A week is a long time in
politics and can be a long time in football - just ask Dick
Advocaat whose spell as Russia coach ended in ignominy when
Greece condemned them to a group stage exit from Euro 2012.
Russia began the tournament like champions and ended it
prematurely, two games later, as duds.
A scintillating attacking performance to thrash the Czech
Republic 4-1 in their opening game served notice that Russia
could a emulate their run to the European Championship
semi-finals four years ago.
Unfortunately for Advocaat, that was as good as it got,
despite the Dutchman's assertion after the 1-1 draw with Poland
in their next game that his side were the "best" at Euro 2012.
Those words looked hollow when a technically inferior but
well-organised Greece made the most of Russia's profligacy in
front of goal to win 1-0 in Warsaw on Saturday and reach the
last eight from Group A along with the Czech Republic.
Advocaat, who had already agreed a deal to return home to
take charge of PSV Eindhoven after the tournament, struggled to
come to terms with Russia's departure.
Still extolling Russia's performances, he said they "played
well" against the Czechs and Poland and had "outclassed" Greece.
"With the staff we worked very hard to have a good team. We
were undefeated for 16 games but we didn't win today. That's
football. All compliments to Greece," Advocaat said.
"We played quite well - the other team just defended.
"In the second half, against a team like Greece, with all
due respect, it was hard to play against them. But it's not that
we didn't play well."
Russia finished level on four points with the Greeks but
missed out due to their head-to-head record and exit the
tournament with co-hosts Poland who had two points.
Group winners the Czech Republic, with six points, are also
through to the quarter-finals with Greece.
Despite overseeing a 16-match unbeaten run, Advocaat had
struggled to win over Russian fans and commentators after taking
over from popular compatriot Guus Hiddink in 2010.
Criticised throughout the qualifying campaign for his
selection policy, and failing to blood new players, Advocaat
retained much of the team he inherited from Hiddink.
But after hitting the ground running in Poland, their
inability to produce an end product to their swift attacks hit
Striker Alexander Kerzhakov had a tournament to forget,
Andrei Arshavin was inconsistent despite moments of brilliance
and they also showed signs of frailty at the back.
"If you don't score goals and your opponent does, then you
lose," Advocaat said. "You have to score goals. That's what we
did in the first game and, despite [having lots of] possession,
we didn't do that today."
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