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Group A: Russia Qualified as winner of play-off ties against Wales
Russia seek redemption in Portugal after drugs disgrace

Russia's preparations for the European Championship have been dealt a major blow after Yegor Titov failed a drugs test in a playoff match against Wales.

The 27-year-old Spartak Moscow captain was given a 12-month ban by UEFA in January after testing positive for the banned stimulant bromantan following the first leg in Moscow on November 15, when he was an unused substitute.

He played in the second leg in Cardiff four days later.

Although Wales's appeal to overturn Russia's 1-0 aggregate victory and remove them from the finals was rejected by UEFA, the doping controversy has shocked the country.

Not only did it deprive Russia of one of their top players in Portugal, it also had a negative effect on the team's morale.

"It's like we have already scored an own goal long before our opening match at the Euro 2004 finals," said one of the team's insiders who wanted his identity not to be revealed.

But Russia coach Georgy Yartsev, who took over the struggling team in late August and steered them safely to the finals, disagreed. "We still have plenty of time to get ready," he said after losing Titov.

Chelsea midfielder Alexei Smertin, on loan at English premier league club Portsmouth, echoed the coach's view.

"No doubt Titov will be missed, but we have enough good players in midfield in our team who could do the job and direct our attack just as well," he said.

After suffering a dismal 2002 World Cup and missing the 1998 World Cup and the Euro 2000 finals altogether, Russia can ill afford another embarrassing campaign at a major tournament.

Qualifying for Portugal was seen as paramount, so Vadim Yevseyev's solitary goal in their 1-0 playoff victory over Wales was virtually priceless as far as the sport in Russia is concerned.

The European Championship is special for Russian fans.

The Soviet Union won the inaugural championship in 1960 and reached the final on three other occasions, the last time in 1988 when the team, coached by the late Valery Lobanovsky, lost 2-0 to the Netherlands in the final in Munich.

The Russians began their qualifying campaign well under Valery Gazzayev, who replaced the enigmatic Oleg Romantsev after the fiasco in South Korea and Japan.

Things quickly turned sour.

Russia looked lethargic and short of ideas by the end of 2002 and did not improve over their winter, slumping to lacklustre defeats away to outsiders Albania and Georgia.

They regained some pride by fighting back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw against group leaders Switzerland.

The draw in Basel, however, did little to improve Russia's chances of qualifying as they languished in third place, five points behind Switzerland and three behind Ireland, with three games remaining.

With no significant improvement in sight and players showing little desire and passion for the game, the embattled Gazzayev quit after a humiliating 2-1 home friendly defeat by Israel.

Gazzayev, who also coached CSKA Moscow, had been heavily criticised for picking his own players instead of proven veterans and for poor team tactics.

Yartsev quickly turned round Russia's fortunes, steering his side to two wins and a draw in their final three qualifiers to secure a playoff place against Wales.

The dramatic turn-around rekindled the hopes of millions of Russian soccer fans that this year their team will no longer be among the also-rans in Europe's showcase event. That remains to be seen.
- Reuters

  Star Player


  The Coach


  The Squad


Players DOB Club Cap Goal
Georgi Yartsev C 11.04.1948
1. Sergei Ovchinnikov G 10.11.1970 Lokomotiv
12. Viatcheslav Malafeev G 04.03.1979 Zenit
23. Igor Akinfeev G 08.04.1986 CSKA
16. Vadim Yevseyev D Lokomotiv
17. Dmitri Sennikov D 24.06.1976 Lokomotiv
13. Roman Sharonov D Rubin Kazan
21. Alexei Bugayev D Torpedo
14. Alexander Anyukov D Krylya
10. Aleksandr Mostovoi M 22.08.1968 Celta Vigo
4. Aleksei Smertin M 01.05.1975 Portsmouth
15. Dmitri Alenichev M 20.10.1972 Porto
20. Dmitri Loskov M 12.02.1974 Lokomotiv
7. Marat Izmailov M 21.09.1982 Lokomotiv
8. Rolan Gusev M 17.09.1977 CSKA
22. Evgeni Aldonin M 22.01.1980 CSKA
5. Andrei Kariaka M 01.04.1978 Krylya
2. Vladislav Radimov M 26.11.1975 Zenit
19. Vladimir Bystrov M Zenit
6. Igor Semshov M 06.04.1978 Torpedo
3. Dmitri Sytchev F 26.10.1983 Lokomotiv
9. Dmitri Bulykin F 20.11.1979 Dynamo
11. Aleksandr Kerzhakov F 27.11.1982 Zenit
18. Dmitry Kirichenko F CSKA





Federation Rossiiski Futbolnyi Soyuz (1912)
Luzhnetskaya Nabarezhnaya, 8 - 119871 Mosca 
Viatcheslav Koloskov
Best Performance in Finals Champions in 1960
Recent record in Finals
1980 DNQ
1984 DNQ
1988 Round-1
1992 DNQ
1996 Quarter-Final
2000 DNQ 


  Road to Portugal


v Ireland
v Albania
v Albania
v Georgia
v Switzerland
v Ireland
v Switzerland
v Georgia
v Wales (Play-off)
v Wales (Play-off)


  Final Tournament

A v Spain

   2045 CET 12 June 2004

A v Portugal

   2045 CET 16 June 2004

A v Greece

   2045 CET 20 June 2004


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