The Russians just love 'Tsar Guus' and the way his team is playing...
Right after the World Cup qualifier against Finland on June 10, which Russia won 3-0, Sport-Express published the headline 'The national team, we love you!' on the front page the day after victory in Helsinki.
On seeing the headline, Guus Hiddink told the newspaper, "It’s very pleasant and I think the national team deserved it.
"When we played with Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein in spring, we earned six points, but the team didn’t show overwhelming football. Russia won these matches thanks to our high class.
"Our game against Finland required more emotions from players. We prepared for it very seriously as we knew that we had no right to lose points in Helsinki."
Russia’s most complete performance since their Euro 2008 quarter-final win over Holland saw Hiddink’s side put three unanswered goals past the Finns to move a step closer to the 2010 World Cup.
It was Dynamo Moscow’s Alexander Kerzhakov, back in the side after more than a year out of the national team, who scored the first and second goals of the match.
He got his first by rounding Jussi Jaaskelainen to slot in the first after a delicate lobbed pass by Andrei Arshavin. The second came after the in-form Vladimir Bystrov weaved through the Finland defence and hit a shot that was pushed out by Jaaskelainen to the grateful feet of Kerzhakov in the 53rd minute.
The opener was the first at international level for the former Sevilla striker, left out of the Euro 2008 squad despite being Russia’s top scorer in qualification, since September 2007.
Kerzhakov A Risk
Speaking about the in-form Dynamo striker, Hiddink said it was a risk including him in the lineup.
"We took the risk and capped Alexandr Kerzhakov as a starter and he scored two goals. This striker deserves kind words. Since the first day of our pre-match preparations he demonstrated his eagerness to play in Finland," he said.
"It’s very important that Kerzhi behaved like a full-fledged member of the team. Partners helped him feel at home in the national team again."
After the match with Finland, Kerzhakov admitted that he was surprised with the changes that occurred in the national team during the year and a half he was absent.
"We really made a giant step forward. Russia advanced in FIFA rankings. And at the same time I assure players that it’s not our limit and they can achieve even more success," the forward said.
Hiddink also spoke about how he wanted Russia to dominate the game, to play with confidence and work hard for each other.
"We set players to dominate the game from the very beginning and dictate their play on Finland. We always study our opponents’ strong and weak sides and build our game in the way that our team manages to show all best qualities," he continued.
"Russian national team loves playing football. During the last three years the team worked their own unique playing style, which could be called attractive. I suppose that Russia’s football style became recognisable.
"At the same time I like that players understand importance of rough work. In Finland our defenders, midfielders and strikers pressed the opponents very well.
"Confidence in our superiority became the main component of our victory. And players’ physical form also let them move on the pitch all the time and create dangerous moments in Finland’s penalty area."
Arshavin In Form
Hiddink also praised Arsenal star Arshavin, who looks like he could win back the captain's armband.
"Let’s not predict what will happen in future. Both Arshavin and Kerzhakov played wonderfully in Helsinki, but I don’t know in which form the candidates to the national team will come in two or three months. They need to prove their worth for a place in the starting eleven all the time," the Dutchman said.
"As everybody knows Andrei Arshavin wore the captain’s band during Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. I deprived him of it after his silly red card in Andorra.
"I think now it’s time for him to get back the armlet back. He is a real captain, he always gives 100 per cent on the pitch and what is also important can speak English. I would like young Russian players to begin studying foreign languages already now, as it will help them in their career."
Ready For Argentina & Messi
Hiddink was also looking forward to the friendly game against Argentina on August 12 in Moscow.
He said, "Next time the national team will gather to prepare for the friendly match against Argentina, which will take place in Moscow on August 12. I was very happy when the Russian Football Union managed to organise this meeting, because it’s very interesting and challenging to play against one of the world’s strongest national teams.
"Argentina represents Latin America, which football school differs from European style. Taking into consideration the next year’s World Championship, where I hope Russia will play, this experience will be very useful.
"I expect to see the full stands at this game. Result of this friendly match is not very significant, but I hope we will see entertaining football from both sides."
The 3-0 win against Finland, a repeat of last autumn’s result, leaves Russia a point behind Germany in second place after six games in Group 4. The Germans visit Moscow on October 10.
The first-placed team in the group qualifies automatically for the 2010 World Cup, to be held in South Africa. The second-placed side will face a play-off match.
Next Up, Liechtenstein
The next qualifying match for the Russian national team is against Liechtenstein and will take place on September 5 in St. Petersburg. The hosts will start pre-match preparations on August 31 or September 1 in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
After the game, the team will make for Cardiff for the qualifying fixture with Wales, which is scheduled for September 9.
"We think that national team should play only in Moscow," said the general director of the Russian Football Union, Alexey Sorokin.
"We are hopeful that we will see the full stands at the match against Liechtenstein in St. Petersburg. People love football very much and a big group of fans from St. Petersburg came to support Russian team at away game against Finland in Helsinki."
UEFA GROUP 4 (after six games)
Germany – 16
Russia – 15
Finland – 10
Wales – 9 (7 games)
Azerbaijan – 1 (5 games)
Liechtenstein – 1