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Denisov aims to make up for lost time at Euro

sports Updated: May 22, 2012 08:31 IST
Euro 2012

Euro 2012 presents a great chance for Zenit St Petersburg's talented but temperamental defensive midfielder Igor Denisov to at last make his name at the highest level.

The 27-year-old Leningrad-born halfback, long notorious for his hot temper, has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to shine after he missed Euro 2008 because of a spat with Russia's national coaching staff ahead of the event.

In May 2008, the then Russia manager Guus Hiddink experienced difficulties with his team's midfield as some of the players were injured and striker Andrei Arshavin was suspended.

Despite earning his first call-up to the Russian squad, Denisov rejected the offer brusquely in a phone conversation with Hiddink's assistant Alexander Borodyuk.

After the tournament, which saw Russia reach the semi-finals, the conflict was resolved and Denisov made his international debut in the 2010 World Cup qualifier with Germany.

Since then, Denisov has won 23 caps but he is still seeking his first goal at international level.

At Russian champions Zenit, Denisov became an integral member of the team thanks to his natural talent and skills soon after making his debut in 2002.

Soon after Dutch coach Dick Advocaat took over the club in 2006, Denisov's performance matured, making him an automatic choice to start in the team.

After Italian manager Luciano Spalletti took over Zenit in December 2009, Denisov's performance became even more focused.

Last year Russia's football community noted that Denisov's unbalanced temper had improved dramatically, as he put an end to demonstrations of petulant rage, leading to a decreasing number of yellow and red cards.

Denisov said he has changed his approach due to the influence of Zenit's former skipper Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who showed him how a true professional should act both on and off the pitch.

"The years that I spent side by side with Tymoshchuk changed my approach to the game," he said. "I became much more professional working next to him, watching his fantastic attitude to football day by day."

Denisov also said that now all his life was devoted to football, adding that he was still hungry for victories and intended to win a major title with Russia.

"The fiasco against Slovenia in the play-offs which deprived our team of the right to play at the World Cup also seriously changed me," Denisov said.

"I believe the time to win something serious with the country's team has come," he added. "The upcoming European championship is an excellent opportunity for it."