Milan Baros came off the bench to earn a second string Czech Republic a 2-1 win which sent Germany crashing out of Euro 2004.
With the score standing at 1-1 Baros cut through the German defence to earns the Czech Republic the points, but the real story of the night was Germany’s failure to reach the knock out stage of the European Championships for the second successive tournament.
The result will come as a huge disappointment to Germany coach Rudi Voller, who along with his players, has been the subject of much criticism in Germany in recent days. Voller looked on helpless as one of the weaker German teams in living memory struggled to create chances against an understrength Czech line-up.
The Czechs, already through to the quarter finals, made nine changes from the team that beat Holland. Germany, were at full strength although whether their first eleven would be good enough to overcome the Czech reserves, remained to be seen.
Despite needing to win the game, there was little urgency in Germany’s early play. Voller’s team seemed to sit back in the hope that Michael Ballack could produce a piece of magic and on 20 minutes, the Bayern Munich midfielder had Germany’s first sight on goal, but his deflected shot cleared the bar.
From the resulting corner, Germany got the breakthrough they craved and unsurprisingly Ballack was the scorer. The Czech’s failed to clear the set piece and Schweinsteiger set up Ballack who unleashed an unstoppable left-foot shot past Blazek.
Unfortunately, the goal did little to alter the pattern of the game. With Germany unable to capitalise on their advantage, it came as no great surprise when the Czechs levelled though a wonderfully struck free-kick from Heinz.
Germany came out after the break fired up as they went in search of the elusive goal which could ensure their passage to the last eight.
Lahm was a pacy presence down the left while Ballack orchestrated from midfield. Rudi Voller’s team created plenty of chances, the best falling to Ballack, who turned on the edge of the penalty area and fired a low shot which cannoned off the post into the path of Schneider, but the winger’s feeble effort was easily saved by Blazek.
Schneider missed another golden opportunity as he headed over when unmarked in the box and Germany had another effort cleared off the line as they threw everything at the Czechs.
A goal seemed inevitable, but unfortunately for Germany, it was to come at the other end. Baros, who had just come on for the injured Lokvenc, ran at the German defence, before turning inside Nowotny. The Liverpool striker’s first effort was blocked by Kahn, but Baros made no mistake with the rebound.
At that point with 15 minutes remaining, the game was up for Germany. They looked a demoralised outfit and despite firing hopeful balls into the Czech penalty area, they were unable to create any clear openings in the closing minutes.
So, Germany go out. Group D had been labelled the Group of Death, but Germany’s inability to break down the Czech reserve team, illustrated the depths to which their football has sunk in recent years.
The Czechs meanwhile go through as the only team with a 100 per cent record in the qualifying stage. They arrived as dark horses but their displays have made them one of the feared teams at the championship.
Germany 1-2 Czech Republic
-Germany:Michael Ballack 21
-Czech Republic:Marek Heinz 30, Milan Baros 77
Germany:1-Oliver Kahn; 3-Arne Friedrich, 4-Christian Woerns, 5-Jens Nowotny, 21-Philipp Lahm, 22-Torsten Frings (20-Lukas Podolski 46); 8-Dietmar Hamann (11-Miroslav Klose 79), 19-Bernd Scheider, 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger (16-Jens Jeremies 86), 13-Michael Ballack; 10-Kevin Kuranyi.
Czech Republic: 16-Jaromir Blazek; 3-Pavel Mares, 22-David Rozehnal, 5-Rene Bolf, 13-Martin Jiranek; 20-Jaroslav Plasil (8-Karel Poborsky 70), 19-Roman Tyce, 4-Tomas Galasek (17-Tomas Huebschmann 46), 14-Stepan Vachousek; 18-Marek Heinz, 12-Vratislav Lokvenc (15-Milan Baros 59).
Referee:Terje Hauge (Norway)