By Peter Smith
Sport now and on a busy night of international football friendlies in Europe, the Czech Republic were lucky to escape from their match against Belgium in Prague with a draw. It proved a memorable night for the young striker Milan Baros, though.. his late, albeit controversial goal, marked a wonderful international debut for the Banik Ostrava player.
The visitors had most of the early pressure and went ahead in the 10th minute when Schalke's Emile Mpenza slotted home after being set up by the Udinese maestro Johan Walem. Czech coach Josef Chovanec introduced five former under 21 youngsters at the start of the second half in an attempt to instill some pace into the team. With only eight minutes to go, the strategy paid off when newly capped Baros was ruled onside before stroking home the equaliser - TV replays showed, however, that the youngster had been clearly offside.
Coach Chovanec said after the match "I told the youngsters that this was their chance to get noticed... I think some of them did that."
The coach of the Czech ice-hockey team Josef Augusta has declared that nothing but gold will be good enough when the World Championships get underway in Germany this weekend. "We have made preparations to stay in Germany until 14th May." Augusta said before departure, "that's the day after the final." The 23-man party is expected to arrive in Nuremburg later today in preparation for their opening match against Belarus on Saturday.
Most of the best players in the world, though, will be elsewhere during the World Championships - namely North America where the NHL Stanley Cup play-offs are getting underway. It's Dominik Hasek verses Jaromir Jagr as the Buffalo Sabres meet the Pittsburgh Pengiuns for the first time in the Stanley Cup since 1979. Pittsburgh coach Ivan Hlinka - the man who led the Czech Republic to Olympic gold in 1998 - said of the Buffalo goaltender "Hasek is not a God... he just a very good goaltender." Yes... innocence lost for all those adolescent hockey fanatics.
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