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Red hot Russia prove too strong for Sweden

Russia produced their best performance of Euro 2008 when it was most needed on Wednesday, beating Sweden 2-0 to snatch second place in Group D and earn a quarter-final meeting with Holland. Read Maradona's match preview column | Full Coverage: Euro 2008

sports Updated: Jun 19, 2008 02:51 IST
Mitch Phillips

Russia produced their best performance of Euro 2008 when it was most needed on Wednesday, beating Sweden 2-0 to snatch second place in Group D to earn a quarter-final meeting with Netherlands.

Russia, who had never overcome Sweden in their five previous meetings spanning 95 years, had to win to progress while a draw would have been enough for the Scandinavians to advance.

But there was only one team in it from the start as brilliantly-worked goals by Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin sent Russia into the knockout phase of a major tournament for the first time since, as the USSR, they lost to the Dutch in the Euro 1988 final.

"We played very well, we attacked very well," said Arshavin. "At 1-0 I thought we sat back a bit, which I didn't like, but when we got the second goal I thought we could have gone on to get more.

"I hope we can do the same again against Holland but they are the strongest team in the tournament."

The inclusion of Arshavin, suspended for the first two games, seemed to give Guus Hiddink's men an injection of self-belief and they were unrecognisable from the side who laboured to victory over Greece and were thumped by Spain.

His direct running and some confident, slick passing in and around the box had Sweden hanging on from the opening exchanges.

Yuri Zhirkov sounded a warning when he drove a volley wide after 21 minutes and three minutes later Russia were ahead.

A clever pass allowed Konstantin Zyryanov to escape down the right and he played the ball inside to Alexander Anyukov. The dangerous midfielder then rolled it into the path of Pavlyuchenko who cracked home a first-time shot.

The striker almost had another later in the half when he fired against the bar after another neat exchange.

The Swedes issued a reminder of their own threat on the break as Henrik Larsson looped a header against the bar and Mikael Nilsson forced a sharp smothering save from Igor Akinfeyev at the end of the half.

It proved a key intervention as five minutes after the break Arshavin doubled the lead with another superb goal. An attack that began deep in their own half ended with Zhirkov setting up the playmaker to score with his outstretched right boot.