Russia victorious in Euro-2008 crunch match
Both teams had lost their opening games and neither side could afford to lose tonight if they wanted to keep their tournament hopes alive.
From the outset Russia looked marginally the stronger and, as the game went on, they tightened their grip. With an average age of just 26, they might be the youngest team in the tournament, but they put in a performance beyond their years and in the 33rd minute they got their reward when Konstantin Zyrianov’s scored, sending Russian fans into raptures as they headed for half time.
After the break, there were nervous times for Hiddink’s young lions, with scoring chances at both ends. The Greeks came out and showed why they were the champions, playing with pride and passion. While Russia’s unsteady defence added to the tension by creating as much danger as it cleared. Russia also missed a number of opportunities to clinch the match.
During the second half the flags continued to wave, with the fans' nervous energy powering their team on. But behind the apprehension, lay an unwavering self confidence. All week Russian fans had been saying this would be their tournament and that it was their time to show Europe what they can do. And that confidence would prove well founded. Russia held on till the final whistle. The 1-0 win put Russia back on track in Euro 2008 – and dreaming now of the first quarter-final in the country’s history.
Russia now face Sweden on Wednesday in what promises to be another nail-biter. If they can repeat tonight's performance and result, a place in the last eight will be theirs.