In what was randomly one of the most entertaining matches of the Euros—with Russia pulling off flowing team moves left and right like a prime Arsène Wenger team, and Finland managing several times to counter its way into one-on-ones against the keeper—it was fitting that Alexei Miranchuk channeled his inner Andrey Arshavin to score this gorgeous, match-winning goal:
Finland-Russia was a good example of how a match can be ultra-attacking even when the ball only goes into the net (and counts) once. It was also an example of why “fun” and “good” aren’t perfect synonyms in soccer.
The defending on both sides was atrocious. Neither team had much interest in or ability to protect that important area of the pitch directly in front of their own goals. Their respective ways of accessing that area were completely different, though. For Russia, it was by hoofing balls up to striker Artem Dzyuba (who deserves a 10/10 match rating solely off the strength of his back-to-goal game) for the big man to lay a pass on to a wide-open teammate, which would then start the Wengerball ballet at the top of Finland’s box. For Finland, it was by snatching possession away from Russia, having midfielder Glen Kamara drive the ball into space, and then waiting for a clear lane to open up into which someone could play a through ball onto either Teemu Pukki or Joel Pohjanpalo and send them into one of those aforementioned one-on-ones with the keeper.
Like the defending, the finishing was often bad, which is why only Mirunchuk was able to score. But the good chances came hot and heavy:
Maybe benefitting from a lack of expectations and pressure, teams below the elite have played some of the most entertaining soccer of the tournament so far: Wales, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Scotland, Slovakia, Russia. And we’re still only just starting the second round of group games! The Euros are good!