Russia coach Guus Hiddink hit back Saturday at reports he may play injured striker Pavel Pogrebnyak at the European Championship against the advice of doctors.
Pogrebnyak injured his left knee shortly after scoring a free kick in Russia's 2-1 win over Serbia on May 28 and hasn't played since. The Zenit St. Petersburg forward has not trained in days, making it all but certain he will not play Tuesday in Russia's opening Group D match against Spain in Innsbruck.
Pogrebnyak was a key player in Hiddink's Euro 2008 plans _ he was tied for the scoring lead in the UEFA Cup this season with 10 goals, level with Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni.
In his regular column in best-selling Dutch daily De Telegraaf, Hiddink rejected reports he said had spread in Russian media that he was trying to have Pogrebnyak play despite doctors saying he is not fit.
"It's totally wrong," the Dutch coach wrote. "What is correct is that Pogrebnyak has been extensively examined in Munich by Dr. Eichhorn and was given the green light to play at the European Championship by this expert."
He said that following the doctor's verdict, "it was up to Pogrebnyak to decide whether or not he wanted to stay with the squad. I played no role in it at all. That makes it strange when it is suggested that you are knowingly putting at risk the career of a young sportsman."
Hiddink cited the story as an example of why he is keeping his team on a tight leash at its Alpine training camp in the Austrian ski resort of Leogang. He has turned the luxury mountainside hotel where the team is staying into a no-go zone for journalists and on Friday he used a side exit at the team's training ground to get onto a bus without speaking to reporters.
"You have to prevent these kinds of distractions seeping into the squad," he wrote.