Euro 2004: QUARTERFINAL 4 - Czech Republic 3, Denmark 0
Czech Republic 3, Denmark 0
Milan Baros scored twice in two minutes as the Czech Republic beat Denmark 3-0 Sunday to advance to the semifinals of Euro 2004 and remain on course for its second final in the last three championships.
The only team with a perfect record so far, the Czechs joined Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands in the semifinals of a tournament full of surprising results.
Beanpole striker Jan Koller had opened the scoring early in the second half, before Baros stole the show, setting his country up for a semifinal with outsider Greece.
The Liverpool marksman became the top scorer of the competition with five goals and ran the Danish defense ragged in the most one-sided quarterfinal of Euro 2004. He received a standing ovation as he left the field in the 70th minute.
"Before the championship I said I'd love to score four. I'm glad I've gone one better," Baros said. "It doesn't matter which of the two is nicer. I'm happy with both of them. Maybe the more important was the first one because it made it two-nil."
A beaten finalist in 1996 on a golden goal from Germany's Oliver Bierhoff, the free-scoring Czechs now have the best attack in the tournament with 10 goals in four matches and will start as heavy favorites against the battling Greeks. The match against Denmark was the first time the Czechs didn't have to come from behind for their victory.
Koller slumped on his back at the final whistle, then ran to join his teammates as they jumped up and down in delight in front of their adoring fans at the Dragao Stadium.
"Kdo neskace neni Cech, hop hop hop" (If you don't jump, you're not Czech) was the supporter's song, and how they danced to it. Players grabbed Czech flags and stood for several minutes as the chanting continued.
Before Baros finished off the Danes, Koller settled the nerves.
In the 49th minute, Juventus star Pavel Nedved forced a corner. Karel Poborsky took it and Koller headed firmly past 'keeper Thomas Soerensen from six meters into the top left corner.
Borussia Dortmund's Koller, at 2.03 meters, is the tallest player in the competition and the goal was his second at Euro 2004 and 29th in 54 internationals.
Koller's goal came after a dull first half in which both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances in a tight first half. The second half proved much more exciting.
Nedved almost doubled the lead in the 56th minute, but his header was well stopped by Soerensen. Moments later, Nedved slipped trying to stop the ball going out and stayed on the ground clutching his right ankle.
He was booked shortly after for appearing to trip Thomas Helveg and then Baros scored in the 63rd and 65th to put the Czechs out of sight.
Collecting a Poborsky pass which caught out Danish defender Martin Laursen, Baros controlled the ball with one touch and lobbed it coolly over Soerensen with his next. Then, latching onto Nedved's pass, he outsprinted Laursen and slammed the ball into the roof of the net for his 21st goal in 29 internationals and eighth in his last six.
Baros struggled with injuries last season and, when fit, Liverpool's former coach Gerard Houllier was reluctant to use him. With five goals at Euro 2004, he moves ahead of Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelrooy to the top of the scoring charts.
Denmark lined up with a 4-5-1 formation, with top scorer Jon Dahl Tomasson foraging alone up front.
Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner switched back to his top starting lineup after resting nine of them for the last group game against Germany.
"We had enough energy and power because of the match against Germany," said Bruckner. "And of course it was not only enery and power bu the top quality of our players."
The Czechs fielded a 4-4-2 formation with Baros joining Koller in attack, while supersub Marek Heinz, who scored against Latvia and Germany, started on the bench and came on for Baros 20 minutes from time.
Baros had an early half-chance, clipping Poborsky's lofted pass over the crossbar from a difficult angle.
Poulsen had Denmark's best chance early on but hesitated and his close-range shot was blocked by a defender.
Denmark began to impose itself in midfield, creating space for Tomasson and winger Thomas Groenkjaer. The pair combined neatly with Tomasson's backheel almost falling perfectly for Groenkjaer.
The Danes heavily pressured the weaker right side of the Czech team. Finding space after receiving a pass from Groenkjaer, gritty midfielder Thomas Gravesen blazed over.
But Denmark, the 1992 winner, crumbled in the second half and had no response to the brilliance of Baros and failed to convert several late chances as it desperately sought to get back into the game.
"Football is all about scoring goals, but we didn't take our chances after playing a very good first half," said Denmark coach Morten Olsen.
"You need to be brutal to win, not nice. The quarterfinal is OK but we could have gone further.
Czech Republic: Petr Cech; Martin Jiranek (Zdenek Grygera 39th), Rene Bolf (David Rozehnal 65th), Tomas Ujfalusi, Marek Jankulovski; Tomas Galasek, Tomas Rosicky, Karel Poborsky, Pavel Nedved; Jan Koller, Milan Baros (Marek Heinz 70th).
Denmark: Thomas Soerensen; Thomas Helveg, Martin Laursen, Rene Henriksen, Kasper Boegelund; Claus Jensen (Peter Madsen 70th), Jesper Groenkjaer (Dennis Rommedahl 77th), Thomas Gravesen, Christian Poulsen, Martin Joergensen (Peter Lovenkrands 86th); Jon Dahl Tomasson.
Referee: Valentin Ivanov, Russia.