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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Sychev's rise to Russia's elite
Dmitry Sychev rise up the ranks has been meteoric, now he is waiting to see if he can secure his berth in Russia's World Cup squad.
Sychev rise up the ranks has been meteoric
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A few months ago even the most knowledgeable of football fans in Russia didn't know his name.

Now, with just a handful of Russian premier league games under his belt Dmitri Sychev is being hailed as Russia's secret weapon for the World Cup.

Signed from second division side Spartak Tambov in pre-season, Sychev burst into the Spartak Moscow team with a scintillating display in the CIS Cup.

He scored two goals against Spartak's arch rivals Dynamo Kiev, in what was an indoor tournament between the champions of the former Soviet republics.

Open Quote
We are so lucky to have Sychev
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Russia coach
Oleg Romantsev
His performances persuaded Spartak and national coach Oleg Romantsev to call him up into the national squad for the Russia's friendly against the Republic of Ireland in February even before he had made his premier league debut.

Sychev didn't make it onto the field in the defeat in Dublin but perhaps he should have.

Once he made his league debut for Spartak in March he quickly began scoring and has not stopped since.

With six goals in his first six games he is the league's top scorer and was one of the few bright spots in Russia's humiliating defeat against Estonia on 27 March, setting up Vladimir Beschastnykh's goal on his debut.

"We are so lucky to have Sychev" said Romantsev, who knows his goals are partly carrying a Spartak team that is playing far from it's best football.

Although he has only played one game for the national team he is already considered a must for the World Cup squad.

When he was taken off injured in his last game, newspapers compared it to effect of David Beckham's injury for England.

Born in Omsk in Siberia, Sychyov left his hometown as a teenager for the Smena football school in St. Petersburg.

< There, he was spotted almost immediatly by the national youth team.

After playing in the European youth championships in Israel in 2000, where Russia reached the quarterfinals, he moved to second division side Spartak Tambov.

Oleg Romantsev
Romantsev rates Sychev very highly
Despite the unimpressive statistics of only six goals last season he was taken on trial by Spartak.

Nine goals in nine pre-season games later and Sychev was given a five year contract with the Russian champions.

Now, Romantsev's only worry is that the praise from the media may go to his head. Sychev himself seems still in a daze at the speed of his progress.

"It was just yesterday when I sat with friends in front of television cheering them on," said Sychev, speaking about his Russia teammates to newspaper Sport Express.

"And now I'm going up with these same footballers in the lift, eating at the same table as them."

For now he refuses to talk about going to the World Cup.

"I'm not a great lover of looking at the future, I live for today," he said, letting slip only one detail - where he was the last time Russia played in the World Cup in 1994.

"I was 10 years old then," he said.

"I watched the final at four in the morning because of the time difference between Omsk and Moscow."

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