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Russia quietly aglow after making their point

"It is good that we managed to level it up at the end," said Vasili Berezutski coolly; Richard van Poortvliet found Russia quietly exuberant as he flew home with the team.

Russia celebrate their equaliser against England
Russia celebrate their equaliser against England ©Getty Images

"It is good that we managed to level it up at the end," said Vasili Berezutski after heading Russia's late leveller against England. "You could say this draw was like a victory. We earned a point and it's very good that we've managed to start the tournament with a point on the board. It would be more difficult otherwise."

The 33-year-old captain may not sound overwhelmed with joy when you see those words in print, but as EURO2006.com flew back from Marseille with the team on Saturday night, Russia had plenty to be pleased about.

Saturday had been a long day for Leonid Slutski's men – they did not get back to their team hotel until 3:30 on Sunday morning – but while there were weary faces on the return flight, there were plenty of happy ones too.

The usual suspects – Artem Dzyuba and the Berezutski brothers, Aleksei and Vasili – were full of laughs, while Igor Akinfeev was also in jovial mood, the CSKA Moskva goalkeeper having made a stunning save to deny Wayne Rooney just before Eric Dier's goal put England in front.

Dzyuba delight at Russian defence
Dzyuba delight at Russian defence

Fittingly, the song Provence by the Russian pop group Elka was playing in the cabin as the plane left Marseille, the capital of that region. Music, and team-mates' perceived lack of taste in it, provoked a rare show of disunity within a squad that has thrived on the close bond between its component parts.

"Our players are great and they showed their strong will and skill," said Slutski as he reflected on the point his side gained at the Stade Vélodrome, but once the elation dies down and training starts again on Sunday evening, the coach will know there is room for improvement ahead of Wednesday's encounter with Slovakia in Lille.

Forward Dzyuba found the going tough and was isolated for long periods, while Fedor Smolov and Aleksandr Kokorin also drifted in and out of the game. "Our defence was well organised but not everything worked in attack – we were a bit disjointed," Dzyuba said.

"A lot of balls got kicked out of play. But it was the first match and a difficult one. At times we held on to the ball really well. I think if we add 20–30% in attack, there will be more goals and we'll create more chances."