Two days after Robin Van Persie's cocky comments claiming that "We are unbeatable," Russia entered the quarter-final of the Euro 2008 championships with all guns blazing.
And who else than the man himself, Guus Hiddink, leading a very young Russian squad.
Quite frankly, if anybody would have asked a Russian supporter who would be victorious in this game, they would have probably favored the Netherlands.
However, right from the start, the heavy favorites lacked a certain knack of energy, fire power, and concentration; almost too brash and overconfident in a certain sense.
The Netherlands were out-played, out-hustled and certainly out-coached. Marco Van Basten should be held accountable for all the ludicrous substitutions he placed on the pitch. Coming in with Van Persie should not have been the priority substitution, as Arjen Robben should have.
Then Ibrahim Afellay came on. Who? I'm sorry, in a decisive situation, Afellay shouldn't have stepped foot on the pitch, Van Basten. He came on and the Netherlands' midfield control abruptly collapsed. And as I recall, without having legitimate midfield control, the term "total football" will never be applied to the Oranje squad.
Aside from this, however, a short, fast-paced Russian attacking midfielder came into every attacking frame the Russians outstandingly performed: Andrei Arshavin.
Khalid Boulahrouz, Joris Mathijsen, and John Heitinga will wake up in the middle night with an "Arshavin" nightmare, for sure!
Arshavin, with the least possible explanation, wiped the floor with the Netherlands defenders. He created the first and second Russian goals, while scoring the third, embarrassing the Dutch completely.
He would blast through Boulahrouz in the first half, causing him to be pulled off by Van Basten due to a fear of earning a red card. His replacement, Heirtinga, could not have been more passive than he was; extremely slow to push the ball over midfield and obviously beaten up by the Russian wonder boy.
Hiddink has now brought the curtain down on Marco van Basten's swansong as Dutch coach after four years in charge, yet it was Hiddink who first approached ex-Ajax ace Van Basten about becoming a coach. Ironic isn't it?
Spain or Italy, watchout. The Russians have landed!
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