Thursday 26 June ~
It was more dramatic than expected but the end result was the same – Germany are in the final of Euro 08. The pre-match coverage of tonight's second semi-final between Spain and Russia has focused on two characters. One, a 27-year-old rising Russian star, finding himself the centre of a media frenzy for the first time, the other a 70-year-old man, manager of Spain and no stranger to headlines, usually of a negative variety.
After returning from suspension in the first two group games Andrei Arshavin has changed the course of the tournament and certainly Russia's part in it. Now many are making bold comparisons, predicting that Arshavin could dominate the final stages of the tournament as Michel Platini did in 1984. James Lawton of the Independent went further than many in his profile of “the footballer who still looks a little like an urchin from the streets of his native and beloved St Petersburg”, a player whose “aura could only boil more beautifully if it was placed in a samovar made for a tsar”. Quite.
Of course there is also the question of his likely move from Zenit St Petersburg once the tournament is over. The player himself has already expressed a preference for a move to Spain. Arshavin will no doubt have shocked and disappointed in equal measure those members of the press who see little option for the player other than a English big four club by specifying further: “I have supported Barcelona all my life. Barcelona are my dream.”
Meanwhile, Russia's opponents have a ready-made excuse if they once again fail short of a major final and lose tonight. Following the Portuguese FA's anger at Chelsea for announcing the Scolari appointment in the middle of the tournament a similar thing has happened with Luis Aragones. Fenerbahce have officially announced on their website that the Spain boss has been appointed for next season. However, Aragones, referring to himself in the third-person stated: "I don't understand it because Luis has not signed anything with anybody." Aragones seems to care little about his media perception, at no point made clearer than the comments he made about Thierry Henry, and has never apologised for, four years ago. So a whole new adventure awaits Aragones, who is 70 in July, and has never worked outside his home country. First though there is Russia and everyone's favourite Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin to deal with.