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After the drama that came out of Poland and Greece’s opening day match, Russia and the Czech Republic had a lot to measure up to in their first match of Euro 2012. Russia was able to come out on top with a 4-1 thrashing of the Czech Republic, which took them to the top of the group standings after the first day of play in the tournament and sent Czech down to the very bottom.
With rain coming down on the players at the Stadion Miejski, both teams started the game off very lively and positive. The Czech Republic held possession throughout the beginning of the first half, while Russia threw all their effort into set pieces and their counterattack.
It did not take too long for Russia to finally capitalize on the attack. Konstantin Zyryanov crossed the ball into the box in the 15th minute, which Aleksandr Kerzhakov headed directly into the far post. This then went straight to Alan Dzagoev, who cleaned up the rebound that bounced right to him in front of the Czech Republic goal and gave Russia the 1-0 lead.
Nine minutes later, Russia came again on the counterattack to get their second goal. After Czech player Jaroslav Plasil lost possession in the midfield, Andrei Arshavin placed a perfect pass onto the boot of Roman Shirokov, who easily chipped the ball over the hesitant Czech goalkeeper into the back of the net to increase the score 2-0.
Russia’s deadly counterattack continued to break down the shaky Czech defense throughout the end of the first half; these attacks began with the talented Arshavin, who always seemed to be in control of the situation. However, many of these chances ended at the feet of Kerzhakov, who seemed unable to finish plays the entire match.
The Czech Republic began to show signs of life at the end of the first half; but, just like their opponent, they were unable to capitalize on their chances. This offensive mindset continued for the Czech Republic into the second half, where their efforts finally showed some reward in a goal scored by Vaclav Pilar. Pilar received a beautiful pass from Plasil, and then managed to get around Russian goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev to put the ball into the practically empty net. With the score only 2-1, it seemed as though the game was not going to end as it was expected to.
The goal from Pilar seemed to be a game changer, since the following several minutes played after the goal made Russia appear a very average team. The Czech Republic found their purpose, while the Russians tried to regain their footing.
With Czech beginning to throw almost every man behind the ball on the attack to get the equalizer, Russia was left with even more chances on the counter. However, Kerzhakov broke down his own team’s offense by sending his shots too wide or directly into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Kerzhakov was finally substituted in the minute 73 for Roman Pavlyuchenko, who Russian manager Dick Advocaat hoped would be able to help finish at least one of the many counter attempts that his team kept having. Six minutes later, Pavlyuchenko fed a beautiful pass to Dzagoev, who shot the ball past Petr Cech for his second goal of the night and gave Russia the 3-1 lead. Three minutes later, on another counter, Pavlyuchenko managed his way around four Czech defenders. He shot from 15 yards away, which got by the Czech goalkeeper to increase the lead to the final score of 4-1.
The more times the Czech’s pushed on the offensive, the more opportunities Russia had to capitalize on their deadly counterattack. This somewhat comfortable win brought Russia to the top of the group standings and sent the Czech Republic to the bottom. With the outcomes of the match between Poland and Greece, every team has a chance of surviving the group stages and making it to the quarterfinals.
Russia is set to play against Poland next Tuesday, while the Czech Republic ready to face Greece that same day.