Russia’s start to their Euro 2012 campaign could not have gone any better – on the pitch that is. Inspired by the energetic duo of Andrei Arshavin and Alan Dzagoev, Dick Advocaat’s men cruised to a 4-1 win over a tepid Czech Republic team to put themselves top of Group A.
However, off the field issues have threatened to overshadow what was a rousing opening victory. During the game in Wroclaw, Russian fans were allegedly overheard racially abusing Czech full back Theo Gebre Selassie throughout the game, with some also displaying far-right political iconography.
A UEFA statement said: “Having looked at the security reports and available images, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the Football Union of Russia. This relates to the improper conduct of its supporters, the setting-off and throwing of fireworks and the display of illicit banners. The control and disciplinary body will review the case on Wednesday June 13.
“In addition, regarding reports of alleged abuse directed at Czech Republic players from Russia fans, Uefa is investigating this further and is working with Football Against Racism in Europe to collect more evidence.”
On the pitch, the Russians can secure qualification for the last eight on Tuesday with a victory over co-hosts Poland. The Poles drew with Greece in their opening match and need to avoid defeat against Russia to have a realistic opportunity to qualify for the quarter-finals themselves. However, Advocaat’s men will be looking to build on an electrifying start.
While Arshavin’s performance was most widely lauded, Dzagoev, who was struggling to be fit for the finals just a few weeks ago, was in talismanic form, scoring two fine goals. Tipped as a star ever since making his CSKA Moscow debut after a switch from Krylia Sovetov in 2008, the 21-year-old has so far failed to fully live up to expectations. As current top scorer at the tournament, this could prove an ideal platform to propel his career to the next stage.
Understandably after such a convincing win, parallels are being drawn with the 2008 Russia side which made the semi-finals before losing out to eventual winners Spain. This may be premature – the Czechs offered little resistance to Russia’s fluid counter-attacking style – but matching the achievements of that side is not unthinkable.
Should the Russians get out of Group A, as they are now expected to do, they will fancy their chances against Denmark, Portugal or the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. Indeed, it was the Netherlands who Russia defeated in the last eight in 2008. With morale at a high point, few would bet against Dzagoev and his team mates from making a European charge again.
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