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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wales Wails as Russia Clinches Euro 2004 Berth

APRussia's Vadim Yevseyev celebrating after Wednesday's game against Wales. Yevseyev's goal gave Russia a 1-0 win and a berth in the 2004 European Championships.
CARDIFF, Wales -- Russia will go to the ball.

A 1-0 win and a commanding performance by the Russian national team against Wales on Wednesday night means that the Russians will take part in the European Championships in Portugal next summer.

Coach Georgy Yartsev, the man who took over Russia at one of its lowest ebbs just a few months ago, has now turned its fortunes around in a mere five games. He was deservedly lifted high at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff by his players and thrown into the air in celebration of their win.

"When they threw me in the air after the game, I realized that we had done something very big," Yartsev said at a news conference after the game. "The people I trusted from the beginning have shown I was right. I can say now that this team is capable of a lot."

With Latvia completing a remarkable victory over Turkey with a 2-2 draw in Istanbul, it means that two teams from the former Soviet Union will be playing a major final for the first time.

The game, after the optimism of the 0-0 draw in Moscow, broke Welsh hearts. Before the game, one Welsh newspaper had the headline of "Forty-Five Years of Hurt," referring to the last time Wales made a major finals in 1958. "The Pain Goes On" was the headline Thursday morning.

Yartsev made four changes from his team in Moscow, two forced because of suspension: Goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev made his debut replacing Sergei Ovchinnikov, and Yegor Titov was in place of Alexander Mostovoi. Yartsev made two more tactical changes: Rolan Gusev and Marat Izmailov replaced Dmitry Loskov and Dmitry Sychyov.

Vadim Yevseyev, the villain, at least in Wales, became the hero.

His clash with Ryan Giggs last Saturday meant he was booed from the moment his name was read out at the stadium and every time he touched the ball.

But the player, who returned to the team after visiting his daughter in Germany who had undergone a heart operation, did not succumb to the pressure.

The game began with a roar, with Robbie Savage trying to put his mark, physically at least, on Yevseyev, but soon subsided into game of cat-and-mouse.

John Hartson hit a shot wide in the first chance of the match, and then, although it seemed as if the Russians had yet to get going, Gusev swung in a free kick from the right in the 22nd minute. Yevseyev leaped high to head the ball home.

The Welsh crowd tensed as if they immediately knew it was not their night, and Russia strung together a series of chances. Over the course of 10 minutes, Viktor Onopko headed over, Gusev's bending shot just missed the post and Dmitry Bulykin muffed a shot after a nice one-two with Yevseyev.

The defining moment, though, was a few minutes before halftime, when Giggs, who was neutralized for most of the match, could have changed the whole course of the game. Put through in the penalty box, his shot hit the upright. It was as if any hope of victory had been punctured.

The Welsh did have a few more chances in the second half. Gary Speed headed wide from a clear header in the box, and a glancing shot from Giggs came close, but Russia always had the game in control with Onopko and Dmitry Alenichev particularly impressive.

Before the game, Giggs had spoken of how Lokomotiv Stadium had been one of the noisiest and most intimidating stadiums he had ever played in. The Welsh fans, urged on by the stadium announcer to sing and make some noise, drowned out the Russian national anthem and roared theirs. But they lost heart and volume during the game, so that the 1,000 Russian fans among the crowd of 74,000 could be clearly heard.

Unlike the Russian fan violence in Moscow, and despite the antagonism over the previous week between the two teams and shouts from Welsh fans such as, "Get back in your Ladas," there was nothing but praise from Russian fans for their Welsh hosts.

"They've all been nice," said Alexei Sokolov, a Spartak fan from Moscow. "We went in the pub with no problem."

Even when fans noticed he was wearing an England top under his Russian scarf, they just told him it might be safer to wear a Russian one.