12 June, 2006

Old Heads: USA 0 Czech Republic 3

I have a feeling this will be a good one, so make sure I am there from the start. The Czechs are my second team when it comes to international tournaments, largely due to the fact that I own a replica strip.

Until now these tournaments have been European Championships - this is, surprisingly, the first time the Republic have made it to the World Cup finals since independence. The USA are now regulars and in reaching the quarter-finals in 2002 proved that they can no longer be written off. But the team sheets suggest that both sides rely heavily on aging stars.

The Czechs start off playing their usual brand of quick, attacking football, and are rewarded within five minutes when Jan Koller heads one in. The goal slows the game down, giving the USA a chance to compose themselves. They manage to keep the ball away from their opponents, but struggle to get it forward.

When they do have the ball the Czechs look dangerous. The Americans find it hard to copy with Koller's presence and Pavel Nedved's skill. Claudio Reyna comes close to scoring, his shot rebounding off the Czech goalframe, but as half-time approaches the Czechs exert more influence over the game, and new Arsenal signing Tomas Rosicky doubles the lead on 36 minutes with a long-range screamer.

Just when it looks like the Czechs are having everything their own way, they are dealt a serious blow when Koller suffers a hamstring injury and is forced to withdraw. It looks serious enough for him to miss the rest of the tournament, which would have a significant impact on his team's chances.

The USA make a tactical change at half-time, substituting two players in order to allow the team to play further up the pitch, but it seems to have little effect. If anything they lose possession more often and the Czech Republic look by far the more likely scorers, even without their target man. After half an hour Rosicky seals the game with a classy individual effort.

It finishes 3-0 and the Czechs look strong, having displayed the pace and energy of a younger team. The USA, however, are a disappointment. They lack creativity and it is difficult to see where goals might come from, so it seems unlikely that they will be a threat this time round.


Baz said...

Your second team because a Czech man made a pass at you in a bar in Prague (whilst I slumped on the table in a haze of Absinthe)

Joe Williams said...

And it would have been a Sparta Prague shirt if they'd ever opened the stupid shop.

I'd like to think it was more about the beautiful waitress than the "do you like boys" guy.


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