Russia began their Euro 2012 campaign in remarkable fashion last night, emerging from a quiet first 10 minutes to run riot over a bewildered Czech Republic team in Wroclaw. Viewers were treated to a fluid and beautiful display of Attacking football by the Russians, putting to rest many fears that they would repeat any previous underperformances during major tournaments, as well as giving valuable insight into just how Russia are strategising over the next month.
The Czech dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, keeping Russia well and truly on the back foot and taking control of possession in the opposition half. The first real chance of the game fell to them in the 4th minute, after a poorly defended corner glanced wide from a Czech arm. However, this surge was soon brought to a halt at the 15 minute mark, when Winger Konstantin Zyryanov broke free of the Czech defence and whipped a cross in to an unkept Aleksandr Kerzhakov. A solid header by Kerzhakov took a surprisingly hearty bounce off the post into the path of Alan Dzagoev, who drove it lethally past Petr Cech from 10 yards.
From that point onwards the Russians never looked like losing, and 9 minutes later they doubled their lead. A perfectly weighted, and somewhat lucky, throughball from captain Andrey Arshavin crept through a basically non-existant Czech defence and into the control of Roman Shirokov, who craftily knocked it over a sprawling Cech. The forms of the two teams were becoming increasingly apparent, and the Czech team were reflecting their shaky build-up to the tournament. This was in stark contrast to the 17 game unbeaten run of the Russians, who asserted their dominance for the rest of the half, going into the break comfortable 2-0 leaders.
A Czech resurgence appeared on the cards shortly after play resumed, when a perfectly timed run by striker Vaclav Pilar fooled the offside trap of the Russians, leaving him to simply round Malafeev and tuck the ball into an empty net. From that point, the pace of the game somewhat slowed, and once again the momentum slowly turned the way of the Russians.
Their main tactic of counterattacking through the middle, passing quickly in a continuous press forward, paid dividends throughout the second half and presented them with a number of scoring opportunities, which they squandered. Arshavin displayed incredible tactical ability in directing and feeding these quick breaks, his lightning pace and resurgence in form inspiring Russia’s control over the pace of the game.
This culminated in the 79th minute when a scrappily built up play was suddenly fired through to the 21 year-old Dzagoev, who lashed his effort past Cech to double his tally for the night. 3 minutes later, Roman Pavlyuchenko put the icing on the cake for the Russians, after recieving a ball from Arshavin on the left hand side of the box. Skillfully managing to keep possession and move inwards at the same time, he finally bought himself some space from the Czech defence and fired the ball into the bottom corner.
The game finished at 4-1, ensuring the Russians enter Warsaw brimming with confidence in 4 days time, and giving the Czech serious questions to answer before they clash with Greece on the same night.
The Russians played a solid style of attacking football throughout, using quick breaks filled with passing manoeuvres to create chances and very attractive goalscoring opportunities. Spearheaded brilliantly under the guidance of Arshavin, they passed quickly and fluidly in a centralized manner, only breaking out to the edges of the penalty box when extremely close on goal. This was combined with great probing runs being made by those further forward, in particular the young Dzagoev, who performed with aplomb on such a huge stage. If they can continue this form, they will be far too much for the Polish to handle and should easily secure a spot beyond the group stage. Time will tell if their reputation as the Dark Horses going into the tournament will be justified.
Malafeev, Aniukov, Berezutsky, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Shirokov, Denisov, Zyryanov, Dzagoev (Subbed off for Kokorin 84), Kerzhakov (Subbed off for Pavlyuchenko 73), Arshavin.
Subs not used: Akinfeev, Sharonov, Izmailov, Kombarov, Granat, Pogrebnyak, Nababkin, Glushakov, Semshov, Shunin.
Cech, Gebre Selassie, Hubnik, Sivok, Kadlec, Plasil, Jiracek (Subbed off for Petrzela 75), Pilar, Rosicky, Rezek (Subbed off for Hubschman 46), Baros (Subbed off for Lafata 85).
Subs not used: Lastuvka, Suchy, Necid, Limbersky, Rajtoral, Kolar, Pekhart, Darida, Drobny.
- 15′ – Dzagoev (Russia)
- 24′ – Shirokov (Russia)
- 52′ – Pilar (Czech Republic)
- 79′ – Dzagoev (Russia)
- 82 – Pavlyuchenko (Russia)