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Arshavin's Return Rouses Russia

  • Guardian, Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:30 PM
It was a much more enterprising Russian team than we've seen so far that beat Sweden, 2-0, Wednesday to qualify for the quarterfinals of the European Championships. And it was all down to the return of "a wonderfully elusive and subtle playmaker in Andrei Arshavin," writes Barney Ronay from Innsbruck.
 
Arshavin, who had been suspended from the first two games of the tournament, "was the best player on the pitch. It's amazing what a difference one man can make to a team." The midfielder is "particularly good at lurking. He isn't notably athletic and he ghosts about without looking really quick. But he anticipates the ball well." Under Arshavin's prompting, Russia began to tick, "passing the ball with much more purpose than the last time they played here, against Spain."
 
Limited Sweden, meanwhile, relied on "hit and hope" service to the not fully fit Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with Henrik Larsson "subdued, perhaps feeling the strain of three games in quick succession. By the end, it was a bit of a mystery how a fast-breaking Russia managed not to get a couple more." Highly favored Holland await in Saturday's quarterfinal, a game made worth anticipating now that renascent Russia "at times ... looked the part" against Sweden.

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