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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 9, 2007

Russia urge Hiddink to attack depleted England

MOSCOW, Sept 9 (Reuters) - With England missing several leading players through injury, Russian media have urged coach Guus Hiddink to play an attacking game when the two sides meet in a Euro 2008 Group E qualifier on Wednesday. Russia showed plenty of attacking flair in Saturday's 3-0 home win over Macedonia that put them second in the group, a point above England and two behind leaders Croatia. "For the most part I'm very pleased with our attacking play against Macedonia," Hiddink told Reuters. "Since day one, I've been trying to make our team play attacking, aggressive football and so far, I think, we have done that. That's our style now. "Of course, it's a totally different proposition, playing England at Wembley," the Dutchman said. "But we're not going there just to defend. If we sit back for 90 minutes, sooner or later they'll punish us," he added. "We'll have to attack but we will have to defend as well. I see it as a high tempo game with both sides looking to score." Some local experts, however, believe Russia have little to fear from "an injury-ravaged English side" missing key players, such as Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. "I can't see why our team should travel to Wembley with eyes popping out full of fear," wrote Igor Rabiner, a columnist in the daily Sport-Express, pointing to England's weakness in goal and the less-than-stellar coaching record of England manager Steve McClaren. "Take into account that even when injury free they don't have strong keepers and why should such a highly successful coach as Hiddink fear McClaren, who has yet to achieve anything worthy of note with England." Russia's team officials, however, had a different view. "In a sense, it's good that Guus doesn't fully speak or read Russian, so he won't have to listen to all that advice media and fans have for him," a source within the Russian FA told Reuters. "There are some really crazy ideas out there." Hiddink, who has few injury worries of his own, had a similar view: "England are a very good side. I saw a video of their match against Germany last month, where they conceded two unlucky goals to lose 2-1 but played much better than Germany." Striker Ivan Saenko is doubtful for the England game with an ankle sprain while winger Yuri Zhirkov has a thigh injury. Goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov is suspended after being sent off against Macedonia and, with undisputed number one Igor Akinfeyev injured, Vyacheslav Malafeyev, who saved a penalty to preserve a 1-0 lead after replacing Gabulov on Saturday, looks like a sure starter. "It would have been a tough choice between Gabulov and Malafeyev but (Norwegian referee Tom Henning) made that decision for me," Hiddink said with a wry smile.