Dutchman Guus Hiddink is the head coach of Russian men's national soccer team (photos by ESPN)
Throughout history, Russia has shown a willingness to utilize non-Russian know-how for greater advancement. As a case in point, Peter the Great studied shipbuilding in Holland and England, to enhance Russia's maritime status. In 2006, Dutchman Guus Hiddink was hired to coach the Russian men's national soccer team.
Prior to Hiddink's hiring, Russia's soccer program was in disarray. The quality level of a soccer coach has been known to greatly influence the level of a given program. Money was shelled out to Hiddink with that in mind. Hiddink has a good track record for improving the stature of the national soccer teams he has coached.
After a sluggish start in their first game of the men's European 2008 soccer tournament (a 4-1 loss to Spain), the Russian team won its games against Greece and Sweden. Russia now faces the daunting task of playing the highly regarded Dutch team in a quarter-final match.
Soccer aficionado Andrew Young of Siberian Light offered these thoughts after Russia's last game against Sweden: Best performance I have seen from Russia in ages - incisive and relentless on offense. As of now, only Holland and Spain look better. It is a shame that Russia drew Holland in the quarter-finals. Russia has one of the few squads in Euro 2008, whose players almost exclusively play in their country's domestic league, rather than elsewhere. Guus Hiddink is a master at bringing the best out of a mediocre soccer nation, which Russia has been over the past two decades.
The upcoming Holland-Russia match will be televised throughout the U.S. on ABC this Saturday (tomorrow, June 21) at 2:45 PM (North American eastern time) or at 11:45 AM (North American western time). The pregame will begin 15 minutes earlier (2:30 PM EST, 11:30 AM PST).
The Russian team's top players are 26 year old Spartak Moscow striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and 27 year old Zenit St. Petersburg forward Andrei Arshavin.
The Russian national team at Euro 2008
Roman Pavlyuchenko, Russia's star player
ESPN reports: Sergei Semak's quick thinking wrongfoots Antonis Nikopolidis and gives Konstatin Zurianov the chance to score.