Russia returning to its rightful place, says Hiddink
Russia coach Guus Hiddink said Wednesday
that he believes his side's run to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 can provide the
necessary momentum for the country to become a footballing power for the
foreseeable future, dpa reported.
"Russia is coming alive," said Hiddink at a press conference in Vienna ahead of Thursday's match against Spain. "We saw it recently when Zenit St Petersburg won the UEFA Cup, beating very good German and Spanish teams on the way."
The Dutchman said he was "proud to represent the revival of Russian football" and was also proud at how his team have reacted since their opening 4-1 loss to Luis Aragones' side.
"That was the first step on a big tournament stage for many of the players but after this game these players made a lot of progress," said Hiddink.
Russia have been on fire since losing so heavily to Spain in their opening match, beating Greece, Sweden and a highly-rated Netherlands side on their run to the last four.
"I am proud of how we have performed in the recent games, not only of the results but also at how we have played," said Hiddink.
"We follow the concept of defending well but to try and recover possession as soon as possible and go into attack. That is what I think football is all about and is also what people want."
Hiddink said Russia's success in Austria and Switzerland was a glorious opportunity for the country, which as part of the Soviet Union won the inaugural European Championships in 1960, to regain its place at the top table of world football.
"The challenge here is for Russia to regain its position in international football. This is not just a challenge for me.
"It is important now the that the Russian football federation and everyone in charge of football use this momentum. This is the biggest challenge for Russian football."