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Russia look to seal Euro 2012 quarter-final slot
Published : 16 Jun 2012 05:47:13
Russia will aim to storm into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals on Saturday when they face bottom of the table Greece, after missing the chance to pop the champagne by drawing 1-1 with co-hosts Poland.
But Group A underdogs the Greeks will not be content to play the role of extras in the Russians' movie, aiming to bring some cheer to a homeland locked in a political and economic crisis.
A draw will suffice to clinch Dutch veteran Dick Advocaat's Russia a berth in the last eight, but they aim to display the form that enabled them to demolish the Czech Republic 4-1 in their tournament opener last Friday.
"We need to forget that a draw will also put us into the knockout stage and score. Once, twice... as much as we can," said goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, one of seven Zenit St Petersburg players who have started both of Russia's Euro 2012 matches.
"Our fate is still in our own hands," he said.
The picture is very different for Greece, who know it is do or die.
"We are going after one result," underlined their Portuguese coach Fernando Santos.
"My faith in my team is total.
"There is a chance and we have to focus and believe that it is possible," he added.
But the Euro 2004 champions will be painfully aware that they are not masters of their destiny, even if they take three points on Saturday.
Russia currently top the group on four points, while the Czechs have three, Poland two and Greece one.
In the night's other match, between the Czech Republic and Poland in the southwestern city of Wroclaw, a draw or a win for either for would sink Greek hopes.
Against Poland last Friday in the opening game of Euro 2012, Greece, down to 10 men, battled back to draw 1-1 and only a penalty save by the Poles prevented a Greek victory.
They come into the Russia match on the back of a 2-1 defeat to the Czechs on Tuesday.
Advocaat, who took over from compatriot Guus Hiddink in May 2010, has won plaudits for building a side with attractive, free-flowing play and blooding young talent such as CSKA Moscow's Alan Dzagoev.
The 21-year-old, said to be on the radar of the English Premier League, has scored three goals so far at Euro 2012, with a double against the Czechs and one in the Poland match.
For Advocaat, a Euro 2012 success would be a fine way to bow out.
He is set to leave his post after the tournament to return to club management in his homeland at PSV Eindhoven.
Though they repeatedly have refused to comment on off-pitch issues, Russia are likely to be hoping that their fans will behave.
Russia's two games have been marked by fans lighting flares and throwing fireworks, and UEFA has already hit them with a 120,000-euro ($150,000, 96,000-pound) fine for that offence during the win over the Czechs.
European football's governing body has also raised the spectre of a six-point deduction from Russia's Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in the event of further trouble.
On top of that, a probe is under way after claims of racist taunting of a black Czech player.
Fans have also been spotlighted for waving banners seen as provocative in parts of Eastern Europe such as Poland that used to be under Moscow's thumb, or with neo-Nazi imagery.