A strong finish handed the Czech Republic an ultimately comfortable 5-0 victory over toothless Australia at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 as the East Europeans assumed pole position in the scrap for a place in the second round.
Victorious coach Michal Striz remained cautious at the final whistle. "We've had two very tough games, but we set out to win and we've succeeded. But we need to stay on our guard and make sure we don't concede any goals."
Both teams made one change to their starting line-ups. Aussie coach Scott Gilligan named Luke Haydon in place of Ben Singleton, while Czech supremo Striz offered match practice to reserve keeper Petr Krayzel.
Both sides fell victim to nervous tension in the opening exchanges, although Australia skipper Brett Hewitt had the first opening with just 60 seconds on the clock. Krayzel excelled to deny his opponent's effort. Then Australia were fortunate when Sluka was unable to convert Kamenicky's precise lay-off on four minutes. The Czechs' next opportunity came three minutes later but Dlouhy's angled drive skidded wide.
Watching Italy boss Alessandro Nuccorini saw little by way of goalmouth action as the sides focused on shutting each other out. Australia custodian Gavin O'Brien looked in sharp form and comfortably dealt with Dlouhy's 12th minute drive.
The Oceania representatives rarely got forward. Mares snuffed out the danger posed by Pilat following Manson's textbook build-up play in the 13th minute, before Krayzel expertly dealt with Pilat's rocket of a shot shortly afterwards. The Czechs went one better with a quarter of an hour played: Blazej picked out Havel with a precise through-ball and the frontman lobbed home the opener. Australia had conceded their fifth team foul shortly before the incident. O'Brien underlined his credentials again after 17 minutes as he parried a well-struck free-kick from the 10 metre spot.
With the second half just 11 seconds old Levcik squandered an opportunity to double the advantage as the Australian defence combined to make a desperate clearance. The pattern of the first half was repeated as the Aussies failed to create clear-cut chances, although Vizzari's fine drive cannoned off the crossbar two minutes into the half, and Krayzel had to be alert to Haydon's 27th minute shot. Australia's best chance of a leveller fell to Manson but the striker looked surprised to find the ball at his feet and hit the post from close range just after the half hour.
By contrast, the Czechs were a model of efficiency. The dynamic Mares, one of the best players on view, clinically slotted home after 34 minutes to put his side two goals up. Ngaluafe came within a whisker before the Czechs sealed the points with the very next move five minutes from time. Mares struck twice more to complete his hat-trick and seal Australia's fate.
Aussie boss Gilligan made no secret of his disappointment afterwards. "When we were only a goal down we were really unlucky to hit the post, but even if we'd drawn it wouldn't have been enough. By the end we had to throw everyone forward because obviously we urgently needed goals."