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Hiddink already struggling to keep up record of qualifying at major tournaments

Hiddink already struggling to keep up record of qualifying at major tournaments

Guus Hiddink's record of advancing out of the group stage of every major tournament he has coached at is already under threat at the European Championship.
David Villa ripped apart Russia's new central defensive pairing of Denis Kolodin and Roman Shirokov on Tuesday on his way to a hat trick in Spain's 4-1 victory at the Tivoli Neu stadium.
With two key players missing through injury and suspension for the opening Group D match, Hiddink had to reshuffle his forward line and midfield. But it was his defense that fell apart as Villa, Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas tore through it almost at will.
Kolodin struggled to deal with the pace of Torres and Kolodin's fellow central defender Shirokov did even worse against the rampant Villa.
Hiddink stood up for the defenders, saying all his players were naive in giving Spain easy chances to counter.
"You cannot just blame the defensive line," he said. "If you saw the second goal, if you saw the fourth goal then it is on a level that some school teams did not commit those errors."
At the other end, it was bad luck more than bad play that cost Russia. Konstantin Zyryanov hit the post after the ball skidded to him past several defenders and Roman Pavlyuchenko came close before finally scoring Russia's consolation goal in the dying minutes.
Hiddink pledged before the tournament that Russia would play attractive football, but it was not pretty early on as his midfielders closed down Spain with some touch tackling.
That gave the young Russia team confidence and it began stringing together fluent passing moves.
But Spain took the lead against the run of play with a swift counter attack and Russia rarely threatened again until a late flourish.
Despite Spain initially looking happy to defend its 2-0 lead in the second half, Luis Aragones' team still managed to score two more, also quick break outs.
"We had a lesson in counter attacking," Hiddink said.
Pavlyuchenko looked to have come close to equalizing Villa's 20th-minute strike when he slammed a free kick into the wall and then hit a sweet left-foot volley that dipped over Iker Casillas but smashed into the cross bar. However, referee Konrad Plautz penalized Pavlyuchenko for barging David Silva out of the way as he hit the volley.
Alone up front apart from Carles Puyol or Carlos Marchena shadowing his every move, Pavlyuchenko only managed three shots all match until he snatched Russia's consolation goal, stooping low to head powerfully past Casillas in the 86th minute after a corner by substitute Dmitri Torbinski was flicked on by Shirokov.
The goal and a strong finish could have given Hiddink's team a boost to take into its next match, against defending champion Greece, but instead Cesc Fabregas headed Spain's fourth to further demoralize the Russians.
Pavlyuchenko was one of two changes forced on Hiddink. He was brought in to replace in form striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who injured his left knee in a pre-tournament friendly against Serbia _ a disappointing end to a season that saw him score 10 goals as his club Zenit St. Petersburg won the UEFA Cup.
Russia also badly missed the creative flair of fellow Zenit forward Andrei Arshavin, who is suspended for Russia's first two Group D matches after being sent off in his team's 1-0 defeat of Andorra in its final qualifying match.
Hiddink took the Netherlands to the quarterfinals of Euro 96 and to the semifinal of the World Cup in 1998 and then shocked the football world by leading South Korea into the semifinal of the 2002 World Cup before taking Australia out of the group stage four years later.
That proud run could now be close to an end if he can't patch up his Russia defense and breathe a creative spark into the midfield.
"At the end in the locker room, I said this is a tournament of three games. I hope the team can and will react," Hiddink said.


Updated : 2021-05-08 06:57 GMT+08:00