Arshavin sparks red-hot Russia
Guus Hiddink's Russia finally found their form on Wednesday,
beating Sweden 2-0 in Innsbruck to set up a last-eight date with
the rampaging Dutch. On the other side of Group D, a new-look Spain
beat the already-eliminated Greeks 2-1 as
La Furia Roja top the section with a perfect three wins
from three games and move on to meet Italy in the quarter-finals.
A virtual Spanish reserve squad lined up against Greece already
assured of a quarter-final place as winners of Group D. Angelos
Charisteas - hero of Greece's unlikely UEFA EURO 2004 title run
- struck with his head in the 42nd minute, celebrating the goal
with aging keeper Antonis Nikopolidis who was playing in his last
international. Spain were in no mood for generous romanticism,
though, and Ruben de la Red spoiled the Greek party with a stunning
first-ever international goal on the hour mark. He linked up well
with Mallorca's Daniel Guiza, who then went on to seal the win
with a header in the dying seconds.
Russia 2-0 Sweden
Goals: Roman Pavlyuchenko 24, Andrei Arshavin 50 (Russia)
Bolstered by the return of Zenit St. Petersburg's
outstanding Andrei Arshavin from a two-game suspension, the
Russians were in superb form for the first time at these finals. A
brilliant bit of interplay and one-touch passing brought the opener
in the 24th minute when Roman Pavlyuchenko poked home from close
range for his second goal of the finals. Arshavin did the honours
to kill off the match early in the second half, when he finished
off a classic counter-attack to spark wild celebrations in the
Pick of the day
Russia-Sweden: There have been a number of lightning-quick counter-attack goals scored in the tournament so far. Arshavin's strike in the 60th minute against the Swedes ranks right up there with the best of them. Collecting the ball deep in his own area from a wayward Swedish free kick, Yuri Zhirkov played a give-and-go and continued a foraging run forward. Reclaiming the ball again in the penalty area, Zhirkov expertly squared it for Arshavin, who made no mistake with his first goal in his first game of EURO 2008.
Quote of the day
"I must congratulate the Russians. They played some joyful football today and it was something to behold. They saw where our weaknesses were early on and wasted no time exploiting them." Sweden coach Lars Lagerback
The numbers game
10 - The number of changes made by Luis Aragones to Spain's line-up before the final Group D contest against Greece. Already assured of first place in the section, only Andres Iniesta remained from the team that started against Sweden. In keeping with the numerical theme, the return of Russia's Arshavin - who wears No 10 and played in all 12 of Russia's qualifiers - made all the difference for Hiddink's charges as they strolled past Sweden and into a first major international knockout round since the fall of the Soviet Union.
1. Spain: 9 points, +5, Qualified
2. Russia: 6 pts, 0, Qualified
3. Sweden: 3 pts, -1
4. Greece: 0 pt, -4
Group A winners Portugal will take on Germany, who managed to sneak into the last eight after finishing second behind Croatia in Group B, in EURO 2008's first quarter-final.
The Germans have failed to click at the finals and will need to navigate a tricky Portuguese challenge in Basel without suspended coach Joachim Low on the bench and midfield demolition man Torsten Frings, out with a fractured rib. In-form striker Lukas Podolski is also an injury doubt.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, whose Portugal side should be well rested and raring to go, will be counting on the guile and power of Cristiano Ronaldo to push them through to the semi-finals. "He (Ronaldo) has a strong will to win that I've not seen in anyone else and the others soak that in. Then obviously there is a lot of technical quality there too."
Have your say
Can Germany, the ultimate tournament specialists, overcome their indifferent form and get past the elegant and confident Portuguese?