Sports News

By Nick Carey

Yes, indeed, time for the sports roundup, and the biggest and best news for the Czech Republic over the past few days has been in the world of soccer. In their World Cup qualifying group, the Czechs faced Bulgaria in a crucial match to decide which of teams could go either go directly to the finals in Japan and Korea next year, or face Croatia or Belgium in the playoffs. Before the last match of the qualifying round, Denmark topped the group with nineteen points, and both Bulgaria and the Czech Republic had 17 apiece. If Denmark lost against Iceland and the Czechs won, the Czechs would automatically qualify. If both Denmark and the Czech Republic won, Denmark would qualify and the Czechs would hit the playoffs. Either way, the Czechs had to win. Tensions were high ahead of the game, as the team had a disastrous defeat at the hands of Iceland last month. The match was played in front of a home crowd on Saturday night, and in the end the national team pulled off a performance that surpassed even the wildest dreams of their by now desperate fans, with a barrage of goals.

The first came from Borussia Dortmund striker Tomas Rosicky after just five minutes, with a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Midfielder and team captain Pavel Nedved made it 2-0 just eleven minutes later. Milan Baros brought the score to 3-0 in the 28th minute after side-stepping a defender and the Bulgarian goalkeeper. The Czechs maintained their three-goal lead to half-time, leaving a Bulgarian comeback looking decidedly unlikely. And in the second half the Czechs continued to pound the Bulgarians, with a goal from Vratislav Lokvenc in the 68th minute, just after coming on for Vladimir Smicer, followed by a second goal for Rosicky in the 70th minute, and goal number two for Pavel Nedved six minutes later. The final score was 6-0. As Denmark beat Iceland, also 6-0, the Czechs came second in the qualifying group, and face Belgium in two playoff matches in November. The winner will go through to the finals next year. After Saturday's performance, Czech hopes are riding high that they will make into the World Cup for the first time since the founding of the Czech Republic in 1993.

Away from the world of football now, and the Czechs have not been faring so well in international tennis. Young hopeful Daja Bedanova has had a bad week, as on Friday she was defeated in the quarter finals of the Kremlin Cup by Silvia Farina Elia of Italy 1-6 7-6 6-4. Then on Monday she was despatched swiftly in the first round of the Filderstadt Grand Prix in Berlin by Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-3 6-1. The news was also not encouraging for Jiri Novak, who was also knocked out of the quarter finals of the Kremlin Cup by Slovak Dominik Hrbaty, 5-7 6-4 6-3.