In Sports News: Spain buries Czech Republic in final minutes of Euro football qualifier; Vítkovice reach the hockey finals, will Slavia follow suit?; the Florida Panthers are out of playoff contention in NHL leaving goalie Vokoun free to play for the Czechs.
Their match against World Champions Spain at home was always going to be tough for the Czech national football squad and a few numbers tell the story of last Friday’s match: 22:1 for Spain on shots, 12:2 on corners, and 78 percent ball possession compared to the Czechs’ meagre 22. Yet, despite the lopsidedness, the Czechs remained in the Group I. game, trying to limit Spain’s chances where they could. Goalie Čech rose to the task, making a key stop on Andres Iniesta in just the second minute. And it was the Czech Republic that unexpectedly scored just before the 30th minute to take a shock lead, a low-drive by Jaroslav Plašil that found the back of the net.
Unfortunately for the Czechs, Spain roared back in the second half and proved why they are the World Champions. David Villa beat Čech midway through the second half and then scored again within five minutes after Spain were awarded a penalty. The win sees the World Champions unbeaten in qualifying and leaves the Czechs fighting for second spot. Nevertheless, the Czech team came away hopeful: after the match, here’s what goalie Petr Čech had to say:
“We put in the maximum effort, everyone played their very best against the best team in the world and in the end we almost earned points so I think it’s very positive. I think that we can still keep our hopes on qualifying because we will face nothing worse or rather no tougher opponent than Spain. We have to focus now on the match against Liechtenstein . That’s the most important for us now: we need all three points.”
Currently the Czechs remain in second spot, ahead of Scotland; they face Liechtenstein on Tuesday.
In hockey, Vítkovice have closed out their series against Pardubice 4:1 to reach the final of this year’s playoffs. In their last game in Ostrava in front of around 9,500 fans, the team scored twice in the first period but lost their 2:0 lead in the third to force sudden death in overtime. When no one scored in the extra period, the game went to a penalty shootout in which Jiří Burger scored the winner. Forward Viktor Ujčík, who also scored in the game, was thrilled his team has come all the way to the final:
“From the first practice I saw that the guys wanted to prove they were no worse than players who had left before. The trainers also played a huge role, they saw what kind of team we had, and set-up an appropriate style of play which fans also like.”
The other semi-final series is currently led by Prague’s Slavia, who have won three matches to Třinec’s one and could take out the regular season and President’s Trophy winners with one more victory later on Monday.
The Czech daily on Monday noted that Czech NHL goalie Tomáš Vokoun, who plays for the Florida Panthers, should be free to play for the Czech team at this year’s Ice Hockey World Championships, which take place in Slovakia. After losing to Buffalo, the Panthers have no chance of making the NHL playoffs. Last year, Vokoun backstopped the Czech team to gold in a memorable 2:1 final -against Russia. Star forward Jaromír Jágr has already confirmed he will play this year.
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