Russia forwards outshine more famous strikers

Russia forwards outshine more famous strikers

Published Jun. 10, 2012 6:34 p.m. ET

After only one match, Russia's forward line is already looking like one of the tournament's most imposing.

While the big-name attackers of the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany could only score one goal between them in their opening European Championship matches, Russia put four past a hapless Czech defense.

The win was masterminded by Andrei Arshavin, who has returned to form since his loan move from Arsenal to Zenit St. Petersburg. The striker made his name during Zenit's 2008 UEFA Cup title run before helping Russia reach the Euro 2008 semifinals.

Despite Arshavin's dominant play against the Czechs, Russia coach Dick Advocaat refused to single him out for praise.


''The team is the key, not one individual,'' Advocaat said Sunday.

While Advocaat's comment was a typical coach's cliche - not wanting to elevate one player above others and risk resentment in his squad - in this case, he is right.

Arshavin was the playmaker but he got key assists from Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Alan Dzagoev and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko. Even midfielder Roman Shirokov got in on the act, running onto a perfectly weighted Arshavin pass to lift the ball over Petr Cech.

Dzagoev was the pick of the bunch with a goal in each half in his first match at a major tournament.

The softly spoken 21-year-old CSKA Moscow forward, who is expected to make a big money move after this tournament to one of Europe's major leagues, played down his performance.

''I got lucky in many ways,'' Dzagoev told Russian television. ''The first goal was scored after the ball rebounded off the post, while the second came after a beautiful assist. So, one shouldn't exaggerate my achievements.''

Like Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko left Russia for the English Premier League after standout performances at Euro 2008, where he scored three goals. And like Arshavin, he is now back in Russia, but with Lokomotiv Moscow.

He only came on as a late substitute against the Czechs, but had an immediate impact. First, his pass set up Dzagoev for his second goal, and then he cut in from the left and shot past Cech.

''I think the turning point was when Roman Pavlyuchenko entered the game as he first assisted for the goal and then beat Petr Cech himself,'' Dzagoev said.