Hiddink brings back memories of Kiev, not Cruyff

Simply wearing orange doesn't make you brilliant. They may wear the same colour shirts, but that is where the similarity between Marco van Basten's Holland and the Dutch team of the early Seventies ends. Not only was this never a team that played Total Football, but their exit came against a side who are far closer to the Rinus Michels ideal than they ever were.

As they played the Dutch into submission, Russia produced a performance that will echo through posterity. They were brilliant in beating Sweden but it was only Sweden. This was a superb performance, buzzing with character, flair and technical excellence against a team that had beaten the two World Cup finalists in the group stages. It was, simply, stunning.

It was mightily impressive too how they recovered from the blow of conceding to Ruud van Nistelrooy four minutes from time. Other sides might have folded, but Russia – for all their reputation for mental weakness – simply came again. Where a wobble might be expected, they produced 30 minutes more of their scintillating interplay: 3-1 barely did them justice.

This was fluency, and all the claims that had been made for the Dutch were exposed. The switch to 4-2-3-1, made in the autumn, left Holland playing with what the Italians would call a "broken team", with the two holding midfielders, Orlando Engelaar and Nigel de Jong, sitting in front of the back four, and the front four left to forage on their own. There is little movement between defensive and attacking zones.

Russia are rather truer to that great attacking tradition, but the association is not entirely comfortable. For one thing, Total Football was very much of its time. It was as devastating as it was not merely because of the technical qualities of the players involved, but because Michels's sides were among the first in the world to press the opposition in possession. They made a conscious effort to manipulate space in a way that was almost unique.

Not entirely unique, though, for pressing was pioneered under the Muscovite Viktor Maslov at Dynamo Kiev in the Sixties. That tradition was then developed by Valeriy Lobanovsky, and his way of doing things soon became the Soviet style. It is that school, as much as the Dutch one, of which the present Russians are the modern incarnations.

It may be that Guus Hiddink, having grown up in a similar tradition, is more attuned to Russian football than other foreigners would be – and it is probably no coincidence that another Dutchman, Dick Advocaat, has been successful with Zenit St Petersburg – but he has not implanted the Dutch model on the steppe.

One of the greatest fallacies of football history is the idea that Dutch football of the early Seventies was all about self-expression while Lobanovsky's Dynamo Kiev were some kind of mechanistic monster.

Lobanovsky, admittedly, imposed a style upon his squad, while Michels was the overseer of the organic development of hugely talented players who had played together for so long they came to have an almost preternatural understanding of one another's game, but the principles of both were the same. Dynamo and Ajax both played a high offside line, both pressed the opposition in possession and thrived on rapid passing and interchange of positions. Fundamentally, both were about the performance of individuals within the system.

Russia were not quite as impressively fluent as they had been on Wednesday, but then Holland are a rather better side than the dull, muscular Swedes. Still, though, there were flurries of the sort of breathtaking fluidity that had Russian commentators comparing their movement of the ball to the "clap, clap" rhythm of the great Soviet ice-hockey teams.

Yuri Zhirkov and Alexander Anyukov overlapped constantly from full-back, while at the centre of it all, coaxing and cajoling, was the playmaker, Andrei Arshavin. It is hard to believe any individual since Michel Platini 20 years ago has had such an influence over a game at this level.

Inevitably, when the breakthrough Russia had threatened for most of the first half arrived, Arshavin was the instigator. His ball to Sergei Semak, making a charge down the left, was perfectly weighted, but what made it special was the slight delay, the pause that ensured the holding midfielder had only to look up and square for Roman Pavlyuchenko to score.

It was Zenit's Arshavin who then dragged Russia forward again in extra-time, his runs spreading confidence through the white shirts as they spread panic through the orange. It was inevitable that it would be his cross which laid on the second for Dmitry Torbinsky, and then merely fitting that he should fire the goal that sealed it.

In the midst of the movement and all the passing, he was the central intelligence, cajoling, coaxing, directing. As Norman Mailer wrote of Muhammad Ali's genius, it is not the big punch that knocks opponents out but rapid and accurate combinations. Lobanovsky would have approved.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin