiddink, fight it out.
If the Russians play like they did on Wednesday and the Dutch can replicate their form from the opening games then it could be a classic encounter.
19 June 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands]