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EURO 2012 Preview
Russia wants to replicate last Euros
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Russia was a surprise team at Euro 2008 as it reached the semifinals, where a second loss to champion Spain ended its run at a second European crown.

Other than the pair of losses to Spain, Russia defeated Greece, Sweden and the Netherlands, the latter in the quarterfinals as it reached the semifinals of a major tournament for the first time in two decades.

Although the manager has changed, with Guus Hiddink replaced by Dick Advocaat, the core of the roster remains the same as Russia turns the page to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

Six players who appeared in all five games four years ago remain on the roster and two more who played in four and three games, respectively, in Austria and Switzerland, also remain important pieces.

Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, defenders Aleksandr Anyukov, Sergei Ignashevich and Yuri Zhirkov, midfielders Igor Semshov and Konstantin Zyryanov, and forwards Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko are the core eight from 2008.

All of them remained crucial in qualifying, with Arshavin playing all 10 games during the stage. The only other player to appear in all 10 matches was Vasili Berezutski, a defender who was recently ruled out due to injury.

With Roman Shishkin also lost to health problems, Russia will rely heavily on its veterans in the back in Anyukov, Ignashevich and Zhirkov.

But up front, that is where Russia needs Arshavin and company to produce goals and another deep run. Russia lost just once during qualifying, to 2010 World Cup qualifier Slovakia, and won the group over fellow Euro qualifier Ireland.

Arshavin has produced some brilliant moments and he may be more confident with a successful loan from Arsenal to Zenit earlier this year. With 17 goals in 68 games, he is tied with Aleksandr Kerzhakov for third all-time in goals for Russia.

Add in Pavlyuchenko, second all-time with 20 goals in 45 games, as well as Pavel Pogrebnyak, who missed Euro 2008 with a knee injury, and Advocaat - who will step down as coach after the tournament - has plenty of firepower.

Depth could be an issue for Russia, as it is relatively unproven in some spots ahead of the finals. But for the 1960 Euro champion and three-time runner-up, the stage is set for another knockout appearance from Group A, which includes Greece, the Czech Republic and co-host Poland.

OUTLOOK

Russia is the favorite in a group that could produce any combination of squads in the quarterfinals. With a solid core of players, some likely in their final major tournament, there will be pressure to produce. But with success from the last Euro tournament to lean on for confidence, Russia should extend its visit to Poland and the Ukraine beyond the group stage. At that point, anything else would be a bonus with a Group B team as the opponent in the last eight.

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