x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Euro 2012: Russia 4 Czech Republic 1

Alan Dzagoev scores twice and Andrey Arshavin impresses as the 2008 semi-finalists fly out of the blocks in Group A.

Alan Dzagoyev, left, and Konstantin Zyryanov celebrate Russia's opening goal against Czech Republic during the Euro 2012. Sergey Ponomarev / AP Photo
Alan Dzagoyev, left, and Konstantin Zyryanov celebrate Russia's opening goal against Czech Republic during the Euro 2012. Sergey Ponomarev / AP Photo

Russia were the surprise package of Euro 2008, when they knocked out Holland and made it to the semi-finals. Dick Advocaat's team won't fly under the radar this time, especially not after putting the Czech Republic to the sword with a display of fluid, inventive attacking football.

Andrey Arshavin, the Arsenal midfielder who spent the end of last season on loan at Zenit St Petersburg, inspired Russia's run four years ago and he was influential again last night, along with Alan Dzagoev, the 21-year-old CSKA Moscow midfielder who netted twice.

Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko also got on the score sheet in the 4-1 triumph in Wroclaw, which puts Russia firmly in control of Group A.

Despite Russia being favourites to top the group, the had made a slow start at the Municipal Stadium and it was the Czechs who settled the better of the two sides.

It took Russia almost a quarter of an hour to muster a meaningful attack, but when they did they came close to taking the lead.

Arshavin brilliantly played in Yuri Zhirkov near the by-line but striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov could only steer his effort wide.

But it was a brief reprieve for the Czechs as Dzagoev drove at the heart of their defence to tee Konstantin Zyryanov up for a cross that was headed against the post by Kerzhakov. Dzagoev followed up to slam home the loose ball.

An error from Jaroslav Plasil allowed Russia to make it 2-0 in the 23rd minute.

The midfielder gave away possession and Arshavin seized on it before playing a pass intended for Kerzhakov, but the striker's miscontrol saw the ball reach Shirokov, who lofted over the advancing goalkeeper, Petr Cech.

Vaclav Pilar, known as the Czech Lionel Messi, gave his country a foothold back into the match seven minutes after the break when he picked up a through ball and rounded the keeper, but Russia stayed true to their game plan and it paid dividends.

Russia squandered several openings, with Kerzhakov, the former Sevilla forward, in particular being wasteful.

Then, Pavlyuchenko, on as a substitute, weighted a delightful ball for Dzagoev and his powerful shot flew past Cech to make it 3-1.

Pavlyuchenko, the former Tottenham Hotspur forward now at Lokomotiv Moscow, put the icing on the cake, turning his marker in the box and firing into the top corner.

Euro 2012 may only be two games old, but Russia have laid down a marker.