When Aleksandr Kerzhakov nudged home his first strike after 28 minutes, Hiddink let slip a grin, a clenched fist, but nothing more. It was the Dutchman who had decided to recall the Dinamo Moscow striker for the first time since Euro 2008, and whose gamble was instantly repaid with two fine goals that eclipsed even the efforts of his more feted team-mate, Arsenal's Andrei Arshavin. Suddenly Roman Abramovich's logic in not letting the manager leave his Russia post, despite the sensitive Chelsea connection, became clear: Hiddink has that rare gift of making the inspired look routine.
Related ArticlesPremier League transfersSetanta's £20m rescueBlatter defends Ronaldo dealGlazers dismiss 'paranoia'English clubs taxedFootball images of the year"He was, to be honest, not playing well," Hiddink said of his forward's exile. "But recently he has improved and so, automatically, he regains his position in the squad. I am happy in the change in his commitment and attitude." Firm, fair, unflustered; the same qualities that he exhibited at Stamford Bridge - for example, in retaining confidence in such tricky players as Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda - have been seamlessly reapplied to Russia's task of reaching South Africa next summer.
Hiddink has had just five days off in the last five months but could scarcely be more content. In his first comments to an English newspaper since leaving London one might expect a note of reflection, of ruefulness that a longer-term job share could not be engineered after his sustained success, but in his world there is no turning back. He bristles, too, at any suggestion that the demands imposed on him by Russia are any less than those he endured under Abramovich at Chelsea.
"Since I left Chelsea two Sundays ago I have been working on a day-to-day basis, so the rhythm is the same," he told Telegraph Sport. "I like very much a daily job, but also to work with a national team. It has not been that difficult, because we all knew in February where we would be on June 1. I have a full-hearted commitment to the Russian players, which I have started to renew. It was good to see each other again. I had wonderful times in London and then, yes, I had to change a bit, but everyone knew beforehand that I would do the Russia job fully because these Russian players have shown that they like to play good football. It was not that tough a change."
At every juncture in his Chelsea tenure Hiddink was asked to clarify his future, to state emphatically whether the luxuries and private jets of a top Premier League club were too tempting to resist, when set against the austerity sometimes suffered with the Russia team. However, he disclosed that he always had half a mind on Moscow.
"I did the Chelsea job with a lot of joy, with a lot of good results and performances," he said. "But I was always very aware of what was happening in Russia. We had satellites at the training ground, and we could see many, many games from the Russian league. I was getting direct information, and they players were practising a particular style of play. They knew exactly what they had to do. If you are very clear to the players, it is easier to pick the job up from where you left it last."