12-11-2001

By Ian Willoughby

Football first, and the Czech Republic got off to a bad start in their World Cup play-off against Belgium, going down 1:0 in Brussels on Saturday night.

The Belgians scored after half an hour, following a bit of a goal mouth scramble. Whatever chances the Czechs had of getting back into the game were seriously diminished however, following the sending off of Tomas Repka for elbowing Belgian Bart Goor just before half time in what was a very scrappy and unattractive game.

Repka's sending off - incredibly his seventh in the last year - dominates Monday's sports pages. The papers are unsparing in their condemnation of the West Ham defender, with one tabloid even consulting a psychologist who said the player was "emotionally unstable".

Let's hope his team-mates keep their heads and improve on Saturday's poor performance in the return game in Prague on Wednesday.

The Czech Republic's Under 21s did a bit better than the seniors, managing a 1:1 draw with Croatia in Split following an equaliser from Stepan Vachousek. That means they go into Tuesday's second leg against in Teplice with a crucial away goal.

In ice hockey the Czech Republic suffered their first defeat in the Swedish Game on Sunday, losing 3:2 to the old enemy Russia to finish second overall to the hosts Sweden. In the Euro Hockey Tour, however - which the Swedish Games are part of - the Czechs lie in fourth place while Finland leads the table.

The next event in the Euro Hockey Tour is the Baltic Games, which will be held in Moscow in the middle of next month.

Women's tennis now, and after two years of good results the Czech team had a disastrous Fed Cup when they lost their games in Madrid against Russia, France and Argentina to come last in Group A with nul points. Belgium beat Russia in the final of the competition on Sunday.

Javelin legend Jan Zelezny took part in a sport of a very different kind on Saturday, when he took part in an exhibition hanball game to mark the seventieth birthday of coach Jiri Vicha. Zelezny said he wanted to help increase interest in the sport, which is a bit like football but you use your hands not your feet, if you are not familiar with it.

12-11-2001