Czechs exploit Austria

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

EDMONTON -- They saw a weakness and exploited it.

And exploited it. And should have exploited it again.

Last night the Czech Republic advanced to the final of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Austria in front of 28,401 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Tomas Micola and Martin Fenin scored for the Czechs who will meet the winner of tonight's Chile-Argentina semifinal.

Austria will face the loser of tonight's semifinal in the third-place game right before Sunday's final in Toronto.

"We know Austria pretty well, we played them in qualifying for the European championship last year," said Czech head coach Miroslav Soukup through an interpreter. "We decided to play more offensively tonight. It was a similar system that we played against Austria when we beat them 3-1 in the European championships."

Austria went into the game missing three starting defenders. Michael Sanislaw and Michael Madl were both suspended for picking up a pair of yellow cards in their previous two games, while Thomas Panny broke his ankle in practice on the eve of the contest and had to be sent home.

Like a pride of lions going after a wounded gazelle, the Czechs went right at the Austrian defence from the kickoff.

"That's another reason we decided to be more offensive," Soukup said. "They had to play some new players on defence. That's why we started three attacking forwards. We didn't want to give the Austrian defenders any space to pass the ball."

Micola scored the first goal four minutes into the game, depositing a rebound past Austrian goalkeeper Michael Zaglmair from in close.

Zaglmair was caught off guard by a free kick from Lubos Kalouda taken from the left side of the penalty area. The Austrian 'keeper was expecting a cross and had to react quickly to get his hands on the shot, only to have the ball bounce right to Micola.

The Czechs doubled their lead 11 minutes later as Ondrej Kudela's low cross through the six-yard box found the foot of Fenin who had the easy tap in.

"We wanted to battle back, but it seemed we were too scared in that first half to come out and win the game," said Austrian striker Rubin Okotie. "I think we gave them too much respect and we didn't have any confidence."

Marek Strestik should have made it 3-0 five minutes from halftime, but his effort from 12 yards out was stopped at point-blank range by Zaglmair who had come out to challenge the shot.

Markus Suttner, who conceded the free kick that led to the first goal, had the Austrians' best opportunity in the first half, hammering a volley from 35-yards out which sliced just wide of the far post.

In the second half, Austrian striker Erwin Hoffer took a ball off his chest and hammered a left-footed volley from 25 yards out that just whistled over the net. Okotie then had a chance late, getting his head on a long throw-in which just bounced wide.

Peter Hackmair blasted a shot just over the net with just over three minutes to play and Sebastien Proedl had the final effort on goal heading a ball off a corner which Czech goalkeeper Radek Petr gathered easily.

"After you're down 2-0 it's very hard to come back and win the game," Okotie said.

"We had to work very hard to try and come back. We needed to score an early goal in the second half, but we weren't able to."

In four previous U-20 tournaments the furthest the Czechs had ever gone was the quarter-finals.

"This is the biggest game all of us on this team have ever played in," said Czech forward Tomas Pekhart. "I don't think we still realize what this means that we're on our way to the final. I think it will be some time before it sinks in."


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