Czechs slide in under headlines

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

When the Czech Republic bus rolled up to the National Soccer Stadium yesterday afternoon, there was no evidence of the melee that had taken place on that very site just 14 hours earlier.

Czech captain Jan Simunek and his teammates, like the rest of the soccer world, were quite aware of the ugly brouhaha between police and Chilean players that occured here Thursday night, a fracas that spawned headlines across the globe.

Yet, by the time the Czechs arrived at the field for practice, everything had been cleaned up.

The battered Chilean bus had long been towed away. The smelly garbage had been bagged. All the smashed glass had been swept up. All was quiet -- just the way the Czechs like it.

With the final of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup between the Czechs and Argentina set to go tomorrow afternoon, no one is paying too much attention to Simunek and his teammates.

All the off-the-field buzz revolves around the confrontation between Toronto cops and the Chilean players.

And when the topic of conversation shifts to the title game, the talk is centred on the heavily favoured Argentines, the defending champs who are gunning for the sixth title at the under-20 tournament.

All the while, the underdog Czechs seem to be sneaking under the radar.

'AN ADVANTAGE'

"I think it's an advantage that no one is writing about us like they do about Argentina and Chile," Simunek said.

"And I also think it is an advantage that everyone is picking Argentina to win."

The Czechs and Argentines played each other during the opening day of competition, battling to a 0-0 deadlock.

But don't let the score fool you. Argentina outshot the Czechs 29-3, yet could not find the back of the net.

For their part, the Czechs feel they will be more competitive this time around.

"I think it should be a different game," Simunek said. "We found our game and are a little more seasoned."

The Argentines, meanwhile, cancelled their practice yesterday. According to one tournament official, they went on a tour of Niagara Falls instead.


Videos

Photos