Czechs face make-or-break tie with Turkey after losing to Portugal at Euro 2008

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic’s footballers were beaten 3:1 by Portugal in their second game at the European Championship on Wednesday evening. That result was perhaps unfortunate for the Czechs, whose play showed marked signs of improvement. Now it’s going right down to the wire: Petr Čech and Co. have to beat Turkey to advance to the quarter-finals.

Photo: CTK
The Czech Republic beat Switzerland 1:0 in their opening game last Saturday, but won few plaudits after a poor performance. Coach Karel Bruckner made changes for Wednesday’s match, including replacing lone striker Jan Koller with Milan Baroš. Baroš justified his inclusion – he and Libor Sionko were among the Czechs’ most effective players. Milan Baroš:

“In the first game we took three points but we were criticised. Now nobody could criticise our performance but we haven’t taken any points. Both teams tonight were well matched, and we could have won with a bit of luck.”

Milan Baroš and Jan Koller, photo: CTK
Luck was what Baroš and his team-mates were lacking when they conceded within the first ten minutes, Deco managing to score through the legs of Marek Jankulovski after goalie Petr Čech had done his best to thwart the Portuguese in a penalty box scramble.

Sionko soon got one back for the Czechs after a well taken Jaroslav Plašil corner; 1:1 is how it stayed until the 63rd minute, when a Ronaldo strike put Portugal in front.

Petr Čech, photo: CTK
Try as they might the Czechs could not fashion a reply, though both Baroš and Sionko had decent chances. A third Portuguese goal in time added on denied them any hope of a point.

Here’s Czech manager Karel Bruckner:

Photo: CTK
“We had enough time to equalise – it was real end to end stuff. In the last period of the game we risked it all, but that’s often the case. I’ve said all along the third game would decide it for us, and we’re prepared for that third game.”

Game three against Turkey on Sunday should have the air of a mini final, as both teams chase the second qualifying spot in Group A. With both on the exact same points, goals scored and goals conceded, a draw would mean one thing: penalties.