Russia came into UEFA EURO 2012 with high hopes after a 3-0 pre-tournament victory against Italy, and that optimism only intensified as a free-flowing display brought a 4-1 win against the Czech Republic in their opening game. Yet eight days later the Czechs were able to start looking forward to the quarter-finals as Group A winners – and for eliminated Russia, it was suddenly back to the drawing board.
In a nutshell
It all came down to missed chances. Russia overwhelmed the Czech Republic but they could almost have doubled their score had they converted a raft of opportunities. Dick Advocaat's side enjoyed an excellent half-hour against Poland in which they ought to have sealed passage to the knockout phase. They did not and Jakub Błaszczykowski's stunning equaliser to make it 1-1 set up a thorny last-day test with Greece. Russia failed it, losing 1-0 despite having 25 shots at goal.
Russia's display against the Czech Republic had Europe salivating, demanding a second helping. There were echoes of Guus Hiddink's side of 2008 as Russia sliced open their opponents at will, with the attacking trio of Alan Dzagoev, Andrey Arshavin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov a joy to behold, such was their movement and link-up play.
Igor Denisov, 28, has emerged as one of the finest defensive midfielders on the continent. He has been excelling for FC Zenit St Petersburg for a couple of years now and this tournament took his game to a new level.
Hope for the future
Dzagoev also enhanced his reputation no end, scoring three goals in as many outings. There is a sense of flux around the Russia squad, with Advocaat leaving to take the reins at PSV Eindhoven and many of the squad coming to the end of their careers. Dzagoev, just 22, suggests they may have a bright future.
Kerzhakov – 11 shots on goal at UEFA EURO 2012, none on target.
"This is the essence of the Russian character. When we gather our strength and confidence, we can beat any team; but if we relax a bit and let our emotions get to us, we can lose to very weak teams."
Arshavin sums up Russia's failings.
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