Dick Advocaat says Russia could be Euro 2012 dark horses

 

Russia face the Czech Republic in their Euro 2012 Group A opener tonight with coach Dick Advocaat believing they are dark horses to win the tournament.

Advocaat's side, who completed their preparations for the tournament with an impressive 3-0 victory over Italy, are the favourites to top what on paper looks the weakest group in the competition.

Having reached the semi-finals four years ago under Guus Hiddink, hopes are high that a similar squad can reach the same lofty heights.

And Advocaat believes his group deserve to be considered as outside contenders for success in Poland and Ukraine as they gear up to open their campaign at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw.

"We have a good team, we have the quality, and it is very important that the players start believing in that," he told uefa.com.

"So, yes, if we have the form and everything is going the right way, we have a very dangerous team."

Advocaat looks set to have a full squad to pick from after goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, right-back Aleksandr Anyukov and striker Roman Pavlyuchenko all came through training.

Arsenal's Andrey Arshavin has also been in impressive form, and Advocaat feels the 31-year-old benefited from his loan move to Zenit St Petersburg in January.

"He is a crucial player for us, but he still has to improve his game," the Russia coach said. "He did not play [much] at Arsenal, so I was very happy he went back to Zenit and started getting his form back.

"Arshavin is a player of moments - he can score out of nothing, and you don't have too many of that kind of player in the world."

Advocaat, who will join PSV Eindhoven after the finals, knows there will be sides more fancied to lift the trophy, but feels Greece's 2004 triumph shows just how open a tournament the Euros can be.

He said: "Realistically, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany have the better sides and better individuals. But, again, in a tournament like this [anything] can happen, as Greece showed in 2004. So we are a nice outsider."

Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek has injury concerns over two of his key players.

Striker Milan Baros, top scorer at the 2004 tournament, has been struggling with a muscle injury which has kept him out of training for most of this week, but Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky is likely to have recovered from a calf problem.

PA

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