After an impressive display in his national team’s 3-0 win over Finland on Wednesday, Andrey Arshavin was named Russia captain for the rest of the World Cup qualifying campaign by coach Guus Hiddink.
Formerly captaining the Russian side during European qualifying prior to last summer’s Euros, Arshavin was stripped of those duties after a sending off against Andorra. The new Gunner filled the role while regular skipper Sergei Semak was out injured for last night’s match, after which Hiddink told reporters that Arshavin would remain captain even with Semak in the starting lineup.
Creating a number of opportunities for his side against Finland, Arshavin set up Aleksandr Kerzhakov for the first goal in the 27th minute, before two second-half goals for the visitors put last night’s game out of reach. Russia moved to within a point of Group Four leaders Germany with the win over Finland.
Arshavin was among just four Arsenal players seeing international action this midweek, including Theo Walcott playing all 90 minutes in England’s 6-0 thrashing of Andorra at Wembley. A clever cut-back from Walcott led to Frank Lampard’s goal on the half-hour for an England side that scored three goals in each half and now sit basically one win away from qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
Robin van Persie’s Holland had already qualified for South Africa 2010 prior to its 2-0 win over Norway on Wednesday, which saw Arsenal’s number 11 play 83 minutes before being substituted. While unable to notch any of the goals, van Persie did hit the back of the net but was ruled offside on the play. He and Arjen Robben were effective leading the Netherlands’ attack, with the Real Madrid star scoring once and assisting on the second.
In Spain’s rather easy 6-0 win over Azerbaijan in a friendly on Tuesday, Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas had to be replaced at halftime after suffering a head injury. He was fouled in the area just prior to the break and the resulting gash on his forehead needed immediate treatment from Spanish trainers, but in the end was considered just a minor injury.
“It was a scare… a good scare. But the important thing is that it’s nothing more than a minor incident,” Fabregas told reporters during the post-match press conference.
“I was frightened upon seeing the blood pouring down after taking the knock, but after the medics stitched me up, I could have continued playing. But seeing that this was only a friendly, and I was still a little dizzy, we thought we better not push it,” added the Arsenal captain.
Even with the injury, Fabregas also noted that the friendly win was a very positive game leading up to next week’s Confederations Cup, featuring Cesc’s Spain among eight national teams competing in South Africa a year before the World Cup there.
“We want to return to Spain with a trophy in our hands for a second consecutive year,” said Fabregas. “We want to give joy to the fans and we feel that we have a good enough team to win it.”