The Czech national football team rebounded on Tuesday from its opening loss at EURO 2012, by defeating opponents Greece. The squad got off to the best possible start: scoring two goals inside of six minutes. But a mistake by goalie Čech in the second half put Greece back in the game, and made this one closer than it should have been.
The Czech national squad knew coming into Tuesday’s match it had to deliver or risk becoming the first team eliminated at EURO 2012 hosted by Ukraine and Poland. And deliver they did: the team scored the fastest two-goal lead ever in the UEFA European Championship, leaving Greece reeling in the game’s opening six minutes. First, Tomáš Hübschman set up Petr Jiráček who slotted the ball past goalie Chalkias and soon after Theodor Gebre Selassie sent a sublime cross to Václav Pilař, who – hampered by two players – bundled the ball into the net as he fell.
The quick goals left Greece, who were without two key players at the back, stunned and – for much of the first half – unable to respond. The Czechs, stringing together pass after pass, showed a level of confidence that was absent in their opener against Russia and they dominated – looking at times like they might add a third, which would have put the match effectively out of reach.
That’s not quite how things worked out, however.
Still in the first half, Greece’s Giorgos Fotakis came out of nowhere to head in a Vassilis Torossidis cross and for a moment it appeared the goal would stand before the play was waved offside. The controversial call was scrutinized by Czech TV commentators at half time and it appeared the call was the right one by just a fraction. For the Czech team the moment in the match was nevertheless a warning.
In the second half, following a major blunder by goalie Petr Čech, Greece did score. On a play in the 53rd minute he fumbled the ball, allowing Theofanis Geckas to fire into the empty net. The blunder brought back shades of EURO 2008 when a similar mistake by the goalie largely cost the squad its chance to advance against the Turks. This time, though, the team held on; even though Greece piled on the pressure, 2:1 it remained.
After the match, here is what Petr Čech had to say:
“That is the first time that [memories of a past game] flashed in my head. I made a mistake in rushing for the ball. I could have easily waited a metre back and the ball would have passed defender Tomáš Sivok and I could have caught it easier then. I didn’t handle the situation well and the mistake was mine.”
A win over Poland (and under some circumstances even a draw) in their final group match on Saturday) would see the Czechs advance and the team says it will be ready. All the same some worries on Tuesday morning remained: team captain and key playmaker Tomáš Rosicky, who didn’t play the second half on Tuesday because of a suspected injury and goalie Petr Cech, suffering a possible shoulder injury, had to undergo medical tests. The good news? No damage to bone or tissue was confirmed. The team’s doctor has since said there is a good chance that both Rosický and Čech – two of the Czech team’s most important players - will be ready to play.