Alexa

Sverkos goal gives Czech Republic 1-0 win over Switzerland in Euro 2008 opener

Sverkos goal gives Czech Republic 1-0 win over Switzerland in Euro 2008 opener

Switzerland lost its leading scorer to an injury. The Czech Republic's offense stagnated in midfield. The European Championship opener was headed to a dreary 0-0 draw.
Up stepped Vaclav Sverkos, who became the unlikely star. The 24-year-old forward came off the bench to score his first international goal, giving the Czechs a 1-0 victory Saturday and a jump on qualifying for the quarterfinals.
Sverkos scored from 16 meters (yards) with the outside of his right foot in the 71st minute, after beating the offside trap.
"It was the best moment of my football career," said Sverkos, who was making only his third appearance for the national team. "I was trying to shoot as soon as possible because the defender was coming."
But the goal needed a lot of luck.
Midfielder Tomas Galasek admitted after the match that his 20-meter (yard) headed pass to Sverkos was not necessarily intended for the striker. Sverkos then mis-hit his shot.
"I didn't get as much on it as I wanted _ I was lucky," said Sverkos, who came on in the 56th minute for the 35-year-old Jan Koller.
Switzerland, which controlled the match for long stretches, not only lost the opener in front of a home crowd of 39,730 at Basel's St. Jakob Park.
It lost perhaps its best player when influential captain and record scorer Alexander Frei injured his right knee shortly before halftime. The 28-year-old striker was taken off the field in tears. He returned to sit on the bench holding crutches.
The defeat also capped a difficult week in which coach Koebi Kuhn's wife was admitted to a hospital after an epileptic attack. She remained in an induced coma on Saturday.
"It's a disaster, of course, to lose our captain in the first game the way we did," said Kuhn, who thought Frei damaged a knee ligament. He declined to talk about his own family issues.
Switzerland missed a chance to equalize in the 80th minute. Tranquillo Barnetta's low shot was stopped by goalkeeper Petr Cech after defender Tomas Ujfalusi appeared to handle the ball in the area. Johan Vonlanthen got the loose ball but his shot hit the crossbar, and the chance was over.
Before the late drama, there had been few clear-cut scoring chances, with the youthful Swiss team lacking a cutting edge in front of goal and the experienced Czechs happy to soak up pressure and look for chances on the counterattack.
Perhaps it was an ominous sign that Switzerland had not played a competitive match since being eliminated by Ukraine in the second round of the 2006 World Cup on penalty kicks after two hours of scoreless play.
But the Czech Republic, known in previous tournaments for its attacking football, also started defensively, with five in the midfield, and record scorer Jan Koller alone up front.
A defensive mistake led to Switzerland's first chance. Frei stole the ball off Jan Polak in midfield, and the Swiss record holder with 35 international goals played a quick one-two with strike partner Marco Streller, but shot wide from 20 meters (yards).
Switzerland continued to push forward with its youthful midfield _ all under the age of 24 _ mostly through Valon Behrami down the right and Gokhan Inler up the middle. Behrami shot straight at Cech from 25 meters (yards) before Inler had a low shot from the edge of the box also saved.
The favored Czechs, meanwhile, struggled to find any rhythm.
"This was not our best," Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner said.
In the 21st minute, Switzerland had its best opportunity of the first half. Benaglio's long clearance reached Frei after evading the entire defense, but Cech rushed out of his goal to make a strong save with his feet.
Frei had another shot saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper in the 36th minute, after Tomas Galasek gave the ball away to Barnetta. Cech could only send the shot in the direction of Streller, but the striker was whistled for offside.
Shortly before the break, Frei was fouled by Grygera and was sobbing when he hobbled off the field. He later walked to the dressing room and was replaced at the start of the second half by Hakan Yakin.
"They can leave the stadium with their heads up," Kuhn said of his players, adding he told them: "Eat a lot, drink a lot, get enough sleep and forget about this game."
___
Lineups:
Switzerland: Diego Benaglio, Stephan Lichtsteiner (Johan Vonlanthen, 75), Patrick Mueller, Philippe Senderos, Ludovic Magnin, Valon Behrami (Eren Derdiyok, 84), Gokhan Inler, Gelson Fernandes, Tranquillo Barnetta, Alexander Frei (Hakan Yakin, 46), Marco Streller.
Czech Republic: Petr Cech, Zdenek Grygera, David Rozehnal, Tomas Ujfalusi, Marek Jankulovski, Libor Sionko (Stanislav Vlcek, 83), David Jarolim (Radoslav Kovac, 87), Tomas Galasek, Jan Polak, Jaroslav Plasil, Jan Koller (Vaclav Sverkos, 56).


Updated : 2020-12-02 12:42 GMT+08:00