x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Plenty of reason to love Russia at Euro 2012

Russia have every reason to be optimistic of progressing from Group A at Euro 2012.

Russia's Alan Dzagoev, right, Alexander Kerzhakov, centre, and captain Andrey Arshavin, left, celebrate after scoring the first goal against Italy in an international friendlly in preparation for Euro 2012. Sebastian Feval / AFP
Russia's Alan Dzagoev, right, Alexander Kerzhakov, centre, and captain Andrey Arshavin, left, celebrate after scoring the first goal against Italy in an international friendlly in preparation for Euro 2012. Sebastian Feval / AFP

A moment of standout football glory seems to inch closer to post-communist Russia.

There have been Uefa Cup triumphs, for CSKA Moscow and Zenit Saint Petersburg, eight and four years ago. There has been the announcement that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup. At the last European Championship, Russia played some dazzling football, but ran out of steam at the semi-finals.

With Euro 2012 just next door, and supporters travelling to Poland in significant numbers, the Russians have reasons to dream.

Group A looks a good place to be starting. Though Greece have been European champions - in 2004 - that success is unlikely to be repeated. Greece's surprise title has assumed the value of a motivation for other nations outside Europe's heavyweights. They say: if Greece can win the Euros, why can't we?

The Czech Republic are entitled to ask that question, but would need to feel more assured about the potency of their goalscorers if they are to come up with a positive answer.

Russia, too, have concerns in that area, mainly because the strikers Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko have had difficult domestic seasons. But the forward Alexander Kerzhakov is enjoying a renaissance, and opened the scoring in the 3-0 friendly win over Italy last week.

Roman Shirokov, the stylish midfielder, struck the other two and if he and the playmaker Alan Dzagoev have big tournaments in them, Russia should at least go into what would look a difficult quarter-final, against a team from Group B, with confidence.

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