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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Stays in Euro 2008 Hunt

ReutersCroatia's Niko Kranjar, center, fighting for the ball with Alexander Anyukov in the qualifier in Zagreb on Wednesday.
ZAGREB, Croatia -- Russia stayed in the hunt for the Euro 2008 finals after holding Croatia to a 0-0 draw in its Group E qualifier Wednesday.

The Croatians, who have never lost a European Championship or World Cup qualifier at home, still top the group with 17 points from seven matches, ahead on goal difference of Israel who have played a game more. Russia is on 15 points from seven games, and England, in fourth on 14 from seven, is also very much in the hunt ahead of what Russia coach Guus Hiddink believes will be their crucial double-header in September and October.

"That's when this tight group will be decided and hopefully we will be able to perform well and get the results we need against England," he told Croatian television after seeing his team hang on against a more adventurous home side.

"We are happy with the outcome here because very few teams have been able to get a result against a top quality Croatia side in Zagreb and the performance will also give us a lot of confidence," he said.

Croatia had the Russians on the back foot for long spells but resolute defending from the visitors and a good save from their keeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev in the closing stages denied the hosts a sixth successive win in the group.

After a dour first half, Croatia twice came close in the space of a minute near the hour mark when Eduardo da Silva saw his shot into en empty net charged down and Josip Simunic's looping header came off the crossbar.

Croatia, unable to break through a packed Russian midfield and carve out clear-cut chances, pressed on with long balls in search of a winner and almost got it when Malafaeyev parried Petric's fierce shot and then scrambled the ball off the line.

The home team's coach Slaven Bilic was pleased with the performance but rued a missed chance to pull clear of Croatia's rivals at the top of the group.

"We did everything but score, the lads did a great job and played their hearts out but it wasn't enough against a defensive Russian side," he said.

"It's a pity we didn't put them away because we were the better side but the outcome still leaves us in a great position to qualify. It will be a very interesting run-in though."

Croatia's next match is at home to Estonia on Sept. 8, when Russia host Macedonia while England entertains Israel.