Czech football fans will have woken up on Thursday morning with smiles on their faces and names like Poborsky, Nedved, Koller and Baros on their lips, because the Czech Republic have done it - they've won their group and qualified for next year's European Championships! A capacity crowd at Prague's Letna stadium saw Wednesday's game against the Netherlands get off to a perfect start, when Edgar Davids was sent off after fouling Karel Poborsky in the box. Jan Koller blasted the penalty home and the Czechs never looked back. Twenty minutes later Poborsky, excellent throughout, brought to mind his famous Euro 96 goal with a brilliant chip over the Dutch keeper to make it 2:0. In the second half Holland got one back, though they never looked like equalising, and Milan Baros put the icing on the Czech cake with a third goal; his goal was literally the last kick of an exciting game. Captain Pavel Nedved expressed his satisfaction after the game:
"You could see we really wanted to win, we fought to the end. It wasn't an easy game at all, that was a great performance. After the games we've played, the results we've got, I think we deserved to qualify. We've all stood by one another. I believe in this team and think we can do big things in the future."
The Czech Under 21s made life difficult for themselves when they lost to the Netherlands on Tuesday; the reigning champions can still win their group, though, if they beat Austria in their final qualifier next month.
Viktoria Zizkov have sacked coach Viteslav Lavicka, after picking up only six points in six games so far this season. The club's management said Zizkov need to be challenging for European competitions and could not afford to be languishing in tenth place in the league.
The Czech tennis number two, Radek Stepanek, is injured and will miss the Davis Cup World Group play-off away to Thailand, to decide which country stays among the top nations next year. The tie takes place the weekend after next. Meanwhile, the Czech number one, Jiri Novak, who is 28, has denied that he is planning to retire at the end of this season.
The first ever Czech basketball player to ever make it to the NBA is returning to the Czech Republic. Nymburk surprised commentators with the news that Jiri Zidek, who is 30, has just signed a one-year contract with the club. Zidek last played in the Czech league 12 years ago.
The new Czech ice hockey Extraliga season begins on Friday. As usual, several of the league's better players have gone abroad during the summer break but fans will have the chance to see star forward Jiri Dopita play for Pardubice and Martin Havlat, who has not yet agreed a new contract with NHL club Ottawa, will be the big draw at Sparta Prague, at least at the beginning of the season.
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