I didn’t watch Greece-Poland because, well, it was Greece and Poland. It sounds like it was a 1-1 snoozefest enlivened only by the referee, who is a card-happy monster from La Liga that sent off a Greek defender in the first half and the Polish goalie in the second. Russia-Czech Republic was interesting mostly because the Russian attack is seriously lethal. It could have easily been 7-1 if Kerzhakov had any ability whatsoever to even put the ball on goal, forget actually putting it in the net. After what seemed like the 45th perfect little through ball past the defense, he blasted a one-touch shot from about 8 meters out that was wider than Vanderjagt’s miss against the Steelers. That was enough for the Russian manager, who promptly took him out. It was a shame, because Kerzhakov was always in the right place at the right time, demanding the ball from the midfield by virtue of being the optimal pass, only to look like someone who had never played soccer before.
Dzagoev promptly justified the manager’s move, as Kerzhakov’s absence meant the Russian midfield began targeting him with its passes and he promptly buried the very sort of ball that Kerzhakov had been missing in the back of the net. The substitute striker, Pavlyuchenko, then put on what was one of the most simultaneously selfish, stubborn, and brilliant displays I’ve ever seen, taking on three Czech defenders at the left top of the box, staunchly refusing to pass or cross it, then somehow firing a hard, almost Cruyffian-turn shot past the Czech goalie. The Czechs really weren’t bad, but the Russians were an order of magnitude better.