Czech football squad downs Lithuania to earn Euro 2012 playoff spot


The Czech national football squad secured an impressive 4:1 win over Lithuania on Tuesday, keeping alive the team’s chances of reaching the European Championship next year in Poland and Ukraine. Despite receiving bad news shortly before the match that midfielder Tomáš Rosický would not be able to play, the team displayed plenty of verve throughout the game and jumped to an early lead.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK On Tuesday it was do-or-die for the Czech football team in Kaunas, Lithuania: win or risk losing a chance to qualify for the Euro 2012 playoff round. In Group I. the Czechs needed a better result than fellow contenders Scotland, who on Tuesday faced group winners Spain. Luckily for the Czechs, both games went their way: Spain dispatched the Scots 3:1 while the Czech national squad played its best game in months. Indeed, the match could hardly have gone better, especially with Rosický out with injury.

In just the second minute of the first half the Czechs were awarded a penalty kick Michal Kadlec coolly converted. Jan Rezek, a bright addition to the national team, added two more before half time and the Czechs were off and running. Any nervousness from previous games was quickly dispelled as the team created opportunity after opportunity. The first goal by Rezek came after Milan Baroš rang a shot off the post.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK There was also drama at the other end it wasn’t all the Czechs’: Lithuania almost had the team dead of rights moments when Šernas, in close, fired to the corner but was denied by Petr Čech. After the match the goalie admitted that an equalizer early in the game could have changed things considerably. In the second half, the Czech squad slowed somewhat, not least after the team was reduced to 10 men: Hubník brought down Šernas in the area and was given a red card; Šernas then converted, earning Lithuania a consolation goal. Before time, Kadlec scored again on yet another penalty and the final score was 4:1.

Although the team can breathe a collective sigh of relief a final hurdle of course stands in the way: winning the play-off round to ultimately qualify. The team’s head coach Michal Bílek:

Michal Bílek, photo: CTKMichal Bílek, photo: CTK “I was given a job to do and that was to get us to Euro 2012. We took a step closer to that by getting into the play-off but if we don’t go all the way, the effort will still be seen as a failure. We fulfilled part of the task, which was to finish second in our group, since we knew Spain was the clear favourite. We knew we would be fighting for second place and we succeeded.”

The Czech Republic will be among the seeded teams in Thursday’s Euro 2012 playoff draw in Kiev. In the un-seeded group are Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Estonia. The two play-off games will take place in mid-November.