By Peter Smith
Let's begin with the football and the former captain of the Czech Republic, Jiri Nemec, had been recalled to the national squad for the first time since officially retiring from the international game after Euro 2000. The veteran Schalke midfielder told coach Josef Chovanec after the returning from Belgium and Holland last summer that he would only be available to play for the Czech Republic in the event of key players being unavailable. Chovanec has taken up the option after being robbed of international stars such as Patrik Berger for the two forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Denmark. Chovanec has also added the Sparta Prague midfielder Radek Sloncik to the 22-man squad.
Pavel Kuka was the Slavia Prague hero after scoring a hattrick in a dramatic 4-4 draw at runaway Gambrinus League leaders and city rivals Sparta on Friday evening. The visitors had to come back from two goals down after the champions had taken a deserved first half lead with strikes from Jiri Jarosik and Marek Kincl. Kuka leveled matters with two goals in quick succession after the interval, before Josef Obajdin once again put Sparta ahead. Still Slavia came back into it with Kuka completing his hat trick in the 74th minute.
It still wasn't over, though - Radim Holub made it 4-3 to Sparta ten minutes from time, but Tomas Kuchar's powerful strike from 20 metres two minutes from the end meant the spoils were shared. So Sparta's lead at the top is cut back to "only" 13 points as attention turns to the fight for the second Champions League place - Olomouc in second, Pribram and Teplice are separated by only four points with ten rounds to play.
Turning to ice-hockey and the end-of season play-offs are very finely balanced after the weekend's result. With only one round left to play in the quarter-final matches, only Vsetin are guaranteed of their place in the last four - their 2-1 win at Zlin secured them an unassailable 3-1 series lead. Litvinov pulled of a shock by winning 3-2 at Sparta to level the series at two apiece. Both the other quarter-finals - Slavia-Znojmo and Vitkovice-Pardubice are also precariously tied at 2-2 with the deciding matches being played this week.