Poborský lob puts Czechs into semi-finals
Czech Republic 1-0 Portugal
Karel Poborský's spectacular lob
was enough to earn the Czechs a place in the last four despite
the 88th-minute dismissal of Radoslav Látal.
Karel Poborský's exquisite chip proved the difference as the
Czech Republic overcame Portugal to reach the semi-finals.
Group winners Germany, England and France had already gone through by kick-off,
leaving it up to Portugal to complete the full set with victory
at Villa Park. Their midfield was once again in eye-catching form
but for all their assuredness with the ball at their feet, found
themselves up against a Czech defence which seldom looked troubled.
The game was ultimately decided by a moment
of magic from Poborský, who showed incredible awareness to beat Vítor
Baía on 53 minutes. The Czechs had to cling on when Radoslav Látal was
dismissed late on but Poborský's was a goal worthy of winning any game.
It was a triumph built on solid and unspectacular foundations, though, with goalkeeper Petr Kouba
proving particularly key with early saves to deny Fernando Couto
and Sá Pinto. It was a familiar story for the Portuguese, whose
retention of possession remained impressive but, all too often, to no avail.
Unable to unlock the Czech defence, they were made to pay soon after the
interval, though there was little they could have done to stop Poborský.
The diminutive winger burst his way through thanks to a fortuitous bounce of the ball
but was soon greeted by the advancing presence of goalkeeper Vítor Baía.
In the blink of an eye he then concocted the most elaborate of finishes,
scooping the ball almost vertically over the goalkeeper and into the net.
It was not until Látal was sent off with
eight minutes left that the Czechs' lead appeared vulnerable. Sure enough,
Portugal duly created their only really noteworthy chance of the half,
Jorge Cadete heading wide. They would not have another chance to
save themselves; the magnificently organised and disciplined Czechs
had done enough to extend their unlikely campaign into the last four.