By Rob Cameron
Yes it's the sports news now, and we start with football. The Czechs were fighting to keep their World Cup qualifying hopes alive on Wednesday night, following their disastrous 3-1 defeat by arctic minnows Iceland at the weekend. They managed it - just - squeezing a 3-2 win over tiny Malta in their group 3 qualifying match in Teplice. Man of the match Vratislav Lokvenc was among the Czech scorers for the narrow victory, with the visitors twice levelling from behind before Milan Baros hit the 68th-minute clincher. But the Czechs looked far from convincing for most of the match, and there were boos from the crowd as the team left the pitch.
Coach Jozef Chovanec - who was lambasted in the papers following the Iceland debacle - told reporters it was a difficult game but said the team had showed its mental strength. Well that's certainly not a view shared in the sports pages today - MLADA FRONTA DNES says the national team is deep in crisis, adding that unless they pull themselves together, the country's hopes of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea are in serious jeopardy.
But on paper at least things don't look so bad for the Czechs: following Denmark's 2-0 victory over Bulgaria last night, they just need to draw with Bulgaria in Prague on October 6th to finish second, thus earning themselves a place in the play-offs. And the Czechs could - technically - still finish top of group 3 and go through automatically - if they beat Bulgaria and if Denmark lose at home to Iceland. But don't bet your life's savings on that one.
Moving on to tennis now, and the Grand Slam dreams of Czech teenager Daja Bedanova were dashed on Tuesday, after losing 6-2 6-0 to top seed Martina Hingis in the quarter final of the U.S. Open in New York. Hingis, who was born in Czechoslovakia but emigrated to Switzerland at the age of 8, told reporters she remembered knocking a ball around with Bedanova when they were still kids. But there was no time for sentimentality on Tuesday; Hingis demolished her childhood friend in just 42 minutes. Bedanova, ranked 37th on the WTA Tour, shocked the tennis world on Sunday by destroying the two-time champion Monica Seles in the fourth round.
Turning briefly to motor racing, and Tomas Enge continued his bid to become the first Czech to drive in Formula One on Wednesday, when he made his debut testing with the Alain Prost team at Magny-Cours. Enge, who has signed a deal to test with Prost until the end of the season, completed 63 laps of the French circuit, finishing less than one second off the pace.
And finally a bit of ice-hockey news and its oversees we go to Philadelphia in the U.S.A. - the Philadelphia Flyers signed left wing Jan Hlavac on Tuesday, two weeks after he was acquired from the New York Rangers in a deal for Eric Lindros. As a member of the Rangers' "Czech Line," Hlavac had a superb season in 2000-01, recording 28 goals and 36 assists in 79 games, and notched up 19 goals and 23 assists in 67 games as a rookie in 1999-2000. Financial terms of Hlavac's deal have not been disclosed, but Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke was full of praise for the 24-year-old. "He's the type of player we wanted to add to our team," he told reporters, saying Hlavac brought skill and goal-scoring off the wing.