Russia coach Guus Hiddink wants his team to be at their best against Azerbaijan despite there being little to play for in tomorrow's final FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in Baku.
The Russians' 1-0 defeat at home to Germany on Saturday ensured Joachim Low's team would be on the plane to South Africa next summer and meant Hiddink's troops would have to settle for second spot in Group 4 and a play-off berth. However, Hiddink does not want his team to end the campaign on a poor note.
"We do not need any more points for qualification but we have to play at our top for the pride of the country," said the Dutchman. "And we will definitely show the best we can in Wednesday's match."
Hiddink is without defender Vasili Berezutsky, while strike duo Roman Pavlyuchenko and Pavel Pogrebnyak are also doubtful. Lokomotiv Moscow full-back Oleg Kuzmin and FC Moscow midfielder Dmitri Tarasov have been called up as cover.
We do not need any more points for qualification but we have to play at our top for the pride of the country.
"I have trained with my team today," an excited Tarasov, 22, told Sport Express. "Then (assistant coach) Alexandr Borodyuk phoned me and (said I was) called up. I was very surprised and never expected it. I would like to appear on the field very much. I understand that it is rather difficult to show something extraordinary at the training sessions but I will try."
Germany and Russia have dominated the pool, leaving Finland and Wales in their wake. Bottom two Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein have managed only six points between them during the qualifying campaign, with the only win for either being the victory for Berti Vogts'Azerbaijan when the pair went head to head in Vaduz on Saturday.
Germany wrap up their campaign with a home match against Finland in Hamburg, while third-placed Wales visit Liechtenstein. The Germans received a further boost yesterday when it was confirmed captain Michael Ballack's ankle injury is not as bad as initially feared.
The 33-year-old Chelsea midfielder could even be back in time for the midweek encounter. After a week of injury and withdrawal turmoil, Wales arrived in Vaduz l last night with a full 18-man squad.
Uncapped Walsall winger Mark Bradley met up with the squad yesterday while on Sunday, MK Dons striker Jermaine Easter, U-21 skipper Shaun MacDonald and Leicester's Andy King arrived to bolster a squad that had lost Wayne Hennessey and Craig Bellamy to suspension. Manager Toshack said: "I'm just relieved to have a full squad, and that nobody picked up any injuries in training.''
Liechtenstein coach Bidu Zaugg will be without Franz Burgmeier and Thomas Beck after the duo picked up yellow cards at the weekend.