Russia qualified for Euro-2008, to be held jointly in Austria and Switzerland, on November 21 after Croatia beat England 3-2 and Russia earned a 1-0 victory in Andorra. Before the last round of qualifying games, Russia trailed England by two points with the first two teams going through to the final stages of the tournament. Croatia, in first place, had already qualified.
Group D is a virtual repeat of Euro 2004 for Guus Hiddink's Russia.
Four years ago, Russia, managed then by Georgi Yartsev, were drawn in Group A with Greece, Spain and Portugal. After losing their first two games, to Spain 1-0 and Portugal 2-0, the side then beat eventual champions Greece 2-1. The victory was not enough to prevent Russia failing to get out of the group stage, however.
Indeed, no Russian side has managed to negotiate the group stage at a major competition since the collapse of the U.S.S.R, and Guus Hiddink, Russia's Dutch trainer, will be hoping that his young team will be able to achieve what others have failed to do.
Russia will play all their games in Innsbruck, in Austria. They open with a match against Spain on June 10, then face Greece on the 14th, before winding up the group with a game against Sweden on the 18th.
Guus Hiddink, who recently reiterated his desire to stay in Russia to lead the team to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, said that he was happy with the draw, adding that his side was a "young team" that would "gain experience" at the tournament.
Former Russian international Igor Shalimov was more optimistic however, telling Sport-Express that, "Under Hiddink, Russia could get out its group for the first time."
Russia and Hiddink will be glad to have avoided Group C, the so-called Group of Death, containing the 2006 World Cup winners Italy, finalists France, Euro 1988 champions the Netherlands and dark horses Romania.