Coach Guus Hiddink is optimistic Russia will make it to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ despite play-off rivals Slovenia grabbing an away goal in Saturday's first leg in Moscow.
Ahead of Wednesday's second leg in Maribor Hiddink said there was no cause for panic. "Of course, I was disappointed with the result," the Dutchman said. "We were leading 2-0 and had plenty of chances to increase our advantage.
"But I thing there's no need to go from one extreme to another. We did not lose the first match we won it! And there's no room for panic. I know that a very tough battle is waiting for us in Slovenia but we gave another proof that we can upset any opposing team regardless of how many goals they allowed in their qualifying group or how dangerous in general they are."
I know that a very tough battle is waiting for us in Slovenia but we gave another proof that we can upset any opposing team,
Russia's press praised the country's national squad for their 2-1 first leg win but stressed that such a slim advantage ahead of the return leg match leaves open the fear of missing next year's finals. "Diniyar, we need the third!" claimed the front page of the country's oldest sports daily, Soviet Sport, referring to Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's double on Saturday. "It was not enough!" voiced the front page of a daily tabloid Tvoi Den.
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev said he was upset with the outcome of the match in Moscow but nevertheless believed Russia could clinch a positive result in Slovenia. "It was a good match, which we were keeping under control almost up to the end," he said.
"But in the last minutes we lost concentration allowing Slovenia to reduce the arrears. And we have nobody to blame for it except ourselves. In the match at Maribor we will need to keep ourselves concentrated throughout the match. This will be the key to success."
In Wednesday's match Russia should field a full-strength line-up with only minor possible changes. "I was not planning any serious changes as none of our players were injured on Saturday," Hiddink told the press. "We are going to Slovenia in a brave mood."