Russia is about to find out their rivals in the Group stages of the Euro 2012 championships. The draw in Kiev could go a long way to determining the national team’s chances of repeating their Euro 2008 semifinal run.
Friday’s draw will be the first major event for host nations Poland and Ukraine ahead of them staging the biggest ever sporting tournament their countries have ever seen.
Sixteen national sides will be in the hat and, due to Russia’s impressive qualification campaign, in which they managed to top their group, they will be amongst the second-seeded teams.
This is actually very important, as they will avoid having to play the likes of Germany, Italy and England, all of whom have serious aspirations of winning the tournament.
And a fantastic scenario for Dick Advocaat’s men would see his side drawn with Poland, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland – a group in which they would start as strong favorites to top.
However, a different outlook would be if Russia were to be drawn with Spain, Croatia, Portugal and France, which would present a much tougher task to try and qualify for the knockout stages.
Nevertheless, Russia will go into Friday’s draw full of confidence, and one former head coach, Guus Hiddink, says he has been impressed with how his former team have gelled under Advocaat.
“I’m a fan of many people in Russian football, because I had a wonderful time in Russia,” the former Russian coach said. “That’s why I’m happy with the qualification they’ve made. And I’ll be a big supporter of the Russian team and Dick Advocaat.”
Hiddink did not manage to get his Turkey side to the finals, but did give Russia a massive helping hand. By drawing against Croatia in his final game in charge of the Turks, Hiddink ensured that Russia and not Croatia would go into the second pot of seeded teams – making for a potentially much easier draw.
However the 65-year old says that winning the European Championships might actually be harder than winning the World Cup.
“Of course, you’re depending a bit on the draw. But I think when you see the level of teams in Europe in terms of quality they are better that those at the World Cup,” Hiddink stressed.
Excitement is building in Kiev and the finals are getting ever closer, with the opening game kick-off in just over six months.