Russia, the dark horses of the tournament got their campaign underway with a 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Wroclaw. Follow the 1-1 draw between Poland and Greece both sides knew that a victory would take them to the top of group A. The Czech’s started the match on the front foot as Russia struggled to get into the match. But Russia’s superior players would take a hold of the game and over run the Czechs.
Russia had a number of Zenit St. Petersburg players in their line up (7 players including Arshavin who played there on loan this season) and that familiarity helped them to play a cohesive attacking game. After 15 mins a flowing move that started on the right side saw Kerzhakov heading the ball across Cech’s goal but hit the far post, the rebound feel nicely for Dzagoev who smashed the ball home.
The Czech’s didn’t heed that warning and nearly went behind again on 18 mins but Dzagoev sent his shoot wide despite being in the clear. But Russia would get another chance and went further ahead on 24 mins when Shirokov finished after Arshavin’s pass rolled past the lackluster Czech defense. The Czech’s managed to hold on and went into half time 2-0 down.
Maybe inspired by the Greeks in the previous match the Czechs came out in the second half with a new enthusiasm. Russia didn’t find it as easy to play through them and on 52 mins Pilar managed to round the keeper and slide the ball past Malafeev. That goal seemed to come against the run of play and came as a shock to the Russians. At one stage Russia were missing quite a few chances and it looked like they might pay for those misses. Kerzhakov was the most guilty man, missing a great chance on 65 min dragging the ball wide of the goal.
On 72 min Russian manager Dick Advocaat removed Kerzhakov and brought on Pavlyuchenko to lead the attack. Russia continued to move through the Czech midfield with ease and their dominance was finally rewarded when Dzagoev scored his second goal. He scored from 18 yards out after a clever pass from Pavlvuchenko. That goal effectively won the game and on 82 mins Pavlyuchenko scored a superb solo goal to add some gloss to the score line. He worked the ball on the edge of the box and looked to have taken too long before scoring from the edge of the box.
The Czechs could offer nothing in reply and their substitutes did not have an impact on the team. In extra time they thought they had scored a consolation goal but it was ruled out for offside. Howard Webb the referee put the Czechs out of their misery and ended the match after that. Russia were superb over all and will have alerted the other favourites in this tournament. The Czechs they were poor over all and may have made the Russians look better than they really were. They’ll be looking for a reaction in their next game against hosts Poland.