The Czech Republic's ice hockey team are on their way home from the 2007 World Championships in Russia after being beaten 4:0 by the hosts on Wednesday. It was the Czechs' worst championships in thirteen years and questions are being asked about where it all went wrong.
A very strong Russian side had not lost a game in front of their own fans in the group stages at the World Ice Hockey Championships. The Czech Republic, by contrast, had been performing poorly, even being beaten by lowly Germany. But even still there was hope among Czech hockey fans that their old foes could be overcome in the quarter-finals, the same point at which the Czech Republic beat the Ruskies last year on their way to second place.
Things got off to a bad start for the Czechs, when they conceded in the opening period of Wednesday's game. However, they were still in it until just 23 seconds into the third, when Evgeni Malkin put a second goal past Roman Cechmanek, to make it 2:0 and effectively kill off the game. Malkin scored another and provided an assist as the Russians romped to a 4:0 win.
Czech coach Alois Hadamczik put a brave face on things afterwards, saying he thought his charges had played well in the first two periods. But whatever way you look at it, the 2007 World Championships were a dismal failure for the Czech Republic, who lost four out of their seven games. The last time they exited the tournament at such an early stage was way back in 1994.
The Czech squad has been described as the weakest for some years, and Hadamczik says he simply had too few NHL players at his disposal to mount a serious challenge for the honours in Moscow. If he had as many stars as his Russian counterpart, he said, things might have gone differently. (In that case how have Sweden, with just one NHL player, managed to reach the semis?)
Questions have been asked about the Czech coach's future, after his worst tournament to date. But some commentators have also been asking if Czech hockey in general could be heading towards a lean spell. Earlier this year the Czech Republic's Under 18s were relegated from the world elite group for the first time ever.
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