Russia Surges Into Semi Full of Confidence

APDmitry Torbinsky slipping past Netherlands' Giovanni Van Bronkhurst to score Russia's second goal Saturday, with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar stranded.
BASEL, Switzerland -- Russia has steamrollered its way past Netherlands into the Euro 2008 semifinals with an exciting brand of football and an ever-growing self-belief.

Dutch coach Guus Hiddink plotted the destruction of his homeland's much fancied team Saturday, beating it at its own game of attack-minded play to run out 3-1 winner after extra time.

Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring his third goal of the tournament early in the second half and then Dmitry Torbinsky and Andrei Arshavin scored in the second period of extra time to give Russia a richly deserved victory.

Ruud van Nistelrooy had pulled one back for the Netherlands in the 86th minute to take the game to extra time.

After early teething problems in its first Group D match against Spain in which its defensive immaturity was exposed in a 4-1 rout, Russia has rapidly learned how to sniff out and deal with danger at the back.

It tightened up defensively in the 1-0 win over Greece, added attacking sparkle to the mix to beat Sweden 2-0 before stepping up its performance another couple of notches to tactically outwit the Dutch.

"We are not scared of anyone," midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov told reporters, referring to Russia's semifinal on Thursday. It faces either a rematch with Spain or world champion Italy, whose quarterfinal on Sunday night had not finished by press time.

Russia's increased confidence comes from its improved results and is also down to Hiddink's magic quality of being able to get the most out of often ordinary players, enabling him to take yet another unfancied team to the later stages of a finals.

While he has been helped by the extraordinary individual talent of playmaker Arshavin and a resurgent Pavlyuchenko, none of Hiddink's team play at top clubs. Yet they have got the better of some of Europe's best players.

"He is our great coach," said Bilyaletdinov. "He knows how we must play ... he knows about us technically, he knows about us physically, he knows what we must do. He is a top coach."

Hiddink had previously led Netherlands to the last four of the 1998 World Cup, South Korea to an unlikely 2002 World Cup semifinal and Australia to the knockout stages in 2006, where it was unlucky to lose to winner Italy.

Midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov said the fact Russia had upped its game so much during its last two matches gave it the momentum to go even further.

"We have beaten two very strong teams, I think this improves our chances," he said. "I want to play Spain [in the semifinal]," he added. "We made lots of mistakes against Spain [in the group match] and now we have fixed them very quickly."