Russia coach Guus Hiddink heaped praise on man of the match Andrei Arshavin on Saturday after the forward helped engineer a 3-1 victory over Netherlands to secure a place in the Euro 2008 semi-finals.
“He wasn’t even really match fit but he has tremendous skill,” Hiddink said of his talented playmaker. “He knows how to dribble at defenders so that they can run with him but can’t attack him. Nature gave him that gift.”
Russia sorely missed Arshavin in their opening two Group D matches for which he was suspended after being sent off for kicking an opponent in a qualifier with Andorra last November.
It was worth the wait.
The 27-year-old inspired his team to a 2-0 win over Sweden and was the architect of their triumph over the Dutch by setting up the second goal and scoring the third himself.
Hiddink noted that Arshavin, the 2006 Russian Player of the Year, has a reputation for being awkward. “He has a name as a difficult human being but not to me,” the Dutchman said. “It’s just nice to work with this guy as he’s a natural winner.”
Arshavin put Russia’s win over the much-fancied Netherlands, after the match finished at 1-1 by the end of normal time, down to “incredible good fortune” and their manager.
“One Dutch coach beat 11 talented Dutch players,” he said. “It’s great happiness for me and for the whole of Russia. It was a hard game but we can’t complain.
“The coach said he expected them to play very aggressively against us but it turned out that they ran out of breath before we did. At the end the better Dutchman — our coach — won.”