Sports News

Maskul ridden by  Dirk Fuhrmann (ahead), photo: CTK

In Sports News: the Czech Republic are beaten by the Netherlands in a crucial World Cup qualifier - we hear the reaction from both sides; Czech women's tennis number Nicole Vaidisova is enjoying the best spell of her short career, winning her second WTA title in two weeks; and the 115th Velka Pardubicka Grand Steeplechase is won by the Czech-owned Maskul.

Czechs lose to Holland, now need to beat Finns to reach World Cup playoffs

Photo: CTK
Czech fans' dreams of cheering their team on at next year's World Cup in Germany are now balanced on a knife-edge: after losing to the Netherlands on Saturday, the Czech Republic simply have to beat Finland in Helsinki this week to reach the playoffs.

The Czechs - with several key players out injured - were clearly feeling the pressure against Holland in Prague and started nervously. The turning point came after half an hour when the Czechs missed a penalty; Tomas Rosicky began his run-up and was evidently flustered when the referee ordered him to take it again - the shot which followed was weak and easily saved by the Dutch keeper.

Moments later Holland were in the lead, and when they scored again on 37 minutes to make it 2:0 the Czechs couldn't find a way back, despite a game performance in the second half. Here's Czech defender Zdenek Grygera.

"We were unlucky. First we missed a penalty and then they scored from the counter-attack. Then the second goal followed from a free kick. It's really a pity nothing went our way, including the goal we scored to draw 1:1 which the ref said was offside."

Marco Van Basten,  photo: CTK
Marco Van Basten, one of the greatest players of all time, is now manager of Holland. He too felt the Czechs were unlucky, and conceded that the absence of important players weakened the home team.

"I think they still had a good team but it's sure that it's not easy to replace players like Mr Koller, Jankulovski or Lokvenc.

"I think we played a pretty good game, although the Czechs had a lot of chances. We were a bit lucky with the penalty, which was stopped by the keeper. Also in the second half they had a lot of chances.

"They still remain a very strong team in Europe, and in the world and I hope that they will play a good game next Wednesday against Finland."

Griga takes over as manager of Sparta Prague

Stanislav Griga,  photo: CTK
Stanislav Griga - a Slovak who was once a star player for Sparta Prague - is to be named manager of the club this week, following the recent dismissal of Jaroslav Hrebik. Last season Griga was in charge at Liberec, who now top the Czech league.

Vaidisova wins Japan Open, second tournament in two weeks

Nicole Vaidisova and Tatiana Golovin,  photo: CTK
Czech women's tennis number one Nicole Vaidisova is enjoying the best spell of her career at the moment. After winning the Korea Open last week, Vaidisova won the Japan Open in Tokyo on Sunday. The 16-year-old was one set up and leading in the second when her opponent Tatiana Golovin of France was forced to retire with a foot injury. Vaidisova, who has now reached 18th in the world rankings, says she was sad the match ended as it did.

"Two or three balls decided the first set and I played better in the tie-break. But then unfortunately she had to go off. She was running around in the first set and giving it her all, so I was surprised when she called the doctor onto the court - I didn't even know she had a problem."

Czech-owned Maskul wins Velka Pardubicka

Maskul ridden by  Dirk Fuhrmann  (ahead),  photo: CTK
The biggest event in Czech horseracing, the Velka Pardubicka Grand Steeplechase, was won on Sunday by the 11-year old Maskul, ridden by Dirk Fuhrmann and trained by Frantisek Holcak in south Moravia. The biggest upset of the day was the fall of favourite Registan at just the second jump of the notoriously difficult seven-kilometre course. The race, a kind of Czech equivalent of England's Grand National, took place this year for the 115th time.