Alan Dzagoev was the star of Russia's attacking show Friday, scoring a goal in each half in his team's 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in Group A of the European Championship.
Dzagoev and Roman Shirokov gave Russia a 2-0 halftime lead before Vaclav Pilar pulled one back in the 52nd minute for the Czechs. Dzagoev replied with his second, in the 80th, and substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko added a fourth two minutes later to complete the victory.
Russia, built around a nucleus of players who made a surprise run to the semifinals four years ago, showed it has the potential to go even further in Poland and Ukraine.
If Euro 2012's opening 1-1 draw between Poland and Greece had more drama than quality, the second group match was a feast of fluent, attacking football.
Russia coach Dick Advocaat said before the match he only considered his team an outsider for the title, but he may have to revise his opinion after the emphatic victory, although Russia is unlikely to meet many defenses as accommodating as the Czech back four.
Captain Andrei Arshavin, playing on the left wing but drifting all over the field, masterfully directed the Russian attacks with pinpoint passes all night. It was something of a redemption for Arshavin, who struggled for Arsenal this season before a loan move to Zenit St. Petersburg.
After weathering a tough opening 10 minutes, Russia settled into its fluid passing game and tore apart the Czech defense.
Dzagoev, a 21-year-old CSKA Moscow midfielder who had scored only four goals in 20 internationals before Friday, was on hand to knock in a loose ball in the 15th minute. Konstantin Zyryanov floated a cross to the far post and Aleksandr Kerzhakov's ensuing header hit the woodwork before bouncing to Dzagoev.
Dzagoev should have scored again minutes later but blasted his shot wide after Kerzhakov found him in space on the right.
Shirokov made no such mistake in the 24th when he ran onto a diagonal pass from the left by Arshavin and cleverly lifted the ball over Petr Cech's despairing dive for his seventh intentional goal.
After Russian chances early in the second half went off target, the Czechs replied as Pilar beat the offside trap to run onto a pass from Petr Jiracek, get around Vyacheslav Malafeev and slide the ball home in the 52nd minute.
"I collected a through pass from Petr Jiracek and scored, but I'm not happy about the goal because we were comprehensively beaten," Pilar said.
And after Kerzhakov missed two more good chances, Czech Republic right back Theodor Gebre Selassie nearly scored a spectacular equalizer in the 72nd with a powerful right foot volley into the side netting. Tomas Rosicky then came close with a low shot that Malafeev saved.
But Russia then stepped up a gear as Dzagoev slammed home another shot after a pass from Pavlyuchenko. And then Pavlyuchenko, on for Kerzhakov, held off three Czech defenders and drove a rising shot past Cech.
Russia: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Alexander Anyukov, Alexei Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov, Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Andrei Arshavin, Alexander Kerzhakov (Roman Pavlyuchenko, 73), Alan Dzagoev (Aleksandr Kokorin, 84).
Czech Republic: Petr Cech, Theodor Gebre Selassie, Tomas Sivok, Roman Hubnik, Michal Kadlec, Jan Rezek (Tomas Huebschman, 46), Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Rosicky, Petr Jiracek (Milan Petrzela, 75), Vaclav Pilar, Milan Baros (David Lafata, 85).