Russians behind Euro hike

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI’S worst instincts were all but confirmed in Zilina last night — the Russians are to blame for his mountain hike in Andorra.

Trapattoni used the word malicious last month when he pointed the finger in Moscow’s direction after UEFA ordered Andorra to play Ireland on home soil.

Irish fans have still travelled in their thousands to the preferred match venue in Barcelona but Trapattoni’s players must instead play on a pitch described as a “cabbage patch” by one Slovakian player yesterday.

The Italian is none too pleased that Andorra’s attempts to cash in on Ireland’s huge travelling support were turned down by UEFA, he believes at the Russian’s request.

His suspicions were only strengthened in the MKS Stadium here in Zilina last night when Advocaat rolled out the old fair play mantra as he all but pointed Trapattoni in the direction of an Italian-English dictionary if he’s looking for sympathy.

Advocaat can simply see no reason why Ireland shouldn’t follow the lead set by his team and Slovakia and endure the less than ideal surroundings of the Estadi Communal in Andorra.

“The rules have to be the same for all teams,” said Advocaat, when asked if Russian influence had persuaded UEFA to move the Ireland game back to Andorra.

“We tried to play Andorra in Barcelona as well and UEFA refused us permission. We wanted to play in Barcelona.

“It would be a very big advantage for Ireland to play there tonight. We all have to accept the way the games are laid out and the rules. We play tonight away to Slovakia and then at home to Andorra. Ireland have Andorra away then Armenia at home which may be an advantage but we accept that.”

Advocaat’s uncompromising approach is typical of the mentality that serves as DNA for all Dutch coaches.

It is also fuelled by the knowledge that Russia can render the result in Andorra all but irrelevant if they win in Zilina tonight and avenge their Moscow defeat to Slovakia earlier in the Group B campaign.

“If my players don’t understand what is at stake tonight and realise what we have to do here in Zilina, then they have a problem,” maintained Advocaat.

“We still have qualification in our own hands but Slovakia have already shown us in their win in Moscow that we cannot relax against them.

“It is important for us to get a good result tonight. We still need points to qualify, even if Slovakia have to win the game.

“In this group, everything is still open. But we still have the momentum as group leaders. The Russian players know the next two games are like cup finals for us, this is our chance for revenge against a team who have to win.

“All my squad are playing at the highest level in the European club competitions as well as for the national team.

“They know what we have to do.”

Ditto the Slovakians, although for them it is victory or nothing as they look to repeat their Moscow win over the Russians earlier in the campaign. Captain Marek Hamsik believes lighting can strike twice.

“We will take heart from what we did in Moscow. We had to defend hard that night and take our chance when it came and it will be the same in Zilina.

“Russia know we can beat them,” he said last night.

His coach Vladimir Weiss also spoke confidently yesterday ahead of the game.

Known as something of a volatile character, Weiss was quick to turn the Zilina spotlight on the Russians as he delivered his pre-match thoughts.

“The pressure tonight will be all on Russia, they are the ones expected to qualify from this group,” insisted Weiss, “because of that, we are in a better position psychologically going into this game than the Russian team.

“Everybody in Russia expects their team to qualify and that puts all the pressure on their players. If we play as we did when we won in Russia and defend well, then we can win this one. I know we will score in this game. I also know from watching them that Russia’s last four goals have come from deflections and they couldn’t score against Ireland in Moscow.

“We can win it.”

If they do win — and upset Advocaat’s plans — Slovakia’s players and their manager will make a couple of Italians and a lot of Irish very happy tonight.

“People are all the same. The Slovakian people want us to win for Slovakia and the Irish people want us to win for them. We will try,” promised Weiss.

Giovanni Trapattoni may hold him to that when he goes mountain climbing for real in Andorra this evening.

Slovakia (probable): Mucha; Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan; Kucka, Karhan, Stoch, Hamsik; Jendrisek, Holosko.

Russia (probable): Malafeev; Anyukov, V. Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov; Denisov, Ziryanov, Semshov; Dzagoev, Arshavin, Pavyluchenko.

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