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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Mostovoi seeks 'final fling'
Alexander Mostovoi (right) celebrates after scoring for Celta Vigo
Mostovoi (right) is revered by Celta Vigo fans

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Russia's veteran midfielder Alexander Mostovoi admits that this World Cup will be his last chance to shine on the international stage.

The 34-year-old has been at the heart of the Russian team for the last decade but knows that time is not on his side.

"I think that this will be my last World Cup," he told the BBC.

"It will be the last opportunity to succeed at international level playing for Russia."

Open Quote
The speed of thinking is more important than the speed of running around
Close Quote
Alexander Mostovoi

Mostovoi is a hero not only in his native country but also in Spain, where he plays for Celta Vigo.

Nicknamed "the Tsar", he is one of the most popular players at the club and fans want to build a monument in his honour.

The midfielder-turned-sweeper is one of the linch-pins in what is undeniably an aging Russian team - but he says the age factor is not an issue.

"I try not to pay any attention to that kind of thing," he says.

"Look at France, for example. Reigning world and European champions and they don't have many young players either."

And the 34-year-old adds that what the Russians lack in youthful speed, they more than make up for in mental experience.

"The final result doesn't depend only on the speed you play with - it's also very important for the team to think on the pitch.

"The speed of thinking is more important than the speed of running around."

Mostovoi says "the old guard" were the most effective of the Russian squad in the qualifying stages but tips midfielder Marat Izmailov and striker Dmitry Sychyov as younger players to make a name for themselves in the coming games.

Alexander Mostovoi
Mostovoi has switched to the role of sweeper in recent games

Russia's recent record in major tournaments has been poor.

They did not make the last World Cup or European Championships and did not progress beyond the group stages in those tournaments in 1994 and 1996.

Mostovoi is a veteran of Russia's squad in 1994 and Euro 96 and says there were mitigating circumstances to their disappointing campaigns.

"In 1994, several leading players refused to play under Pavel Sadyrin. I was one of them but later changed my mind and went.

"But we lost eight or nine players and all of them were excellent.

"That's why we lost twice and only won once. In essence, it was a tourist trip."

He adds that in Euro 96, they were "unlucky" to find themselves in a group with Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.

"We had a great team but the draw was a mess. It was a real group of death."

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GROUP H
  P GD PTS
JAPAN 3 +3 7
BELGIUM 3 +1 5
RUSSIA 3 0 3
TUNISIA 3 -4 1

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