| June 13
June 13 Russia looked impressive for much of
their thrilling 1-1 draw with co-hosts Poland but the Group A
favourites were let down by careless forwards who lost
possession or failed to find the target.
Captain Andrei Arshavin returned to his old inconsistent
ways in Tuesday's clash. He set up Russia's opener for Alan
Dzagoyev but tried to be too clever near the Polish area, lost
the ball and watched as they broke away to equalise.
Striker Alexander Kerzhakov's failure to put the ball in the
net is another problem for coach Dick Advocaat, who nevertheless
said he was satisfied with a result that leaves Russia needing a
point against Greece to guarantee a quarter-final spot.
Playmaker Arshavin, widely praised after the opening 4-1 win
over the Czech Republic, flitted in and out of the second half
against the Poles and his passing was well below his best.
A few minutes after Poland's stunning leveller from captain
Jakub Blaszczykowski, Arshavin broke into the area from the left
and had to quickly decide whether to try to curl the ball past
the goalkeeper or find a better placed team mate.
Instead his poor execution achieved neither as the ball
zipped across the area and out towards the far touchline. Yet
Advocaat said he had no regrets about not taking him off.
"Arshavin was the sharpest with the ball, so I was not going
to change him. Every time he got the ball something happened so
I left him on the field," said the Dutch coach.
Advocaat may feel he has no choice but to stick with the
31-year-old, a man abundantly blessed with talent but who can be
enormously frustrating as Arsenal fans know only too well.
He often disappears for large parts games but can also
produce extraordinary performances like that in which he scored
four goals in a 4-4 draw at Liverpool three years ago.
Arshavin's pace and inventiveness are one of the strong
points of the Russia side, whose fleet-footed attackers often
forced Poland onto the back foot.
At times the Russians swarmed impressively all over the
Poles and looked to be half a metre faster than their opponents.
When Russia had the ball the Polish defensive line was
forced to play fairly deep for fear of pushing up too far and
then being caught on the counter-attack.
While Arshavin's place is secure, Advocaat must be having
second thoughts about Kerzhakov, who has not scored in a
competitive game for Russia since October 2010.
Against the Czechs he produced seven shots off target,
setting an unwanted European Championship record, and had no
better luck against the Poles.
Kerzhakov's supporters say he plays a crucial role in the
Russian attack, constantly moving around in the box and dragging
defenders out of position.
But a forward should also score goals and Advocaat might be
tempted to give more playing time to Roman Pavlyuchenko when
Russia take on the injury-hit Greeks in their final group game.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Ken Ferris)