Alan Dzagoev reflected with satisfaction on his timely return to the Russia team after his two-goal performance in their opening win against the Czech Republic earned him the Carlsberg Man of the Match award.
The 21-year-old PFC CSKA Moskva midfielder put Russia on the way to their 4-1 Group A victory with an emphatic close-range finish after 15 minutes and struck the decisive third goal at a time the Czechs were threatening a comeback.
This was only his second start since recovering from a broken toe suffered in March and followed an impressive run-out in the friendly victory against Italy. "Usually it takes me some time to get back into shape after an injury but now I have done it in a quite short period of time," he said. "[With] Marat [Izmailov] out for the game with Italy, I got this chance and took it with positive results."
Dzagoev received his award from former Croatia striker Davor Šuker and earned a word of praise from his coach Dick Advocaat, who said: "I've always said he has a lot of talent."
The player himself paid credit to substitute Roman Payluchenko, who helped put the game beyond the Czechs. "At 2-1 we were experiencing some difficulties [then] Roman Pavlyuchenko came on, set up a goal and scored one. I thank him for this. I am so happy that we won."
Russia's win gives them an early lead at the top of Group A and Dzagoev is hoping the victory is the first of many. "I want to say that this was the first step – the first step out of five or six, if you aim for the final."
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