The Czech Republic seem to be able to do no wrong at the European Championships in Portugal, with a win over Germany on Wednesday making them the only country to win all three of their group games.
With the Czech Republic having become the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals, with wins over Latvia and the Netherlands, coach Karel Brueckner decided to rest almost all of his first team for Wednesday's game against Germany. The Czech reserves conceded a goal after 21 minutes following a mistake in defence, but soon made amends in the form of an absolutely sublime free-kick from Marek Heinz, which curled beautifully into the top right-hand corner of the goal.
In the second half the Germans, in need of a win, piled on the pressure, and were denied a second goal by a combination of bad luck and stand-in Czech goalkeeper Jaromir Blazek. But German dreams were shattered in the 75th minute, when substitute Milan Baros made it three goals in three games after taking on the central defence and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn single-handedly. The in-form Czech striker describes his goal.
"I received a good pass from Marek Heinz and I went past the defenders before I ran into the goalie. Then it was a question of a simple tap-in into the empty net."
By that point the 7,000 Czech fans at the game in Lisbon were happily singing "auf wiedersehen, auf wiedersehen", thoroughly enjoying their first win over Germany since the final of the European Championships in 1976. To top it all, it was their b-team which was sending the Germans home! However, Marek Heinz, who was superb throughout Wednesday's match, says the Germans kept fighting till the 90th minute.
"It's really hard if you're losing 2:1 with ten minutes to go, but the Germans never give up, even for a minute. Everyone knows games last 95 minutes now, not 90, and the Germans kept going till the end. But they didn't manage to turn it around, thank God!"
There is still work to do before Sunday's quarter-final against Denmark, with the Czech defence still the team's weakest link. But the fact that a team of Czech reserves could beat the country that came second at the last World Cup says a lot about the confidence of Karel Brueckner's squad. Fingers crossed they can translate that confidence into further success at Euro 2004.
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