HOLLAND coach Marco van Basten is full of praise for the job fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink has done with Russia, but believes his team should have enough to progress from tonight’s Euro 2008 quarter-final between the nations.
Van Basten, whose stunning volley clinched European glory for the Oranje against the Soviet Union 20 years ago, is aiming to become the first man to win the tournament as player and coach.
But standing in his way next is wily countryman Hiddink, who guided the Dutch to the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup and has already exceeded expectations with Russia.
The Russians secured their place for Austria and Switzerland by coming second in their pool behind Croatia and at the expense of England.
“I am really happy for Guus,” said Van Basten of his experienced compatriot.
“After a difficult start to the tournament, Russia have started to play very well. They are an attack-minded team, with technically skilled players. (But) I think this group can handle that.”
The 61-year-old Hiddink is aiming to lead his third different nation into the last four of a major competition.
But he knows his side will have their work cut out against a Dutch team which has been mightily impressive in winning all three pool games – 3-0 against world champions Italy, 4-1 over France and 2-0 against Romania.
“It’s hard to say whether we can beat Holland,” said Hiddink, who led co-hosts South Korea to the last four of the 2002 World Cup.
“They played against Romania with their reserve team and showed good football. Their football is very good.”
Holland appear to have the advantage of being the fresher side for Saturday’s clash, with Van Basten making nine changes for their final Group C game against Romania in Bern on Tuesday.
Only Khalid Boulahrouz and Orlando Engelaar were retained from the side which thumped France, meaning the majority of his first-choice side have had over a week without a match.
Russia, on the other hand, only secured their quarter-final berth against the Swedes on Wednesday, so will have had less than three full days to recuperate.
Hiddink knows Russia cannot compete with Holland in terms of squad depth and acknowledges the Dutch will be more rested, but is nevertheless relishing the challenge.
“They have had an extra day to relax, and their senior players were rested against Romania,” he said.
“It will be hard but we look forward to facing them.”
Hiddink is expected to start with the XI which beat Sweden, when Zenit St Petersburg playmaker Andrei Arshavin – who missed the first two matches through suspension – played a starring role.
The winners of the quarter-final at Basle’s St Jakob-Park will face either Italy or Spain in a last-four clash in Vienna next Thursday.
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