Russia Impressive on the Opening Day

Russia 4 – 1 Czech Republic
Dzagoev 15     Pilar 52
Shirokov 24
Dzagoev 79
Pavlyuchenko 82

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.

Rising Star – Alan Dzagoev
Rising Star – Alan Dzagoev

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.

Without Cech it would have been more humiliating
Without Cech it would have been more humiliating


“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

Czech Republic

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)

Battle for the East European Glory

Match Facts

Group A: Russia vs. Czech Republic

Friday, 08 June 2012

2045 (local time); 1445(EST); 0015(IST)

Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, Poland

Shutting Down his Critics

On the Focus

Russia begins their Euro 2012 campaign in red hot form after having crashed the Azzuris 3-0 in their final friendly game. They have a settled squad and many of their star players have come up with some classy performances for their country in the past. Russia will also benefit from the fact that almost half of their first XI will most likely be from Zenit St. Petersburg. Russia is quite fortunate to feature in the easiest group in the tournament, that too as the favourites. They would like to start the campaign on a winning note.

Standing in front of Russia are the gritty Czechs. These two teams have had great history in football – as USSR and Czechoslovakia respectively – but their recent past is not so glorious one. Czech Republic dominated the youth stage in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s but none of them are around now. They have a relatively unknown team which features a bunch of young lads from Viktoria Plzen. This unknown factor could well work in their advantage Czechs are facing the strongest team in the group up front and hence a draw will suit them quite well.

The two teams have met only once in the group stages of Euro 96 in England where the spectators were thrilled to witness an entertaining 3-3 draw. With relatively better defensive organizations on display, that score line will be pretty hard to match.

Form Guide

Russia did exceedingly well last time round in Euro 2008 to reach the Semis for the first time since the former USSR era. They have been impressive in their qualifying too where they lost only once in 20 matches and conceded only four goals during the campaign. The Russians have done well in the friendly matches and they would like to keep up their good showing in the main tournament also.

Russia Form Guide: WDDWD



Petr Cech: Testing Time Again

Czech Republic had a very good team (former Czechoslovakia) in the late ‘70s but that too was not enough to win the trophy. This time they had to wait till play-off matches to get through and naturally expectations are not that high. Their friendly results have also been dismal where they have failed to impress their supporters.

Czech Republic Form Guide: LWDWW

Teams & Formations

Dick Advocat would hope for the same this time from the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko who did not have a great season at club level. To support them Russia has a very strong unit comprising of shot stopper Igor Akinfeyev and midfielder Roman Shirokov – both one of the bests in Europe at this moment.

Russia (4-3-3): Igor Akinfeev; Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksei Berezutskiy, Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Anyukov; Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Roman Shirokov; Andrei Arshavin, Aleksandr Kerzahkov, Alan Dzagoev.

Manager: Dick Advocaat

Czech Republic will rely heavily on Petr Cech, fresh from his Champions Cup final heroics. Tomas Rosicky’s timely return from calf strain would be major boost for the team which lacks in quality big time.

Czech Republic (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; David Limbersky, Michel Kadlec, Tomas Sivok, Theodor Gebre Selassie; Tomas Hubschman, Jaroslav Plasil; Jan Rezek, Tomas Rosicky, Vaclav Pilar; Milan Baros.

Manager: Michal Bilek

Match Referee: Howard Webb (Englad)

Assistant Referee: Michael Mullarkey (Englad) and Peter Kirkup (Englad)


“We have a good team, we have the quality, and it is very important that the players start believing in that.” Russia Manager Dick Advocaat

“Maybe we have our toughest opponent in the first match, the favourite in our group, Russia, who won their last friendly against Italy 3-0. That creates huge respect, but I believe in my team, and believe we will succeed in this match.” Czech Republic Manager Michal Bilek

Final Prediction

The Russians look too strong for the Czechs and a comfortable 2-0 win seems likely.