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Shirokov blasts 'awful' Russia

MOSCOW sounds like an intimidating venue for Ireland, but the feeling among the squad that Russia are not quite comfortable at home received further evidence after midfielder Roman Shirokov described their first-half display against Macedonia on Friday as "awful," writes ruaidhri o'connor.

Dick Advocaat's side might be top of Group B with three games to go, but apart from their scintillating display at Lansdowne Road last year, they have been less than impressive.

Igor Semshov's 41st-minute goal separated the teams in the end, but the Macedonians could, and should, have scored through Napoli striker Goran Pandev a minute before the only goal.

Ireland should be aware that there are opportunities to be had.

"I thought we were awful in the first half," said Shirokov. "We just couldn't get our game together. Thankfully for us, we managed to get our game together in the second half, especially in midfield, and we had chances to extend our lead."

Giovanni Trapattoni's style of play has come in for some criticism at home this weekend and Arsenal forward Andrey Arshavin (left) doesn't sound like he's a fan.

"The game against Ireland will be a challenge for us," he said. "They are likely to try and bombard our defence with long balls and play a very direct style of football. We will have to be ready for this."

Irish Independent