The most disappointing aspect of Russia’s, difficult to comprehend, elimination from the tournament is that we won’t see any more of Alan Dzagoev. Dzagoev’s three goals in the opening two fixtures seemed to have set Russia on a comfortable course for the knockout stages and placed him as a contender for top goalscorer, but a limp performance in the final game saw them miss out.
Ostensibly playing on the right side of an attacking front three, he had the freedom to go where he wanted and looked lively and alert. His first goal came 15 minutes into the game against the Czech Republic, reacting smartly to fire home the rebound after Kerzhakov’s header had hit the post. It swung the tie in Russia’s favour after the Czech’s had started reasonably well. His second calmed nerves and restored the two goal lead, arriving from deep to collect Pavlyuchenko’s neat reverse pass and shoot sharply passed Petr Chech. Against Poland he opened the scoring with a well placed header, though this was assisted by some pretty poor defending.
It wasn’t just his goal-scoring exploits that caught the eye, his movement off the ball and ability to cut in from the wing and look for the killer pass made him at least as important as Arshavin to Russia’s early success. Unlike Arshavin, he also looked like he was happy to get involved at the other end of the pitch. A lethargic team performance against Greece produced few highlights but Russia’s best two chances both involved Dzagoev. In the first half he cut in from the right and found Arshavin with a neat chipped pass which Arshavin fired limply at the ‘keeper. Later Arshavin returned the favour with a great cross which Dzagoev got his head to but saw his effort curl agonisingly wide of the far post.
At 22 (today actually) he should be entering the prime of his career and he’s certainly not picked a bad time to perform well at a major tournament. He’s been with CSKA Moscow since 2008 and made over 100 appearances for them. Much as I’d love to see him in a White shirt I think it will be one of Europe’s leading sides that wins his signature. In the past he’s been linked with Real Madrid and more recently both Arsenal and Chelsea have been strongly linked. It’s a good time for him to try his talents elsewhere, though he only need talk to his national skipper to appreciate the challenges that may face him.
Dave has supported Fulham since he was 6 and the Whites reached the ‘75 F.A. Cup Final. He went to his first game in 1979, enjoying a 3-1 win over Burnley, but saw the team relegated the same season thus ensuring he was well prepared for life as a Fulham fan. E-mail him or follow him on twitter.