Alberto wary of fear factor as youthful Azerbaijan regroup

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The Independent Online

Dimitry Kramarenko, the Azerbaijan goalkeeper, summoned up the ghost of a famous Russian linesman yesterday in an attempt to win friends in England, notably among the strikers he will face at St James' Park tomorrow.

Dimitry Kramarenko, the Azerbaijan goalkeeper, summoned up the ghost of a famous Russian linesman yesterday in an attempt to win friends in England, notably among the strikers he will face at St James' Park tomorrow.

Kramarenko was anxious to point out that Tofik Bakhramov, whose controversial decision gave Geoff Hurst his hat-trick goal in the 1966 World Cup final, was actually not Russian.

"Don't forget that there was a guy from Azerbaijan who helped England win the World Cup," said Bakhramov, who conceded eight goals against Poland and is clearly eager to try any tactic in order to avoid a similar scoreline.

Not that Kramarenko anticipates such humiliation tomorrow. He said: "I certainly don't expect to concede that many goals. The result against Poland is the sort of thing that happens once in the life of a team. But we also have to be realistic about this game because we are facing a team with some very good strikers, such as Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen.

"Our first objective is to play with dignity and regain our pride after what happened on Saturday. People ask if it could be 8-0 again, but I just don't want to think about it. I'm not a god, I can't predict."

Kramarenko added: "But England should remember that it was a very good game in Azerbaijan and we only lost 1-0."

There have been other encouraging results for Azerbaijan under their coach, Carlos Alberto, whose pessimism in the immediate aftermath of the Poland game had been reduced by a lively training session at Newcastle's youth academy yesterday.

"It was an abnormal result and not the sort of thing that happens all the time," he said. "I was surprised because the team had been doing very well in matches and training well. It happens sometimes and we must learn a lesson from that game and ensure it doesn't happen again against England. We know it will be very difficult for us and, being honest, I don't really believe we can win - and that's not because we lost 8-0 in our last game.

"It's because England have a team that is very good at the moment. When you have good players and a good team, surprises don't usually happen."

Alberto considers England to have a surfeit of good players. Asked about England's Joe Cole, the former Brazilian international replied: "I don't know much about him, but I've heard he's a good player.

"The Cole I do know about in England is Ashley Cole, who is a fine left-back, but England have a lot of good players nowadays. We can cope when teams have one or two good players, but England have Rooney, Cole, Beckham, Lampard ... there are so many."

Alberto is certain to make changes to his side. "My plan is to prepare our young players for the World Cup of 2010 and a game against England in front of a big crowd is a good place to start. It is a chance to see what they can do. It's not about yesterday now, it's about what will happen in the future."

Goals Galore England's best victories

1882: 13-0 v Ireland (Away)

1899: 13-2 v Ireland (A)

1908: 11-1 v Austria (A)

1947: 10-0 v Portugal (A)

1964: 10-0 v USA (A)

1960: 9-0 v Luxembourg (A)

1895: 9-0 v Ireland (A)

1890: 9-1 v Ireland (A)

1896: 9-1 v Wales (A)

1927: 9-1 v Belgium (A)

1949: 9-2 v Northern Ireland (A)

1961: 9-3 v Scotland (A)

England's biggest victory so far under Sven Goran Eriksson:

2004: 6-1 v Iceland (friendly at City of Manchester Stadium)

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