Russia Impressive on the Opening Day
Russia 4 – 1 Czech Republic
Dzagoev 15 Pilar 52
As It Happened
Russia started their campaign with a thumping 4-1 win over hopeless Czech Republic. As expected Russian star players – Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko – put their average club seasons behind and rose to the occasion. As expected, the 21-year old Russian prodigy Alan Dzagoev showed what a class player he is and this performance will surely reflect on his mounting price tag during his imminent summer transfer. But, quite unexpectedly, the Czechs were as shambolic in defensive organization as they could be. It is not always that a goalkeeper of the calibre of Petr Cech – even his 2012 version – gets beaten 4 times in a match.
It took a little time for the Russian midfield – comprising straight out of Zenit St. Petersburg – to take control of the match but once they did, they made a mockery out of the lacklustre Czech attack led by an isolated Milan Baros. The trio of Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov and Roman Shirokov were instrumental in the midfield in a 4-3-3 formation. They quite easily bossed Czechs twin-fulcrum of Jaroslav Plasil and Petr Jiracek, playing in a 4-2-3-1 system. Shirokov’s burst through the right hand side of midfield set up the opening goal in the 15th minute. His cross was headed across by Aleksandr Kerzhakov on to the post. Dzagoev latched on to the rebound to open his account in Euro 2012.
Arshavin nowadays resembles a leap year. He rises from the ashes like Phoenix only when the Euro showdown is underway. It must have been agonizing for Arsene Wenger to see Arshavin in such a prolific form against Czech Republic, something he has rarely produced for the Gunners. He stared on wide left, but he dropped in the hole, prompted several attack deep from the midfield and there was an enigma to the Russian captain’s play which was awe inspiring. It was the 24th minute when his sublime diagonal pass into the Czech area was latched on to by an unmarked Shirokov to finish it from six yards out.
Czech Republic was nowhere. They were sinking without a trace and the positional sense of their defensive unit was shocking. Russian front man Aleksandr Kerzahkov was lenient enough not to kill the game even after numerous opportunities. The Czechs came back briefly as Jaroslav Plasil slid through a perfectly weighted pass for Vaclav Pilar to round Vyacheslav Malafeev and score on the 52nd minute.
But sanity prevailed as the wasteful Kerzahkov was replaced by Pavlyuchenko and he had an immediate impact by setting up a second for Dzagoev elevn minutes from time. Pavlyuchenko rounded the match off three minutes later as he strolled inside Roman Hubnik with maddening ease, before netting high and powerfully beyond Cech. The lanky forward was not given a place in the starting XI due to his lack of game time for Tottenham Hotspurs but it seems he has done enough to earn that for the next match.
Russia were favourites to advance from this lightweight group. But after this performance they should move a few places up in the odds table to progress even further. IF things go according to plan, Advocaat may even indulge in trying out variations and testing out fringe players – none better than target man Pavel Pogrenbnyak – in their last group match.
It is not the margin of defeat but the way their defence was exposed time and again would be a thing to worry for the Czech supporters. At this form, they cannot think of winning a game, leave aside progressing through to the knock out stages.
“We are quite happy. When you score four goals in an international game it’s a good result…. For a first game we’re happy.”
Russian manager, Dick Advocaat
“We’re angry now.”
Czech Republic goal scorer Václav Pilař after they were beaten 4-1 by Russia
Vyacheslav Malafeev, Sergei Ignashevitch, Alexei Berezoutski, Alexander Anyukov, Yuri Zhirkov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Igor Denisov, Alan Dzagoev (Alexander Kokorin, 85), Roman Shirokov, Alexander Kerzhakov (Roman Pavlyuchenko, 74), Andrey Arshavin
Petr Cech, Michal Kadlec, Theodor Gebre Selassie, Roman Hubnik, Tomas Sivok, Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil, Petr Jiracek (Milan Petrzela, 76), Milan Baros (David Lafata, 85), Vaclav Pilar, Jan Rezek (Tomás Hübschman, 45)
Referee: Howard Webb
Venue: Stadion Miejski (Wroclaw)