Russia have set the tournament alight with a 4-1 drubbing of the Czech Republic.
Wroclaw: In what many were predicting would be a group filled with bore draws, Russia have set the tournament alight with a 4-1 drubbing of the Czech Republic. The sbornaya have an outstanding record in European Championships and they have sent out a warning to whichever team that they meet in the quarter finals - a stage they now look almost certain to reach.
The Russians showed the spark and inspiration that had been missing in the four years since 2008 and only began to return with a 3-0 win last week against Italy. Now, though, it is clear to all that the Eastern Europeans are back, having scored seven goals in their last two games.
After a sluggish first 15 minutes, the game came to life with a searing move that involved a beautiful ball from Alan Dzagoev, a deft cross from Konstantin Zyryanov and a header hitting the post from Alexander Kerzhakov, only for Dzagoev to coolly put away the rebound.
The Czech defence remained at sixes and sevens from that moment on, as Andrey Arshavin, Dzagoev and Kerzhakov tore them apart with break after break, all orchestrated by the wily old Zenit midfielders Zyryanov and Roman Shirokov.
The performance of Arshavin will have particular reverberations around the world. The man who was bought by Arsenal largely on the back of his displays at the Euros four years ago can now truly be said to have returned to that peak, having destroyed Italy right back Christian Maggio last week.
In this match, he weaved his way through all sides of the Czech defence. The baby-faced magician still looks relatively uninterested when off the ball but Russia will hope that he remains in the sort of mood he was in today when given it.
Highly-rated youngster Dzagoev, 21, was also looking dangerous. He doesn’t have the pace of Arshavin but his positioning was excellent and he took both his goals with composure that belied his years.
He had been looking out of touch in the friendlies, having just returned from injury but, similarly to Roman Pavlyuchenko who scored the fourth goal, there will be no such worries about him now.
The game wasn't all positive for Russia, though. Centre forward Kerzhakov, who entered this match on a wave of hype after a ground-breaking season in the Russian top-flight, looked dangerously out of sorts in front of goal.
His movement was sharp but he failed spectacularly to convert from the good positions he found for himself, constantly firing shots off target in a frustrating display.
The defence was also less than solid at times and the usually trustworthy Alexander Anyukov found himself lost for dust by Vaclav Pilar, who cooly took a neat goal.
The Czech winger is undoubtedly talented but Anyukov will face far greater threats if and when Russia come up against one of Portugal, Germany or Netherlands in the last eight. But that won’t worry the sbornaya as they quite rightly celebrate a thumping victory over their old Soviet foes that will have the rest of Europe quaking in their boots.
This Russia team looks like it can take any defence apart at the click of their fingers and now the rest of Europe have been warned.