Midfielder Alan Dzagoev scored two goals as Russia opened its Euro Cup tournament with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic Friday in Wroclaw, Poland.
Russians Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko also scored, while Vaclav Pilar responded for the Czechs.
Russia put the rest of Group A on notice with an overpowering victory against the shell-shocked Czechs.
He may have Dutch roots, but Russian coach Dick Advacaat had to be estatic with how well his players performed in his 4-3-3 system.
From the start of the Friday’s second match, Russia overwhelmed the Czech Republic with crisp passing, using an attacking style that saw Russians continually speed past helpless defenders.
Advacaat calls his system "attractive." The rest of the Euro field may well see it as concerning.
The attacking Russians, who reached the Euro semifinals four years ago, played at a level that Group A foes Poland, Greece and the Czechs will be hard pressed to equal.
After Dzagoev opened the scoring in the 15 minute, converting a rebound past all-world Czech goalie Petr Cech, Russia kept the pressure going.
The strategy paid off eight minutes later as Shirokov, who received a pretty pass from forward Andrey Arshavin, chipped the ball over a sprawled Cech.
However, the Czech Republic woke up in the second half. Jaroslav Plasil caught two Russian defenders off guard by sending a gorgeous lead pass to Pilar, who ran past goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and tapped in the easy goal in the 52 mintue.
Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie came close to getting his squad even in the 72nd minute, only to see his shot sail into the side netting.
But any hope of a comeback was dashed as Dzagoev scored his second goal of the game in the 79th minute before Pavlyuchenko finished off the Czechs three minutes later.
As much as the loss hurt, the more disappointing part for the Czech Republic had to be the lack of defending, allowing Russia to roam around its side of the pitch seemingly at will.
Normally, the Czechs can play a tight-checking game and rely on the brilliance of Cech. Yet even the 30-year-old veteran couldn’t withstand the high-flying Russians.
What this result means
Russia was a favourite to win Group A heading into the tournament, and with its convincing win over the Czech Republic, it’s hard to imagine Poland or Greece, which tied in the opener, unseating this squad.
The winning goal
Already leading 1-0, Shirokov put the eventual dagger into the Czech Republic after getting into perfect position to convert an Arshavin pass by Cech.
Man of the match
Who else? Just as he was in the Euro qualification — scoring four goals in eight games — Dzagoev was Russia’s best player against the Czechs. Not only did he score two goals, Dzagoev had a glorious chance to put Russia up 2-0 early in the first half but pushed his shot past the right goalpost.
The Russian perspective
"If you score four goals against the Czech Republic in an international, you have played a good game. We should have scored more." — Russian coach Dick Advacaat
The Czech Republic perspective
"After we scored, we gave away the ball and they punished us in the same way they did in the first half. We are very disappointed. It's terrible to concede four goals, but we still have a team good enough to win the next two matches." — Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek