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Russia refuse to upgrade plastic pitch

The Russian Football Federation refused to upgrade the artificial pitch England will play on in Moscow next week after their team's defeat at Wembley, according to a representative of the company who laid it.

England and Russia face each other at the Luzhniki Olympic Stadium in what is effectively a Euro 2008 qualifying play-off from Group E.

Controversially, the crunch match is to be played on an artificial surface, deemed acceptable by UEFA because of the possibility of freezing conditions in the Russian capital.

The pitch was laid by Fieldturf who, according to spokesman Michael Davis, had also been asked by the RFF to upgrade it before next Wednesday's clash.

But following last month's comprehensive 3-0 loss to Steve McClaren's men at Wembley, it appears the RFF had a change of heart.

"After the defeat, they said that they will play on the existing surface after all," said Davis.

"The Russians had agreed there would be a new surface, but the result at Wembley changed that.

"Some of the Russian players will have played on that surface before, knowing that the England players have not.

"Put a new surface in and it's a level playing field, as nobody has played on it."

A spokesman for the Luzhniki Stadium said yesterday, however, that there had not been a formal decision made to upgrade the playing surface, and the RFF denied the Russians would gain a significant advantage from it remaining unchanged.

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