England may now be in the driving seat to qualify for Euro 2008 ahead of Russia but their federation president Vitaly Mutko has defended his decision to extend coach Guus Hiddink's contract through to the end of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Steve McClaren's team need only to draw their final qualifier at home to Croatia on Wednesday night to edge out Russia after Hiddink's men lost 2-1 in Israel on Saturday night.
However, Mutko is adamant Dutch coach Hiddink - a target of the English FA to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson earlier this year - remains the best man to take Russia forward.
'Hiddink will be in charge until 2010 and then we'll appoint a new coach,' Mutko said. 'This team needs to learn to cope with the weight of responsibility. Hiddink is the one who can do this and make our team strong.'
Mutko admits qualification is now out of Russia's hands. They need Croatia to win at Wembley at Wednesday, allied to an expected victory over group whipping boys Andorra.
'We'll work and prepare for the next match. Of course we will still be hoping and counting on Croatia,' he said. 'But the chances are slim. The draw for the World Cup takes place soon and we'll be looking to qualify for that.'
Mutko's words of resignation were mirrored by Andrei Arshavin, but the Zenit St Petersburg striker nevertheless feels Russia have developed into a strong side.
'I think we've lost our chance of going to the finals now,' Arshavin told radio station Mayak. 'We strongly wanted to win. We attacked a lot and didn't deserve to lose.
'A draw or a defeat was no good to us, so when we equalised we had to put all our strength into attacking and playing open football.
'We are very disappointed, but we are a strong side. We need to finish things off against Andorra now. Our fans will be watching. We'll do everything that is required of us.'