Russia emerging hope Alan Dzagoev’s two goals in a 4-1 romp over the Czech Republic lit the touch paper for a thrilling Euro 2012 and suggested the 21-year-old from the furthest fringes of the Old Continent could be this year’s star turn.
Dzagoev, of CSKA Moscow, exploded onto the scene with his double strike — though he had already carved out a reputation as a goalscorer, having originally made his debut as a precocious 16-year-old with second division side Krylia Sovetov.
That alerted CSKA and by the time he was 17 he was laying on two goals and scoring one on his debut against Khimki, before this season scoring against Inter in the Champions League and showcasing his talents with several assists.
However, at the international level he is still at the start of the journey and the man who hails from the town of Beslan in the Caucasus, scene of a deadly hostage crisis in 2004, remains modest to a tee.
“I don’t think about statistics — the important thing is to have won and the way we won. I am not euphoric — it is the team that counts,” Dzagoev said.
He told Russian television after being named man of the match that “one should not exaggerate my achievements.”
Even so, he is now being touted as a symbol of the flowing soccer that the team’s Dutch coach Dick Advocaat wants to see — and with Andrei Arshavin and Aleksander Kerzhakov also sharing attacking responsibilities to great effect on Friday’s evidence.
An admirer of England and Chelsea veteran Frank Lampard, Dzagoev made his debut in a World Cup qualifier against Germany in October 2008, becoming his country’s youngest ever outfield player at 18 years and four months.
Dzagoev almost missed out on the Euro 2012 party when he fractured a toe playing for CSKA in late March.
“But I quickly got over it and got my chance to shine against Italy [an impressive 3-0 warm-up victory]. I took it and I thank the coach for giving me that chance,” he said.
He managed to persuade Advocaat to give him his opening in preference to Alexander Kokorin, his fellow 21-year-old from Dynamo Moscow, as well as Lokomotiv Moscow veteran and former Tottenham Hotspur striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Now he can set his sights on cementing Russia’s rise to prominence, not just at Euro 2012, but also with an eye on a starring role at the 2018 World Cup in his homeland, when he should be in his prime.