The Russia camp have blasted England’s ’excuse making’ ahead of tomorrow’s crucial Euro 2008 qualifier on an artificial pitch in Moscow.
The decision to play such a vital match on a surface other than grass - rubber-stamped by UEFA – has drawn widespread criticism.
Although the England players and coaching staff have been careful not to get involved in any mud-slinging, fears have been raised over both the unfair advantage it might give Guus Hiddink’s team and the potential for it causing injury.
Russian officials were yesterday forced to admit that striker Ivan Saenko had been ruled out through injury after training on the Luzhniki pitch.
But fellow frontman Alexander Kerzhakov, who is set to face Steve McClaren’s men on Wednesday evening, believes critics are wrong to focus on the surface.
“The controversy over the surface is just an excuse invented by the English,” he said in the Daily Mail.
“In the modern age, players need to be prepared to play on any kind of surface. The English should stop protesting and just be prepared to come here and play football.”
Russian Football Union president Vitaly Mutko showed equal contempt for criticism of the surface used by CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
“Why do they make such a fuss about it in England?” he questioned.
“It’s a good pitch. Bayern, Inter and Celtic played good football on it.
“The English should just play on it and stop whimpering.”