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'Little General' commands final Russia battle

14 May 2012 02:17:01

'Little General' commands final Russia battle

Russia's Dutch coach Dick Advocaat, a respected figure in the country and known as the "Little General", will be looking to bow out on a high with a strong performance in Euro 2012.

Advocaat, who won huge affection by taking Saint Petersburg side Zenit to victory in the 2008 UEFA cup, will be looking for one final success in Russia before he takes his leave from the national team after the tournament.

The Dutchman caused some shock in the Russian camp by announcing in April that he would not be extending his contract after the championships, leaving the football federation to yet again to head-hunt a top coach.

"This was a very unexpected piece of news," said Russian national team forward Alexander Kerzhakov.

"All the more so because I have never been in a situation when it's already known before an important tournament that the coach is leaving, irrespective of the result," he told Sport Express daily.

A former midfielder with a 18-year-long playing career in a half-dozen Dutch clubs and North American soccer league side Chicago Sting, Advocaat grew up as a coach under the great Rinus Michels, who guided the Netherlands to the 1988 European title.

After taking over the Dutch national side himself, Advocaat, now 64, led the "Oranje" into the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

In his next three years with Dutch high-flyers PSV Eindhoven he won the domestic title and the Dutch Cup before making a move to Scotland to record there a domestic treble in his first of four seasons with Glasgow Rangers.

Advocaat's second stint with the Dutch national side ended with a 2-1 defeat to Portugal in the last four of the 2004 European championships. At the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany he was managing the South Korean team.

His return to club football in Russia was a success as he won the 2007 domestic title with Zenit St Petersburg before leading the club to the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup a year later.

When he left the club in 2009, fans reduced him to tears with a rousing send-off at the airport and unfurling a banner saying "Thank You, Little General!".

After coaching Belgium's national side and another Dutch top-flight outfit AZ Alkmaar, Advocaat took the post of Russia's national manager in 2010 after the team failed to make the World Cup finals in South Africa.

Advocaat became the successor to fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who gained hero status in Russia after leading the national team into the Euro-2008 last four with an impressive 3-1 win over Netherlands.

Russia's path to the Euro-2012 finals wasn't smooth and easy, as the team suffered an early 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Slovakia. However, the Russians managed to move up a gear and to win their group.


AFP

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