The Czech Republic's national football squad went a long way on Wednesday to repairing a somewhat bruised reputation by securing a sensational win few expected to see: a 3:0 defeat of Germany at the shiny Allianz stadium in Munich. The win saw the Czechs join Germany in qualifying for next year's European Championship held in Austria and Switzerland.
Forty-three years ago, that is 1964, was the last time a Czech squad beat Germany on the Germans' home turf. But the Czechs made it look easy, surprisingly easy, on Wednesday night, catching Germany off guard. The first goal against the favourites came in just 113 seconds on a shot by Sionko; the second in the 23rd minute, by Matejovsky. Key play came from the giant Jan Koller. Germany wasn't without chances: the team's Schweinsteiger and Kevin Kuranyi coming to the fore: but shots either went long or were scooped up by Petr Cech. Then, in the second half, when Plasil scored against Germany on a low cross from Pudil to make it 3 to nothing, the outcome was beyond doubt. Some 6,000 visiting Czech fans cheered in the stands, and close to the end of the match even began to sing the Czech anthem: a far cry from scenes from a few months ago when the Czech squad struggled substantially against Cyprus and Wales.
Afterwards, this is what star Czech keeper Petr Cech had to say about differences on the night between the Czech Republic and Germany:
Petr Cech et Karel Bruckner, photo: CTK
"I think that there was a difference in the finishing because we had the first two chances and we scored two brilliant goals. And of course this always changes the philosophy of the game. When you go up 1:0 and then 2:0 it means your opponent has to go forward more and more and try to push and you can stay organised and wait for the counter-attacks and that is what we did. The last straw, I think, was when we scored the third goal. When we scored early in the second half it was all over."
Notably, the Czech squad won against Germany while missing more than a few key players, among them defender Jankulovski, midfielder Rosicky and striker Milan Baros. So, newcomers' play was solid. That could be good news for a squad in need of new blood: ever since the departure of stars like Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky critics have called on the coach, Karel Bruckner, to rely more on up-and-coming talent. Now that the Czechs have qualified for Euro 2008, it is thought the coach will have more room to test different players in the final two matches against Slovakia and Cyprus.