Wednesday, June 18, 2008

UEFA Euro 2008: Day 12 Recap

Russia 2, Sweden 0
Spain 2, Greece 1

Yesterday I mentioned that the inclusion of Andrei Arshavin on Russia's roster was a gamble that could payoff against Sweden. The payoff proved to be a trip to the quarterfinals as Arshavin was the central figure in Russia's 2-0 win. Roman Pavlyuchenko opened the scoring in the 24th minute and Arshavin added the second five minutes after the break as Russia advanced past the group stages in a major tournament for the first time in the post-Soviet era.

Full credit goes to Russia coach Guus Hiddink, who adds another historic win to his resume. Qualifying for the tournament was accomplishment enough for Russia, but the man who took South Korea to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup and got Australia past the group stages four years later deserves mention among the all-time greats. Hiddink will be the center of attention in the quarterfinals, as the Dutchman will face his native Holland, a squad he led to a fourth place finish at the 1998 World Cup.

In the other game Greece made history at the Euros again, but this time for the wrong reasons. The Greeks went from first to worst, losing to Spain 2-1 to finish as the only team without a point at Euro 2008. The Greeks took the lead just before halftime, their first goal of the tournament, but couldn't hold it against a Spanish side that made ten changes to their starting line-up.

So it's off to the quarters for Russia and Spain. Russia will face Holland Saturday in Basel, while Italy and Spain meet Sunday in Vienna.

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