Euro 2012: Czech Republic 2 Greece 1
Vaclav Pilar of Czech Republic celebrates scoring their second goal during the match against Greece
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The Czech Republic picked up an important victory Tuesday, defeating Greece 2-1 after scoring a brace in the opening five minutes. The Czechs now move on to three points following a loss and a win in their opening two games. Greece remain on one point and face an uphill battle to qualify for the quarterfinals.
Tuesday’s first contest of the day brought Greece and perennial dark horses the Czech Republic in an intriguing encounter that held qualification ramifications for both teams. The Czech’s humbling loss to Russia, rendered a victory necessary if they were to harbor hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals. Greece were also under pressure following their lackluster display against Poland, with the ensuing draw painting a rather generous picture for the Greeks who were more than fortunate to escape with a point.
In a carbon copy start to the Poland game, Greece for the second time in five days decided to take a mental sojourn, with their impending summer vacations looming large. And within five minutes, the woeful Greeks were two goals down following a shocking start. Petr Jiracek scored on two minutes to register the fastest goal in the championships up to this point. A decisive Tomas Hubschmann through ball carved an opening in the Greece backline, with his ball expertly finding the cutting Jiracek. The subsequent finish was clinical, as Jiracek placed his shot hard and low past unprepared Kostas Chalkias.
As opposed to the Russia game, where the Czechs suffered an early two-goal deficit, they turned the tables in today’s match, transferring the pain that they endured Friday, onto their hopeless opponents, with a fifth-minute goal. Fullback Theodor Gebre Selassie scurried down the byline and fizzled in a menacing ball across the face of the goal that shot by Chalkias, with the oncoming Vaclav Pilar arriving ahead of his defender to lift the ball into the empty net.
Greece coach Fernado Santos must have been fantasizing about his native Lisbon, as the Mediterranean sun was looking far more enticing than his imminent halftime team talk of his schoolboys. And on 21 minutes the seething coach’s misery was furthered after goalkeeper Chalkias pulled up with an injury, apparently pulling a muscle, following his pathetic attempt to intercept Selassie’s diagonal cross which led to the second goal.
The Czechs’ astute backline was proving impossible to breach, with their expert offside trap playing the Greeks’ off time and time again. But a glimmer of hope seemed to grace Greece when Giorgios Fotakis headed home from a whipped in cross. There would be no twist in the tale for the Greek horror show though, as the goal was waived offside by the game’s linesman. The halftime whistle came, putting an end to the Mediterranean mauling.
The second half kicked off with a crucial reprieve for Greece as they were instantly awarded a route back into the match, following Petr Cech’s horrific blunder. A tepid ball into the Czech 18 yard box saw Cech come racing of his line to gather, with defender Tomas Sivok apparently obstructing his ’keeper. But on further inspection, the verdict was plainly straightforward, as replays showed that the keeper was solely at fault as his weak attempt to collect fell into the path of second-half substitute Theofanis Gekas, who undoubtedly scored the easiest goal of his career after slotting past Caper the friendly ghost in goal.
Identically to the Poland game, Greece decided to show up fashionably late, as they produced an improvement in the second half, pressing forward as the game progressed. The Czech backline continued their successful trapping, with Greece unable to get clean through. Greece’s frustration grew as time dwindled, with Czech held on for a vital win.