The Czech national football team scored a significant and surprise win against the Netherlands in their opening qualification game for Euro 2016 in Prague on Tuesday night. The Czechs stunned the fancied Dutch side with a stoppage-time goal to win the tie 2:1, in their first competitive game under a new manager.
Prague’s Letná stadium erupted in jubilation when one minute into stoppage time, substitute Václav Pilař picked up the rebound in front of the Dutch goal and tapped into the empty net, securing the Czechs a sensational victory over the Netherlands in their opening Euro 2016 qualifier.
The Czechs had failed to qualify for the last World Cup in Brazil and only recorded two draws and two losses since manager Pavel Vrba took over as national team manager in January. But Tuesday’s performance against the strong favourite thrilled Czech football fans.
Vrba who previously managed Czech side Viktoria Plzeň during their successful campaigns in the Czech and Champions League, was overjoyed with the result.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, just like when [Plzeň] picked up points in the Champions League. But I certainly don’t think the win will turn us into favourites; it should rather encourage us for future qualification ties.
“We will try and qualify for the European Championships and these points are very important for us. But there are many games to come, and Iceland’s 3:0 win over Turkey shows that our group will not be easy at all.”
The Czechs chose careful tactics to face the Dutch offensive threat and took the lead in the 22nd minute when Ladislav Krejčí sent the ball into the box for David Lafata. He passed it back to Bořek Dočkal whose left-footed volley hit the post and ricocheted into the net.
But the goal reinvigorated the visitors who built up momentum and eventually equalized 10 minutes into the second half with a header by Stefan De Vrijs after a cross from Dalay Blind.
The game was heading for a draw, a result which would have been acceptable for the Czechs. But one minute into injury time, Bořek Dočkal sent a speculative cross in front of the visitors’ goal; Dutch defender Daryl Janmaat attempted to head it back to goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen but only hit the post, allowing Pilař to score the winner. Speaking to UEFA reporters, Dočkal described his side’s successful tactics.
“We definitely expected a really difficult game. We faced a team that played the world cup semifinals in Brazil and showed their quality so we just tried to defend well and wait for counter-attacks. It’s a great victory for us.”
In their Euro 2016 qualification campaign, the Czech national team next faces Turkey in Istanbul on October 10 before welcoming Kazakhstan back home three days later.