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Monday, June 23, 2008

IF THIS IS BETRAYAL, LET'S HAVE MORE OF IT: Russia's Dutch coach Guus Hiddink (in white shirt) runs for joy after his team's stunning 3-1 quarterfinal win over the Netherlands in the Euro 2008 at St. Jakob-Park in Basel on Saturday.Photo: AFP
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Dutchman Guus Hiddink's magic touch on the international stage continued as his Russia side broke Holland's hearts with a shock 3-1 win to knock the Dutch out of Euro 2008.

The 61-year-old Hiddink had said he would be happy to be a Dutch traitor if his Russian team beat his countrymen and two goals in extra time settled the matter.

"I am extremely proud of the achievement of the team," said Hiddink, whose Russian team beat the Dutch after just two days of preparation against last week's 2-0 Group D win over Sweden.

"Our preparation after the Swedish game meant we had just two days to recover.

"We could hardly work tactically, we had just ten minutes at the stadium yesterday to prepare.

"To see what the team did, that is just an unbelievable performance, I have not experienced that in my career before."

Having got his wish to ditch the Dutch, Hiddink brought the curtain down on Marco van Basten's swansong as Holland coach after four years in charge.

Yet it was Hiddink who first approached ex-Ajax ace van Basten about becoming a coach.

Having won the European Cup in 1988 with PSV Eindhoven, former Netherlands coach Hiddink was the first coach to see van Basten as a potential manager.

"When I was Dutch team manager, around 1995, it was felt in the federation it was a pity if top players disappeared from the game," said Hiddink.

"We felt we could take advantage of some world-class players like Marco.

"I approached him at the end of his career, but he said he wasn't sure it was for him and didn't feel he'd make a good coach.

"But that changed later on and he has done a very good job in a very short period of time."

Van Basten, 43, who had been bidding to become the first player to taste Euro success as a player and coach, raised a few eyebrows when he replaced Dick Advocaat as Netherlands coach after Euro 2004 but their opening phase form was highly impressive - even if it didn't last.

Hiddink, meanwhile, can now add a semifinal Euro 2008 berth to his already impressive record.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, this is the first time Russia have negotiated the group stage of a major tournament - at the fifth attempt.

The Russian press had dubbed Hiddink "a coaching wizard" long before his side reached Euro 2008 with the Dutchman having steered the Netherlands and South Korea to World Cup semifinals in 1998 and 2002 respectively.

"What else can you call him, given that he has taken so many teams to World Cups and European Championships," said Russian winger Yuri Zhirkov.

For Russia's playmaker Andrei Arshavin - who scored the Russians' third goal - there was no comparison between the two coaches.

"The side who won had the best Dutch coach," added Arshavin - and few would disagree.

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