VIENNA, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - Three second-half goals by Spain broke the hearts of a young Russian side in the semifinals of Euro 2008 in Vienna on Thursday night.
Russia were outclassed in their opening game at the tournament by the Spaniards on June 12, losing 4-1, but won their next three matches to reach the last four. Those victories, against Greece, Sweden and, most notably, the Netherlands, had the soccer world hailing such previously ‘unknown' names as Andrei Arshavin, Yuri Zhirkov and Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Russia's Dutch trainer, Guus Hiddink, expressed delight and surprise at his team's performances, and the largest country on Earth partied all night after the 3-1 win over the Dutch on Saturday.
However, Russia came unstuck against a talented and experienced Spanish team. The first half ended 0-0, with the Spaniards slightly on top. However, five minutes after the restart, Xavi put the ball past Igor Akinfeev in the Russia goal following a fine ball from Andres Iniesta.
Russia tried to fight back, but with Arshavin given no space to move by Spain's defense, there was no way forward.
Goals by Daniel Guiza and David Silva in the 73rd and 82nd minutes sealed the game and as the rain poured down in the Austrian capital Russia were left to reflect on what could have been.
Despite the defeat, Guus Hiddink and his side have done much to boost the image of the national side, for so long a source of shame and anguish in Russia. The team now look to the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, which begin this autumn.
As the commentator on the national ‘Rossiya' TV channel said after the game, "Thanks to Guus, thanks to our guys! And congratulations Spain!"
Spain will face Germany in the final on Sunday in Vienna.