Brilliant Hiddink targets the Netherlands
by Jonathan Stevenson (U1987325) 20 June 2008
Tournament football and Guus Hiddink are a match made in heaven.
It will be an intriguing sub-plot to see who comes out on top between Arshavin and SneijderHiddink plays his games with the media too, like cheekily suggesting he might not necessarily recall playmaker Andrei Arshavin for the Sweden game after he was suspended for the first two matches.
Arshavin's sublime performance that immediately catapulted him into superstardom made Hiddink's suggestion appear all the more like gamesmanship, but if it was designed to help ease his most outstanding player into the tournament, it worked a treat.
As for Arshavin, he gave a frightening glimpse of his potential by ripping the ageing Swedish defence to shreds and his majestic display will have given every Dutch defender nightmares.
His link-up play with Roman Pavlyuchenko was a constant menace and it will be an intriguing sub-plot to see who comes out on top between Arshavin, surely now top of every major club's wanted list, and Real Madrid midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who brilliantly set the tempo in the Netherlands' victories over Italy and France.
Despite their undisputed quality, Russia are still second favourites to win in Basel, especially as worries over their defence after their hammering by the Spanish remain.
But few observers would bet against the maverick Hiddink inspiring his troops to yet another triumph. It's just what he does, and he's better at it than pretty much any other coach in tournament history.
It's also why he is continually linked with all the top jobs in Europe when they become available and why plenty of England fans were more than frustrated that the Football Association chose not to pursue him more vigorously in 2006 instead of settling on the disastrous Steve McClaren.
Maybe Hiddink prefers it this way. Maybe his unique coaching talents are better suited to a rapidly-improving, impressionable side like the Russians, rather than the cash-heavy, pressure-laden world of English football.
Once again, a major tournament has benefited from his enormous expertise and, above all, quintessentially Dutch desire to see the game played in the right way.
When the Netherlands played USSR in the Euro 1988 final, Hiddink was a mere spectator as his PSV Eindhoven charges Hans van Breukelen, Ronald Koeman, Berry van Aerle and Gerald Vanenburg helped the Dutch lift the Henri Delauney trophy.
This time around, he is destined to have a far greater say on proceedings.
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