The Zenit St Petersburg and Russia midfielder tells FourFourTwo he's looking forward to playing at Euro 2012 – and a home World Cup in 2018...
Could Russia reach the Euros semi-final, as they did four years ago?
With proper preparation and a bit of luck – yes.
Let's imagine a scenario: Russia win the group but are heavily beaten in the quarter-final (where they’re likely to meet Germany, Holland or Portugal). How would you evaluate that performance?
Getting to the quarter-final would be very good achievement anyway.
What could stop Russia progressing from such a group?
All our opponents are approximately at the same level. It's worse than a group when you have one obvious favourite, when one team is noticeably worse than others and the two others are pretty equal. That way almost everything is decided in one game; now every match is decisive.
How would you compare Dick Advocaat and Guus Hiddink?
They are different. Guus is more friendly, sociable, always smiles, plays to the audience. Dick is more focused on his work; everything has less importance for him. But deep inside he's a kind man.
What did Advocaat say to the team before the decisive qualifying game in Slovakia?
I heard from him emotional tension for the first time ever. Dick mentioned that our country is 150 million people, that not many of them have an opportunity to have a good living and that victories of the national football team are one of the happiest things in their lives. Also he said that Russia is a great country with huge potential and it always must play in the finals tournaments of the World Cup and the Euros.
How would you rate for the moment the three strikers – Pavluchenko, Kerzhakov and Pogrebnyak – who are fighting for one place in Advocaat’s 4-3-3?
Goals speak for strikers, so, in my opinion, Kerzh now is beyond comparison.
Were you surprised by Pogrebnyak's remarkable start at Fulham?
Why? The man dreamed all his life to play in England and has finally got there. It's his type of football.
The right-back Alexander Anyukov told me that he dreamed of playing abroad, but now he wants to finish his career with Zenit. What about you?
I would have tried, with great pleasure. England is my priority, Spain and Italy are behind.
Do you agree with Pavlyuchenko that every footballer dreams of playing in England?
At the moment, undoubtedly. But everything is changing. 15 years ago everybody dreamed to play in Italy, now in England.
Pavlyuchenko, Arshavin and Bilyaletdinov came back to Russia last winter. Is it good or bad for the national team?
The most important is that here they are playing regularly.
Russia started 2012 with a 2-0 away win in Denmark. How significant is that?
Maybe all this year will be the same for us… actually, one game doesn't say anything.
Arshavin made an amazing run to Advocaat after scoring in Denmark, and the manager kissed him on the head. Were you surprised?
[Smiling] A bit. It looked... unusual. Why doesn't Dick kiss everyone who scores? I suppose there was not a proper level of the game to kiss a player. But maybe a goal from Andrei has been expected so long [Arshavin hadn't scored for Russia since October 2009] that the manager was deeply touched. Speaking of Arshavin, he possibly thought: the manager has been giving me chance after chance, even when I don't deserve it. I think that's why he ran.
Do you have any slim hope to play at the home World Cup in 2018 at the age of 36?
Not just a slim one. I have a plan to play at the World Cup in 2018 and finish my career then.
Interview by Igor Rabiner. From the June 2012 issue of FourFourTwo.