Euro 2012: Russia stay grounded

RUSSIA will not get carried away after their 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic, with perfectionist coach Dick Advocaat managing to pick holes in a near flawless performance.

Co-hosts Poland await on Tuesday in their second Group A match and with Germany, Netherlands or Portugal probably lined up in the last eight, the Russians cannot rest on their laurels despite Alan Dzagoev scoring twice and Andrei Arshavin looking back to his best.

“At 2-1 it could have been 2-2. There were moments when we could have been sharper,” the ultra-critical Advocaat said. “We weren’t really in the game the first 13 minutes. We weren’t very sharp. From that moment on we kind of controlled the game,” he said of Dzagoyev’s 15th-minute opener.

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If former Rangers manager Advocaat was really looking for problems to address, Alexander Kerzhakov’s wastefulness in front of goal was a thorn in his own side before rival forward Roman Pavyluchenko scored a cracking fourth when he came off the bench.

However, Dutchman Advocaat backed his starter. “I would choose Kerzhakov once again. You make certain choices and you have to back those choices. The only thing he didn’t do was score.”

The Czechs must go back to the drawing board after goalkeeper Petr Cech, whose last competitive game was as a hero in the Champions League final for Chelsea, was left a mere bystander by Russia’s attacking flair. Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky was also outshone by Arshavin, despite having enjoyed a recent renaissance at Arsenal, while Arshavin, his former team-mate at the Emirates, was forced to seek solace on loan at Zenit St Petersburg after losing his club form.

Meanwhile, Poland coach Franciszek Smuda has come under fire for not refreshing his flagging side with substitutions in their opener with Greece and will have to make changes for Tuesday’s politically-charged clash with Russia. Local media and fans were unhappy that Smuda failed to replace players such as left back Sebastian Boenisch, who was the most obvious struggler in a poor second half performance during their 1-1 draw in the Group A opener on Friday.

The Poles looked worn out after pressing Greece strongly for half an hour under the national stadium’s closed-roof humidity.

Midfielders Maciej Rybus and Ludovic Obraniak will be pushed by Kamil Grosicki and Rafal Wolski for places against Russia, although Smuda is known for sticking to his guns. His only change was the forced introduction of Przemyslaw Tyton, who saved a penalty after the sending off of Wojciech Szczesny, as both sides finished the game with ten men.

“Smuda very clearly goes weak at the knees at the very thought of the tiniest change in his opening lineup,” Rafal Stec wrote in Poland’s main broadsheet daily Gazeta Wyborcza. “It’s terrifying to think what might happen if we had further suspensions. All of the reserves now also know clearly how little trust he has in them.”

The clash with their Soviet era masters in Warsaw on Tuesday carries special meaning for the Poles after a plane crash two years ago that killed then president Lech Kaczynski.

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The relationship between the two countries, already strained by their common history, energy and security disputes, has been further soured by charges from Poland’s right-wing politicians that Russian air traffic controllers were at least indirectly responsible for the fatal crash.

Russia blamed the pilots for the accident.