Russia capped off an entertaining first day of the 2012 European Championships as the tournament’s dark horses thrashed the Czech Republic 4-1 in convincing fashion. Both Russia and the Czech Republic were ready to battle and get their competition under way in front of the sell‐out crowd in Wroclaw.
The match between Greece and Poland had been an eventful one to say the least – but, having finished 1‐1, both Russia and Czech Republic knew that a win would significantly enhance their chances of making the knockout stages .
It was Michal Bilek’s Czechs who started the game the better. Having most of the ball they pressed into the Russian half and played some good attacking football. They also restricted the Russian full‐backs, Zhirkov and Anyukov, from making their trademark runs up the wing, which has been vital to the Russian’s free-flowing style. Czech wingers Rezek and Pilar caused havoc on each wing. The Czechs were very unlucky not to receive a penalty when referee Howard Webb failed to see a glancing header brush Russia’s Aleksandr Anyukov’s arm in the box.
Dick Advocaat’s Russia seemed to be living dangerously until they rallied and opened the scoring on the 14th minute. Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s headed effort hit the post from a neat Zyryanov cross and the rebound fell kindly to CSKA Moscow’s Alan Dzegoev, who was there to fire the ball into the net from inside the box. A great team goal which came from nothing.
After the goal Advocaat’s men took complete control of the game, with constant pressure and waves of attacks. They were now reproducing some of the fluid football that we had expected from them, pre-tournament.
This paid off again when Zenit’s Roman Shirokov latched on to a delightful Andrei Arshavin ball to clip past a helpless Petr Cech in the Czech goal.
The Czechs looked to have got back into it when Wolfsburg’s new signing, Vaclav Pilar, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home a goal to make it 2-1.
This stretched the game considerably, with the Czechs looking for an equaliser. Ultimately, this played into the Russian hands and their fluid counter-attack.
It was the introduction of one Roman Pavlychenko, now of Lokomotiv Moscow, which again changed the course of the game. Within minutes of his arrival he had played in Dzagoev for a second, sliding a beautiful pass to allow him to fire past Petr Cech.
Pavlychenko was given even further reward for his game-changing contribution when he scored a truly spectacular individual goal, dancing around static Czech players to hammer a fourth into the roof of the net.
The 4-1 scoreline didn’t flatter Russia, and if Aleksandr Kerzhakov had taken one of his many chances then it would have been an even more domineering opening display. Given Pavlychenko’s contribution, it will likely be him who gets the chance to lead the line in the next outing.
The real star was Alan Dzagoev, giving the sort of display that reminds you just why he is being courted by some of Europe’s top clubs. At the tender age of 21, he seemed completely at home on one of the world's biggest stages.
Blessed with great vision, awareness, tactical sense and – obviously – a knack of being in the right place at the right time, he will be key if the Russians are to go on to have a successful campaign.
This was a statement of intent from Russia. Many had suggested they were this year’s “dark horses”, who could even go on to win the tournament. After completely dismantling the Czechs, in such attractive, free-flowing style, they will be awaiting their next match with a quiet confidence.
You can follow Nick Thompson on Twitter
In this section
- Euro 2012 Wrap: Horror film ghost girls, Tetris and Denmark's Roy Race
- Greece 1-0 Russia: Stubborn Greece send Russia home with Warsaw victory
- STV Sports Daily at the Euros: Spain supreme, Pirlo's perfect set piece
- Hosts and Russia share the spoils during a raw encounter in Warsaw
- UEFA hit Russia with points deduction threat for fans' behaviour
- Tactical analysis: Contrasting styles on display from Russia and Poland
- STV Sports Daily at the Euros: Kuba's screamer, Czechs cash in
- Euro 2012 Talk: Dzagoev points bonanza, Kuba's stunner, Kiev quiet
- Poland 1-1 Russia: Dzagoev strikes again but Kuba keeps Poles in position
- STV Sports Daily at the Euros: Organised England, Sheva the hero