At last Holland get to
play a serious match; as co-hosts, they didn't
need to go through the qualifying rounds. Now it's down to business.
The Czech Republic were
runners-up to Germany in Euro96, played at Wembley, and had a 100% record in qualifying
for Euro2000 -- scoring 2.6 goals a game while conceding an average of 0.5 goals.
On paper this looks to be a very attractive
game, although we know what happens to paper in a gust of wind.
Frank Rijkaard's side will receive a
tremendous reception in the Amsterdam Arena, but once the whistle blows this will no
longer be a friendly. While the Dutch have played very attractively in their warm-up
games, they only managed to win four out of their 17 friendlies and have not beaten the
Czechs since 1972. The Czech Republic should fancy their chances, if the noise in the
stadium doesn't get to them.
The Czechs are generally good
on the counter attack and will need to be, if Holland push forward with three strikers.
Jan Koller, the Czech's towering striker will have a formidable opponent in the Dutch
defense; Manchester United's Japp Stam. Stam does make mistakes and Jan Koller has turned
away from him before; to score the equaliser in Eindhoven, last November. That was only a
friendly encounter; now things are hotting up.
At the end of the first-half, the home fans are understandably frustrated. Once the Czechs
kicked off and made their token attempt at goal, they soon appeared content to soak up the
Dutch pressure. And how.
There was plenty of running from Davids and
Seedorf on either side of the pitch, but little real chance at goal.
Davids beats three defenders on the left and
crawls through one of their legs when he's floored. Another run by Davids, this time he
blasts a shot. Still no serious Czech attack, although Pavel Srnicek gets a few long
Not as fast as the France
- Denmark match previously. The Dutch move the ball around in their own half and the
Czechs look on. Perhaps the Eindhoven game last November was not such a good idea.
In the 13th minute, Srnicek makes his first
real save in the Czech goal, down low to a curler from Bergkamp. Then Koller and Poborsky
combine to give the Dutch a little scare. Offside.
Bergkamp, showing exceptional skill at times,
was continually checked by his markers and spent nearly as much time as Davids picking
himself off the floor.
The Czechs are holding out well and proving
too physical for the fancy Dutch play. The Dutch are trying their hearts out, but the
Czechs aren't letting them breathe in an inch of space. Then Pavel Nedved almost scores on
a typical counter, just before half-time. 0-0.
The Czechs make a strong attempt to get in front early, as Nedved breezes past Reiziger on
the left. Poborsky, in front of goal, fails to conect with the cross.
Edwin van der Sar is hard at work. Nedved to
Koller, inside the area. The Dutch keeper needs his whole length to get at the low drive
from close range.
Again Nedved; with van der Sar needing two
attempts to hold the ball.
Pavel Nedved should have had an hat-trick by
the 57th minute. This time rising to head against the post; with van der Sar clearly
beaten. The Dutch keeper caught the rebound as it came across his goal.
Meanwhile, Stam is doing a excellent job on
A Poborsky free-kick in the 53rd minute floats
nicely into the area. Koller rises perfectly, but heads onto the bar.
Davids shows some fancy footwork in the Czech
area. Then things start to get harder. There are bodies on the floor. Japp Stam receives
stitches to an eye wound.
Nedved also gets clattered in the back of the
head, although his treatment is quicker. More bodies on the floor. Nedved gets stretchered
off to return shortly with his forearm in blue strapping.
The flow of the game is seriously destroyed,
and just as the match seems headed for a stalemate. Frank de Boer scores
an 89th minute penalty. Nemec was under Ronald de Boer, who seems to make attempts at a
back somersault; claiming his shirt was pulled.
In injury time the Italian referee runs over
to the Czech bench and brandishes a red card to previously substituted Radoslav Latal, for
protesting from the sideline.
What a sad end to a spirited performance by
the Czech Republic, who now need to beat France if they want a place in the
quarter-finals. The Dutch fans may be singing tonight, but they must know in their hearts
that they were lucky to get the three points. Victory is sweet, however it comes.
Holland 1 -- Czech Republic 0
Man of the Match:
van der Sar (and the woodwork).