Advocaat slams critics after Russia qualify

Russia coach Dick Advocaat has hit out at his critics after guiding his team to the Euro 2012 finals and receiving a glowing endorsement from his boss.

"I hope that, from now on, our team will not be criticised as much as it was in the past," the Dutchman told reporters after Russia sealed a place in the 16-team tournament by crushing rank outsiders Andorra 6-0 in their final qualifier on Tuesday in Moscow to finish top of Group B.

Since replacing charismatic compatriot Guus Hiddink as Russia boss in 2010, Advocaat has repeatedly clashed with the media and soccer experts over selection policy.

However, Advocaat received full backing from Russian FA chief Sergei Fursenko on Wednesday.

"I've known him for a long time since his days at Zenit [St Petersburg]," former Zenit president Fursenko told reporters.

"We've never had any disagreements because he's very professional, even pragmatic coach and I've never lost faith in him. I can say he's become a bit Russian since he's been here."

Advocaat has also been criticised for failing to blood new players into the ageing team and reverting to overly defensive tactics.

Former Soviet international Yevgeny Lovchev, now a newspaper columnist and one of Advocaat's fiercest critics, said Tuesday's flattering scoreline should not deceive the players or their fans over the real problems facing the team.

"Yes we've won but the team still failed to convince," Lovchev wrote in Wednesday's Sovietsky Sport.

"The team's play is still far from ideal."

PUBLIC IMAGE

Unlike his predecessor, Advocaat has repeatedly stated that he cared little about his public image, his only concern being to qualify for next year's finals.

"I've never paid any attention to what the press say or write about me," the 64-year-old Dutchman, dubbed the 'Little General' because of his small stature and authoritative manner, told reporters.

"I've been in this job long enough not to worry about it. I'm not here to please you or anybody else. The team's results are the only thing that really matters to me."

Since the start of the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Advocaat made clear his aim was to finish top of the group and avoid going into the play-offs following Russia's 2010 World Cup play-off defeat by Slovenia that cost Hiddink his job.

However, the qualifying campaign was far from plain sailing.

Advocaat has relied mostly on the same veteran campaigners, such as captain Andrei Arshavin, defender Sergei Ignashevich and midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov, who made up the core of the team that reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals.

Former Russia striker Dmitry Bulykin has accused Advocaat of not giving other players like him a chance to show their worth.

"He has turned the national team into his own private club," said Bulykin, who notched 21 goals for ADO Den Haag to become the Dutch league's second highest scorer last season.

Advocaat retorted that Bulykin, at 31, was too old to compete with the likes of Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Alexander Kerzhakov, all of whom are just a few months younger.

Even Advocaat's own players have had a go at him.

Pavlyuchenko complained that the coach had his favourites after being relegated to the bench earlier this year.

The Tottenham Hotspur striker declined to elaborate but it was widely understood he was referring to the players from Advocaat's former club Zenit St Petersburg, who he led to the Russian title in 2007 and the UEFA Cup the following year.

With Russia's qualification now in the bag, Advocaat has proved his critics wrong and Fursenko said he was thinking of extending Advocaat's two-year contract for another two years.

"His contract expires next July so we must make a decision some time before that. I can also say that contrary to what has been reported he's not asking for a [pay] raise," Fursenko said.

"All I know, he's very effective coach and is the right man to lead us at the 2012 Euro finals."


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