herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Russians look for killer blow

NOTHING LESS than a Dublin win will do - that's the key demand from the under-pressure Russian squad as they landed in Dublin late last night to prepare for tomorrow's vital Euro 2012 qualifier.

And Russia's key man Zenit St Petersburg star Alexakder Kerzhakov - who helped break Irish hearts in the past as he scored for Russia in a 4-2 win over Ireland in 2002 - believes that Russia can forget about competing in the Euro finals in Poland and Ukraine if they fail to win.

Ireland have lost just once in seven competitive games at home under Giovanni Trapattoni but Dick Advocaat's side now need to win at Lansdowne Road to keep alive their qualification hopes following last month's disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Slovakia.

"I know it's going to be a difficult game for us here, harder than the game we had in Dublin in 2003 when we drew 1-1. But only a win will help us take a step towards Kiev and Warsaw in 2012," said Kerzhakov, a key member of the Russian squad with 15 goals in 50 appearances for the side.

"We know how important this game is, we know what we need. Ireland are strong and physical, aggressive in their play

"I remember playing in Dublin in 2003, the crowd were very vocal and we will have to be wary of that tomorrow night. I know we'll have some of our own supporters there but the Irish team will have 40,000 people behind them and it's up to us to keep them quiet and try to frustrate them.

"I like the challenge of playing in a match where the whole stadium is against you.

"I have happy memories of playing against Ireland, we beat them 4-2 in Moscow in the qualifiers for Euro 2004, and I scored one of the goals. In the game in Dublin we drew 1-1 and that gave us a good chance to go on and qualify for Euro 2004," added Kerzhakov.

The Russians arrived in Dublin yesterday and will train in the match stadium tonight as coach Advocaat makes his final plans for the game, plans which were partly disrupted by an injury earlier in the week to Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.

The Russian players admit to knowing little about most of the Irish players individually but they are all clued in to the form of Spartak Moscow's in-form winger Aiden McGeady -- and there was bad news for McGeady from his own club today as Spartak coach Valeri Karpin says he expects McGeady to report back for duty next week having suffered a defeat.

"It won't be easy but I believe that Russia will win," says Karpin, who played for Russia in their 2-0 win over Ireland in Dublin in 1996. "McGeady has done well for us since he came to Moscow but I do hope that Russia can win the game."

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