Tag: Czech Republic

Czech Mate

Czech 0-2 Italy / Ghana 2-1 USA You have to respect the Italian fans. They’re the only set of fans in the whole of the World Cup that are even more pessimistic than England’s. They dropped two points against the USA (whose sole tactic appeared to be kick the Italians very hard), and the country was plumetted into depression. There was nothing really to base this on, of course. They had been unfortunate (the sort of own goal they conceded happens to any team once in a decade), and, on balance, it was a match that they deserved to win. All Italy really needed was a point, so why did they decide that this would be the team that would become the first Italian not to reach the group phases since 1974? This is, after all, an Italy team that hasn’t lost a World Cup match in ninety minutes since 1986. Incredible, but true. They needn’t have panicked, of course. The Czechs had put in real Jekyll & Hyde performances against Ghana and the USA respectively. A team that had gone from one being talked about to reach the quarter-finals (or possibly to go further) was suddenly in trouble. Their confidence had been shot to pieces by the Ghana match and, by half-time, they were as good as on their way home. Materazzi’s header from a corner (from which...

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Czeched Out

Czech Republic 0-2 Ghana The rest of the day was taken up with results that no-one could or would have predicted. I know it sounds like excuses, but consider this: Ghana, whilst they had showed flashes of inspiration against Italy, hadn’t shown that they had anything like the defensive nous to deal with the likes of Thomas Rosicky, Pavel Nedved, et al. The Czechs, however, had turned in one of the performances of the first round of matches against the USA. People were talking about them possibly going all the way. There is no question that the Czechs were outplayed. Had it no been for Petr Cech, it could have been five or six. But it wasn’t. It was a bad day at the office for the Czech defender Ujfalusi, whose error gifted Asamoah Gyan to open the scoring just after a minute in. In the second half, he was red-carded for bringing down Gyan (although the referee didn’t appear in any hurry to send him off, there was a good two-minute wait while he calmed down protests and, mystifyingly, booked Gyan for taking the penalty too quickly. It was second time lucky for the Czechs. Having scored with his first penalty, Gyan hit the post. And, yes, the yellow card keeps him out of their final group match. Muntari scored a near perfunctory second goal with twelve minutes...

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Bouncing Czechs

Czech Republic 3-0 USA There’s been a lot of talk recently about the possibility (or indeed likelihood) of the USA launching a serious challenge for the World Cup. It’ll keep coming every time until they actually do, and it seems to be based more on the fact that America is the richest country in the world, rather than on any substantial evidence. The fact remains that there are no American players at the richest clubs in the world (this the point at which, on messageboards, Americans butt in and helpfully add that Fulham is one of the richest clubs in the world because Mohammad Al-Fayed owns Harrods), and that they lack experience at the top level. Their own league, the MLS, is by a country mile the most stable football league America has ever had, but (even though it has a draft system, and was set up with the single aim of providing a solid basis for a strong international team) it would barely make the top twenty best leagues in the world. That said, the Czechs are a strong team. When Koller ambles into the penalty area, Frankenstein’s-monster-like, to put them ahead after seven minutes, you kind of got the feeling that it was going to be a walk-over. Although the Americans were unfortunate when when Claudio Reyna (the only player in these finals that I’ve ever spoken...

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