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Russian starlet Dzagoev living up to his billing

sports Updated: Jun 16, 2012 01:59 IST
Alan Dzagoev

Russia has been waiting since 11 October 2008. It was then that Alan Dzagoev made his international debut, coming off the bench at half-time in a World Cup qualifier away to Germany and hitting the bar. He was aged 18 years and 116 days and so became the youngest outfielder ever to play for Russia.

Dzagoev will turn 22 next week, but it feels as though the wait for him to catch light has been a long. Over the past few days, though, he has made clear just how much ability he has. It is not just his three goals in two games, although they have helped dispel the fear that he is an inconsistent finisher who tends to muff his lines when the pressure is on; it has been his general movement and interlinking of the play in a highly fluent Russian front line.

Dzagoev's parents are Ossetians who emigrated from Georgia to Beslan, where he was born. Dzagoev's father, Tariel, was at work when news broke in 2004 that one of the town's seven schools had been taken over by armed rebels demanding an end to the Second Chechen War. In the initial confusion, he was told that it was Alan's school, number four, that had been attacked, and rushed there to discover that it was actually pupils at school number one who had been taken hostage. At least 334 hostages, including 186 children, were killed.

By then, Dzagoev had already spent four years training with Alania Vladikavkaz, encouraged in his football by his mother. When he was 16, he was spotted by Yuri Oskin, a coach at the academy at Primorsky that is now funded by Roman Abramovich. Dzagoev was part of the side that finished sixth in the Ural-Povolzhye section of the third tier of Russian professional football, scoring five goals and attracting the attention of CSKA where he became famous for taking the bus to training because his dad had banned him from driving.

"It seemed to me even then that Alan stands apart from other players because of his non-standard actions. He is not afraid to get the ball, to dribble, to take responsibility," said the former Russia international Alexander Mostovoi

With Aleksandr Kerzhakov dropping deep to allow Arshavin and Dzagoev as they drift in, Russia have been fluent this Euro. And in Dzagoev they seem to have a prospect who is delivering on his potential.