Brilliant Hiddink targets the Netherlands | Print |
Written by Community Leader   
Saturday, 21 June 2008 10:29
Brilliant Hiddink Tournament football and Guus Hiddink are a match made in heaven.

Five times the Dutch master manager has taken teams... to major tournaments, and five times he has successfully steered them out of the group stages.

To the Netherlands in Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup, South Korea in the 2002 World Cup and Australia in the 2006 World Cup, now add Russia at Euro 2008 to the roll of honour.

It is a remarkable record and one made all the more satisfying for the 61-year-old from Varsseveld because of the way his teams have always gone about their business.

For Guus Hiddink is a football purist, as anyone who watched his brilliant young Russian side dismantle Sweden in Innsbruck on Wednesday would testify.

And now he has been rewarded with a quarter-final meeting with his fellow countrymen and the chance to cause one of the biggest shocks of the European Championship.

After a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of England and a last-eight defeat on penalties to France when he was in charge of the Netherlands in 1996, Hiddink has gone about his work like a man with unfinished business with the European Championships.

As with underdogs South Korea in 2002 and Australia in 2006 at the World Cup, he was careful before the tournament started not to put too much pressure on his impressionable young charges.

Hiddink, much like Spain coach Luis Aragones, claimed Russia - who did not qualify for the last World Cup - would not reach their peak as a team until at least the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

A clever way to take the pressure off your players and one that, especially after the 4-1 drubbing they were handed by Spain in their opening game, has enabled Russia to play with a refreshing freedom that took Greece and especially the Swedes by surprise.

It will be an intriguing sub-plot to see who comes out on top between Arshavin and Sneijder
Hiddink plays his games with the media too, like cheekily suggesting he might not necessarily recall playmaker Andrei Arshavin for the Sweden game after he was suspended for the first two matches.

Arshavin's sublime performance that immediately catapulted him into superstardom made Hiddink's suggestion appear all the more like gamesmanship, but if it was designed to help ease his most outstanding player into the tournament, it worked a treat.

As for Arshavin, he gave a frightening glimpse of his potential by ripping the ageing Swedish defence to shreds and his majestic display will have given every Dutch defender nightmares.

His link-up play with Roman Pavlyuchenko was a constant menace and it will be an intriguing sub-plot to see who comes out on top between Arshavin, surely now top of every major club's wanted list, and Real Madrid midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who brilliantly set the tempo in the Netherlands' victories over Italy and France.

Despite their undisputed quality, Russia are still second favourites to win in Basel, especially as worries over their defence after their hammering by the Spanish remain.

But few observers would bet against the maverick Hiddink inspiring his troops to yet another triumph. It's just what he does, and he's better at it than pretty much any other coach in tournament history.

It's also why he is continually linked with all the top jobs in Europe when they become available and why plenty of England fans were more than frustrated that the Football Association chose not to pursue him more vigorously in 2006 instead of settling on the disastrous Steve McClaren.

Maybe Hiddink prefers it this way. Maybe his unique coaching talents are better suited to a rapidly-improving, impressionable side like the Russians, rather than the cash-heavy, pressure-laden world of English football.

Once again, a major tournament has benefited from his enormous expertise and, above all, quintessentially Dutch desire to see the game played in the right way.

When the Netherlands played USSR in the Euro 1988 final, Hiddink was a mere spectator as his PSV Eindhoven charges Hans van Breukelen, Ronald Koeman, Berry van Aerle and Gerald Vanenburg helped the Dutch lift the Henri Delauney trophy.

This time around, he is destined to have a far greater say on proceedings.

Source: BBC

Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2008 09:25