Berezutskiy twins aim for glory
Famous footballing brothers are not as rare as you might
think. Take the Neville brothers: Gary was at the UEFA Champions
League final with Manchester United on Wednesday evening, while
brother Phil is already enjoying the summer break after helping
Everton to fifth in the Premier League last term.
Elsewhere, Swiss duo Philipp and David Degen, and Hamit and Halil Altintop of Turkey, will be going for points and goals at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland next month.
However, another pair of twins is set to stand out from the crowd at this summer's continental showdown - and not just because they stand at 1.90 and 1.89 metres tall. Russia stars Vasili and Aleksei Berezutskiy appear together for both club and country, as they have played for Russian Cup holders CSKA Moscow since 2002.
Interviewed exclusively by FIFA.com, the towering defenders spoke of the benefits of having a twin, the opportunities it offers for pranks, their national team coach Guus Hiddink and Russia's prospects at EURO 2008.
FIFA.com: Aleksei, you've been plagued by injury for some months, most recently a nagging groin problem. Are you concerned you might miss out on EURO 2008?
Aleksei Berezutskiy: Yes, that's right, I haven't played for more than a month with a groin injury. If I'd opted for a second operation, the EURO would have been a problem. But I'm regaining my form and I feel better with every passing day.
People say that one twin feels any pain suffered by the other. Vasili, should Guus Hiddink be worrying about you too?
No, I don't think he has any reason to worry. I'm sure Aleksei will recover completely and that he'll be fit. In any case, I've already had surgery on my groin twice, so my brother has some catching up to do (laughs).
For a while now, you've played together at CSKA and for Russia. How does each of you feel at spending so long in each other's company?
Aleksei: We were born together, so it's not a problem for me (laughs).
Vasili: It's a real help having your brother by your side, both on and off the field. I only see positives.
Aleksei, you captained Russia in a friendly against Romania. That must have been very special for you.
I'm basically thrilled so much faith was placed in me, but I think it was more of an experiment. I'm always ready to help the team, whether or not I'm captain.
Twins are notorious for playing practical jokes on teachers, parents, team-mates and coaches. Tell us your best prank.
Vasili: Once, when we were entering a European country, we swapped passports before the frontier control - but we had no problems getting in (laughs).
Aleksei: Well, it's hard to fool anyone in the national team nowadays, because they've got to know us so well. But back in our schooldays, we frequently pulled a fast one on our teachers. We sat together at one desk, so we usually divided the homework between us. If the maths teacher asked us a question, whichever of us had done the maths homework stood up to answer. And in the next lesson, it would be the other one's turn in geography (laughs).
Like you, most of your team-mates play in the Russian domestic league, where you'll be halfway through the season when the EURO begins. Is that an advantage?
Aleksei: Yes, it could prove a minor advantage, because the tournament comes after very demanding seasons in most European leagues. But all the players are professionals, and every player basically tries to be on peak form in time for the EURO. And if you look at the record books, this fact has never really helped Russian teams at major tournaments.
Vasili, let's talk specifically about EURO 2008. On the road to Austria and Switzerland, you qualified at England's expense. Was your 2-1 victory over England the cornerstone of your qualifying success?
No, I don't think so. Every point we collected was equal in value. But to be frank with you, I've all but forgotten our results in qualifying.
Aleksei, you face Greece, Sweden and Spain in Group D, a tough-looking pool. How would you rate your opponents?
They're well-organised teams with strong squads. It wouldn't be fair on the others if I was to single out one particular country. Let's leave it at this: all three of the teams we have to play are very strong.
Vasili, Russia were eliminated at the group stage at EURO 2004 and failed to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™. What are your goals for EURO 2008?
We have totally ambitious goals. If you don't approach every game intending to win it, you shouldn't be on the field in the first place.
How much influence has national coach Guus Hiddink had in your recent success?
Vasili: Ask any of our players, and you'll get the same answer: Hiddink's contribution to our success is incalculable.
Who do you regard as favourites for the EURO 2008 title?
Vasili: Every team has the same chance at the start of the tournament.
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