Russia have radiated a quiet confidence in their preparations for this tournament, giving a sense of an encouragingly weathered unit that was justified in Wroclaw's Municipal Stadium by a periodically irresistible swatting aside of the Czech Republic. This was a victory founded in the interchanges of Russia's fluid front three and a midfield that keeps the ball with encouraging ease. With Greece and Poland drawing it leaves them imperiously top of Group A.
"We are quite happy," Dick Advocaat, the Russian manager, said. "When you score four goals in an international game it's a good result. At 2-1 it was difficult and maybe a better team might have scored against us. There were moments where we should have been sharper. For a first game we're happy."
Wroclaw has proved an elegantly low-key host city but there was a crackle of nervous excitement around the steeply-banked seats of the Municipal Stadium before kick-off on a night dampened by a torrential rainstorm. The Municipal is a spanking new high-sided bowl fringed with illuminated gauze and here it was red on all sides as two of Eastern Europe's rowdier supports rejoined in a rivalry still spiced with a little historical enmity.
It was the Czechs who settled the quicker. Cohesion in midfield is Russia's strength, with a central three of Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov and Roman Shirokov culled from Zenit St Petersburg, but it was the Czechs own energetic twin-fulcrum of Jaroslav Plasil and Petr Jiracek who wrested control in the early stages, with Milan Baros, recovered from a thigh strain, moving encouragingly across the Russian backline.
Michel Bilek's team lack penetration though: here it was again a case of the unbearable lightweightness of the Czech Republic attack as Russia emerged to create the first chance with their first real attack after 13 minutes. A delightful flick by Andrey Arshavin left Yuri Zhirkov in space on the left wing, but his cross was scuffed wide by Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
Two minutes later another decisive thrust brought the opening goal. Shirokov burst through on the right and crossed for Kerzhakov, unmarked in the middle. His header back across goal struck the post with Petr Cech beaten, but the ball rebounded to the young star Alan Dzagoev. His finish was precise.
Suddenly it was all Russia. With 20 minutes gone Dzagoev might have had another: played in by a gorgeously stroked cross-field pass from Kerzhakov he shot wide. Increasingly Russia's false nine was drifting into positions unmanned by white shirts, vindicating Advocaat's decision to side with Kerzhakov's subtlety (and variable finishing) ahead of his more muscular target men. Not that there was anything deliberate about Kerzhakov's part in Russia's second goal after 24 minutes. Arshavin slid a pass diagonally into the Czech area where Kerzhakov was lurking. He failed to reach the ball, which then ran on to the unmarked Shirokov, who finished from six yards out.
Arshavin likes these championships. Mischievously sublime in Austria and Switzerland four years ago, here he was a roving danger, popping up on the right to curl an alluring cross along the six-yard box and confirming an impression that Russia's captain has entered this tournament unrecognisable from the muted, meandering figure of his most recent days at Arsenal.
"Andriy played a great game. He worked very hard," Advocaat noted. With the Czechs unable to track Russia's mobile front three, Russia might have killed the game on 33 minutes, Kerzhakov clipping the bar after stretching to reach Shirokov's fizzed pass.
After half-time Russia took some time to recapture their first half vim and the Czechs pulled a goal back seven minutes after the restart. Plasil's perfectly timed through pass caught Vaclav Pilar onside as he advanced. allowing him to round Vyacheslav Malafeev and score. Steadily though that familiar midfield triumvirate reasserted itself and Kerzhakov, increasingly wasteful as he wearied, shot wide once again on 64 minutes. The pass from Arshavin that put him through was a wonderfully arrogant flick of the boot.
"We lost the ball again, we were losing strength and the opponent punished us for this," was the verdict of a visibly disappointed Michal Bilek. "Russia have very good combinations in midfield, they are very strong there. This result is very impressive for Russia. There are two more matches and they will be equally difficult for us."
So it proved to be. The weary Kerzhakov was replaced by Roman Pavlyuchenko on 73 minutes, and it was the former Spurs striker who sealed the game within nine minutes of his arrival. First he created Russia's third goal with a neatly cushioned pass into the path of the twinkling Dzagoev, who lashed the ball home. Moments later Advocaat's substitute ambled inside Roman Hubnik with galling ease, before finishing high and powerfully beyond Cech. If weariness can be staved off after a gruelling season, Russia will take some stopping on this evidence.