Home defeat to Lithuania worst possible start to Czechs’ campaign to reach Euro 2012

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic’s footballers got off to a nightmare start to their qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championship when they lost 1:0 at home to Lithuania on Tuesday night. Frustrated fans booed and whistled, while Wednesday’s Czech papers have been describing the result as a “disgrace”.

Tomáš Rosický,  photo: CTK
Czech soccer has been in the doldrums in recent times, with the country failing to reach this summer’s World Cup and domestic clubs doing poorly in Europe.

Tuesday night’s opening game in the national team’s campaign to qualify for Euro 2012 promised a chance to put things back on track; Olomouc’s Andrův stadium has proved a lucky venue in the past, and the Czechs had never dropped a point to Lithuania in previous encounters.

Things didn’t go according to plan, however, with Michal Bílek becoming the only Czech Republic coach ever to lose his first competitive game in charge. Tuesday’s result combined with generally poor showings in a string of friendlies means that pressure is already mounting on the manager. Some fans chanted “Bílek out” after the game.

Milan Baroš,  photo: CTK
And the night could have ended so differently for the Czech manager and his charges, who started very brightly indeed, immediately putting the visitors under pressure and creating a string of chances in the opening period.

However, they were stunned when Lithuania, who had been defending in numbers, scored on the break mid way through the first half. Then on 39 minutes the hosts looked to have found a way back into the game, when a questionable penalty decision went their way. But an out-of-sorts Milan Baroš failed to convert for what would have been his 39th international goal.

The second half in large part followed the pattern of the first, with a toothless Czech side blowing a number of goal opportunities and failing to make set pieces pay. They had 15 corners to the Lithuanians’ none.

Wednesday’s Czech papers have pulled no punches, using words like “disgrace”, “misery” and “washout” to describe the team’s performance. One pundit referred to “Black Tuesday”.

Michal Bílek,  photo: CTK
World Cup holders and European champions Spain are the clear favourites in the Czech Republic’s Euro 2012 qualification group. Discounting the minnows of Lichtenstein, that leaves the Czechs very probably competing with Lithuania and Scotland for second spot and a place in the play-offs.

If they don’t beat the Scots in Prague in a month’s time, it could effectively spell the end of any hopes of reaching Poland and Ukraine – and perhaps mean bye bye, Bílek.