Hiddink Decides to Let Ignashevich Come Back

Russia coach Guus Hiddink says he is looking forward to welcoming back Sergei Ignashevich after dropping the central defender from the national team last week.

Hiddink sent Ignashevich home last Monday when the CSKA Moscow captain turned up late for training ahead of a home exhibition match against Poland, but recalled him a week later for next month's Euro 2008 qualifiers against Macedonia and England.

"It was a small issue to begin with, and now it's all in the past," Hiddink said by phone from the Netherlands on Tuesday.

"We had a quick talk to clear the air then [last Monday], and I'm sure we'll speak again when I see him in the national team next week."

The Dutchman said he never considered punishing the player further. "I think he understands what he has done wrong, so that's enough for me to reconcile our differences."

Ignashevich had apologized to the coaching staff. "I made a mistake and I learned my lesson," he told local media last week.

Hiddink was quick to point out Ignashevich's value to Russia, comparing him with Chelsea skipper John Terry.

"He is a very important player for us, just as Terry is for England. He is the backbone of our defense," the coach said.

Russia's back line looked exposed without its top defender as the Poles scored twice in the second half to force a 2-2 draw last Wednesday.

Hiddink said he regarded the two games against England as key to Russia's chances of qualifying from a tight Group E.

Russia, in third place with 15 points from seven games, a point ahead of England and two behind group leader Croatia, travel to England for the Sept. 12 match at Wembley before the return match in Moscow on Oct. 17.

"Obviously, these two matches are very important for both teams but first we must face Macedonia," he said, referring to Russia's next match on Sept. 8.

"The Macedonia game may not carry the same prestige as England but, as far as the points go, it has the same value.

"We can't underestimate Macedonia. They are a very tough team even away from home. Just look at their past results."

Macedonia held England to a 0-0 draw in Manchester in October and lost to Croatia 2-1 in Zagreb in March after conceding a late goal.

"If we underestimate them we might regret it," Hiddink said.