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Russia can reach World Cup semifinals - Alenichev

© Reuters 2002

MOSCOW, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Russia have improved immeasurably under coach Oleg Romantsev and have the potential to reach the World Cup semifinals, according to midfielder Dmitry Alenichev.

Russia last reached the semifinals - as the Soviet Union - at the 1966 World Cup in England, but Alenichev believes the current national squad need more get-togethers to give them a chance of repeating that success.

"The side can reach the quarters or even the semifinals," Alenichev told Monday's Sport Express newspaper.

"Under Romantsev, the team has improved. Our game is more interesting and the atmosphere in the team is as it should be before the singlemost important tournament," said the Porto player.

Romantsev, who doubles as Spartak Moscow's coach, has led Russia since December 1998, but has openly considered resigning after describing his experience with the national team as "a struggle".

Alenichev, who will be playing for Russia in the World Cup for the first time, says the team needs to train more often to guarantee success.

"To improve the team's game, we need to meet as often as possible," he told the paper. "We often say we can't wait to see each other and get onto the pitch."

Russia, who have been drawn in group H for the World Cup finals alongside co-hosts Japan, Belgium and Tunisia, play the Republic of Ireland in a friendly in Dublin on February 13.

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