Roman Pavlyuchenko has been to the brink and back since tearing England apart in Moscow – and Guus Hiddink believes he is a better player for it.
The Russia striker, 26, scored twice at the Luzhniki Stadium last October against England to start the end of Steve McClaren's reign but it has not been entirely smooth for him since qualifying for Euro 2008. He was ordered to lose weight by Hiddink, with his coach telling him he needed to be in shape to make the 23-man Russia squad, and after making the cut now has a chance of glory by firing his country into the final.
"When I saw him move in previous games and in the league I sometimes got annoyed," Hiddink said. "If you are a well paid professional, you need to work like hell. You have to take this responsibility. We talked about this and he worked perfectly. He got into physical shape, and if you get into physical shape your mental shape will get there as well."
The Spartak Moscow forward has three goals at Euro 2008, his first coming in the 4-1 defeat to Spain – and they have the chance of revenge when they meet them again, tomorrow at Ernst Happel Stadium.
Andrei Arshavin has caught the eye since returning from suspension, but the Russia captain Sergei Semak feels Pavlyuchenko can make the difference. "I think Roman is the biggest revelation so far," Semak said. "He has always played well in the Russian league and was top scorer for the last two seasons, but I think nobody expected him to play like he is at the European Championship. Pavlyuchenko, it seems, has become one of the leaders of this side."
Semak insists it will be a different game against Spain this time around. He added: "The No 1 reason was individual mistakes, and of course when they were 2-0 up it was much easier for them to play. Our conditioning is good, our morale is good. There is still time to prepare, so everything will be okay. The heat doesn't really bother us – in the end, both teams face similar conditions."
The midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, the forward Ivan Saenko and the defender Aleksandr Anyukov have been carrying slight knocks ahead of the Spain match and Saenko did not train on Monday because of an ankle problem. Saenko, the only Russia player to play his club football overseas, started in Russia's 3-1 extra-time quarter-final win over the Netherlands but was substituted towards the end of normal time.Reuse content