18th June, 2012
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-organized 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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Criticized 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 them hard.
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.