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Both Russians and Spanish have high hopes

Latest update : 2008-06-26

Despite a Spanish win against Russia in the first round, Guss Hiddink's team is counting on top player Arshavin to pave their way to the Euro 2008 final. Luis Aragones believes Spain's best chance is to play counter-attack football.

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Spain will be trying to take advantage of Russia's natural attacking instincts and hit them on the break in Thursday's Euro 2008 semi-final, just as they did in their opening 4-1 victory in the group stage.

"They've got a lot of confidence at the moment, they like playing with the ball and pushing forward and that could favour us as we try and take advantage of their weak points," midfielder Andres Iniesta told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We've played them already, but this game will be totally different. It is a semi-final with a lot at stake and it will be far more intense."

All four of Spain's goals in their opening match against Russia on June 10 came from slickly worked counter-attacks, with striker David Villa helping himself to a coolly taken hat-trick.

Fullback Sergio Ramos said he would have his work cut out containing the speedy Russian attack and playmaker Andrei Arshavin who has been in sparkling form since his return from a two-match suspension.

"Russia have surprised all of us and they are playing some very interesting football," said the Real Madrid right back. "It should be a good open game and we just hope the result will go in our favour.

"In the first game they were missing what for me was one of the best players in the tournament (Arshavin).

"We will have to try and snuff out their attacks down the left flank by all of us pressuring them at the same time. We also have to take advantage of any counter-attacks we get and hit them when we can."

 

GETTING BETTER

Ramos, who has been criticised for failing to reproduce his club form, admitted he had not been at his best in the group stage, but felt he was improving as the tournament progressed.

"I'm aware that I haven't played my best but I am getting better and I always give everything. I hope things go as I would want tomorrow and that people will be able to judge me on the way I play right through the tournament. I hope I will be here until (the final on) June 29."

Left back Joan Capdevila, who initiated the moves leading to two of the goals against Russia in their first meeting, said they had a unique opportunity to end Spain's reputation as underachievers at big tournaments.

"We've played a great tournament up until now, but we've got that last step in front of us and of course we all want to take it," he said.

"It is a one-off opportunity, but we have to enjoy it as that is when things go best for us. We may not get another opportunity like this for a long time."

The Spanish Football Federation's press officer refused to allow any questions about the earlier announcement from Turkish club Fenerbahce that they had reached an agreement for Spain coach Luis Aragones to take charge of their team for the next two seasons.

Date created : 2008-06-26

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