Andrei Arshavin admits worries ahead of Slovenia showdown
Arsenal star Andrei Arshavin has admitted he is concerned about his own form ahead of Russia's World Cup play-off second leg with Slovenia on Wednesday night.
Arshavin captained Russia to a 2-1 win in Moscow at the weekend when Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scored twice, only for Nejc Pecnik to give Slovenia real hope when scoring with two minutes remaining at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Russia hold a slim advantage ahead of the return fixture in Maribor but an introspective Arshavin was not happy with his performance in Moscow and is worried about his failure to influence the game to the degree that he normally does for both club and country.
"After the match in Moscow I could not get to sleep until about five in the morning but that is the usual time I go to sleep after matches," Arshavin told Sport Express. "Though that does not mean I was not worried. The feelings were, to put it mildly, not very pleasant.
"Maybe my game did not look so bad from the outside but inside I felt that I was not a part of the team. I could not be with my team-mates and actually I was in an opposition phase somehow.
"I did not get any injures but was not prepared physically for the entire match. And if I had been replaced after the 75th minute, I would have understood this decision.
"But I did not act well throughout the match despite the assist. Actually I did not mean to pass to Bilyaletdinov but I made it a pass to Semak. Fortunately, Diniyar tackled the ball and pushed in into the net.
"(The) main problem is that it is impossible to find the reasons of my less than superb play. So before the return leg I worry less about the team - they are well prepared - but what should I do to avoid the repetition of the match in Moscow?
"I cannot say that this is the deciding moment in my career - only after years will people usually realise it. But, in any case, to stay out of the World Cup means to be on the sidelines of world football for a time."
Despite his captain's worries, Russia coach Guus Hiddink is adamant that Russia have the "self-confidence" required to progress and has taken heart from the fact that his team were so disappointed to have conceded a late goal.
"Some people think that 2-1 is even better than 2-0 for we will be more focused," Hiddink said. "But, believe me, I would have hammered it home and they would understand this for themselves that the goal conceded changes the situation completely. But I feel that the team is self-confident despite the conceded goal. Nobody forgot that at 2-0 we could have increased the advantage.
"On Saturday, everybody was disappointed. And that is wonderful for it shows how people in the team are not indifferent. This situation is absolutely different from what was in the team several years ago. And I like it.
"Football is a sport, an unpredictable kind of sport. So I cannot be absolutely confident in the victory. But what we have is self-confidence. We know that both in a good or bad situation we have the power to pull together and respond. Respond with a goal."