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Wizard Hiddink works his magic again

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OVER THE MOON: Russia’s Roman Pavlyuchenko is joy personified as he celebrates his goal against the Netherlands on Saturday.
OVER THE MOON: Russia’s Roman Pavlyuchenko is joy personified as he celebrates his goal against the Netherlands on Saturday.

Russia sends the Oranje crashing out of the championships

BASEL: Russia had the right Dutch coach, and the better team.

The long-shot Russians, led by coach Guus Hiddink, scored two goals in extra-time on Saturday to advance to the semifinals of the European Championship with a 3-1 upset win over the Netherlands.

Hiddink had already guided his own country to the World Cup semifinals in 1998 and done the same with South Korea four years later, so Saturday’s win only further enhanced his standing as one of the world’s greatest coaches — a reputation built on getting far in major tournaments.

“The better Dutchman, our coach, won today,” said Andrei Arshavin, who set up the winning goal and scored in extra-time.

Biggest upset

On Saturday, Hiddink took an inexperienced squad into the match and let it dominate a bevy of rested world stars from the opening minute to the last of extra-time for the biggest upset yet in a tournament defined by them.

Dimitry Torbinski and Arshavin scored within five minutes of each other in the second half of extra-time. Roman Pavlyuchenko also scored for Russia, while Ruud van Nistelrooy scored for the Dutch in the 86th.

“I don’t want to use big words but it is almost a miracle,” Hiddink said after hobbling out of his dugout to dance with his players. “It is unbelievable how the boys performed. ... They outplayed tactically and physically the Dutch.”

Coming off a draining do-or-die game on Wednesday against Sweden, the Russians were stronger than the Dutch stars who had sat out the last group game. It showed in the second half of extra-time.

“We didn’t play football, and never got into the game,” Netherlands coach Marco van Basten said. “Normally we should have been in better shape than the Russians. We didn’t see that.”

Torbinski surged toward the far post in the 112th minute and hit a deep cross from Arshavin into the goal with the outside of his left foot. Arshavin scored the final goal in the 116th when his shot deflected off John Heitinga and went through the legs of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

Lethal

Van Nistelrooy had temporarily saved the Dutch late in the match, proving no one is more lethal from close range. From a free-kick by Wesley Sneijder , he wrestled himself away from Sergei Ignashevich and scored with a diving header at the far post.

In extra time, the inexperienced Russians hung in and scored their third straight upset victory. And after Germany had beaten the sparkling Portugal and Turkey edged surging Croatia, another stunner was in the making.

There were only a few thousand Russians within a sea of orange among the 38,374 fans, but they kept chanting “Rus-sia” long after the tens of thousands of Oranje fans had fallen silent. Pavlyuchenko scored his third goal of the tournament in the 56th when Sergei Semak found space in the centre to send a low cross into the heart of the penalty area, where the Spartak Moscow striker beat Mathijsen and scored into the near corner.

Van der Sar, who had kept the Dutch in the game up to that point and was by far the team’s best player, had no answer.

And again there was no answer when Pavlyuchenko broke free on the right in the 96th, cut inside and shot past Van der Sar. This time the ball crashed onto the bar.

With the loss, the 37-year-old Van der Sar also ended his international career for the Netherlands.

Global credentials

The win further added to Hiddink’s global credentials, and he is far from retiring.

Now, his latest team is two games away from winning the European Championship. Ahead of the game, Hiddink had said he hoped to be the Dutch traitor. On a perfect night, it was his only regret.

“I don’t like that word. The word traitor is a very bad word. Let’s consider it a little bit lighter,” he said.

Yet he prevailed when all the omens were against them. The Dutch had played the best football in the tournament, the stadium was full of orange-clad fans and Hiddink’s players had been drained in Wednesday’s game against Sweden.

On the other side, coach Marco van Basten coached his last game for the Netherlands. He moves to Ajax now that the tournament is over for his team.

The result: Russia 3 (Roman Pavlyuchenko 56th, Dimitry Torbinski 112th, Andrei Arshavin 116th) bt the Netherlands 1 (Ruud van Nistelrooy 86th). — AP

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