In May last year the Czech Under 21 football team became champions of Europe for the first time ever, after a dramatic penalty shoot-out against France. On Wednesday, however, the Czech youngsters experienced the cruel side of penalties, as they lost in Euro 2004 play-offs to Switzerland. It had all looked so good for the "lion cubs": 2:1 up from the away leg, they seemed to be heading for victory after a goal from Jiri Koubsky on 58 minutes. But the Swiss, who have a reputation for resilience, fought back to take a 2:1 lead and force extra-time. In the penalties that followed Czechs Vaclav Sverkos and Martin Kolar both missed as Switzerland won 4:3. A deflated Kolar gave his reaction after the game:
"It's sad that it ended that way. Throughout the qualifying campaign myself and the other guys did our best to get through and then we lost everything on penalties. It's tough, and I'm sure it'll be going through my head for a long time. It's a pity, a big pity, because I really think we're a good team."
The exodus of Czech football talent to Russia continued this week, with Slavia Prague's Richard Dostalek and Adam Petrous both signing for Rubin Kazan, where they will join former Sparta Prague captain Jiri Novotny. There are now around a dozen footballers from the Czech Republic playing in Russia, and another former Sparta man, Jiri Jarosik, recently became the first Czech to win a Russian league title, with CSKA Moscow.
Meanwhile, English club Manchester City are said to be interested in signing Sparta goalkeeper and Czech international no. 2 Jaromir Blazek.
Czech goaltender Roman Cechmanek celebrated his 100th win in the NHL on Wednesday, keeping a clean sheet as his Los Angeles Kings beat Nashville 3:0. In the Czech Extraliga, Pardubice consolidated their position at the top of the table with a 3:1 win over Ceske Budejovice on Tuesday. Meanwhile, in the biggest game of the 24th round Zlin, who are now in second, won 3:1 against Sparta Prague, who are in fourth.
Czech tennis player Bohdan Ulihrach has been talking about his less than successful return to the game after being suspended on a subsequently overturned drugs charge. Ulihrach has only played six ATP tournament matches since returning to the sport in July, though he says he is simply happy to be playing at all. The Kolin-born player is appearing at a challenger in Pruhonice near Prague this week.
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