World champions Spain handed Czech Republic a 2-0 defeat in the opening second round match of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. The holders prevailed in the end, but only rarely hit peak form as they struggled to pick a way through the East Europeans' superbly marshalled defence.
Spain coach Javier Lozano breathed a sigh of relief after watching his side keep their sixth clean sheet in a row. "That was a very tough match. The key was to show patience. Every game is like a final now."
The history of the fixture pointed to a Spain win as the Iberians have a 100 percent record against the Czechs from their six previous meetings, most recently on 4 February 2003 with a 3-2 success. Tonight's encounter was the first between the two sides at an official tournament.
Lozano sent out the formation which paved the way for a 7-0 defeat of Egypt in the final group match. Czech supremo Michal Striz continued his policy of rotation, picking number two keeper Petr Krayzel and handing Petr Hofmann the nod over Tomas Sluka.
Javi Rodríguez warmed Krayzel's gloves after just 32 seconds but the Czech keeper dealt with the effort comfortably before pulling off good blocks against Rodríguez and Kike on four minutes as the Spanish pressed. Alberto Cogorro blasted against the crossbar before Krayzel snuffed out a ninth minute effort by the same player. The Czechs rarely threatened, but the world champions were struggling for creative ideas against their opponents' deep-lying defence. Rajnoch fired a 16th minute free-kick over the bar following a foul by Marcelo from one of the precious few Czech openings. Krayzel then threw out a foot to deny Orol two minutes from the break. Even though Spain loosed off 21 shots to their opponents' paltry two, the game remained goalless at half-time.
The pattern continued after the interval: Orol failed to convert from Rodríguez' lay-off a minute into the second period before Blazej squandered the Czechs' first clear-cut opening. The East European defence was finally caught napping after 23 minutes when Rodríguez netted the opener from an angled drive. Spain keeper Luis Amado was finally called on to thwart Mares after 27 minutes, and Krayzel was in action again to parry a Torras free-kick a minute later. The Czechs had their best opportunity of the game through Blazej on the half hour but Amado was equal to the challenge before denying Mares a minute later. On 32 minutes, Rodriguez wrapped up the game as he finished off Kike's free-kick. The Czechs were left cursing their luck when a Kamenicky free-kick fell to Blazej with five minutes remaining but the striker's effort came back off the upright. Krayzel then superbly denied Orol in the last highlight move of the match.
Commented Czech boss Striz: "We knew all about Spain's fantastic strikers, so we set out to avoid going a goal behind. But we never combined that with making chances on the break, and I reckon Spain's defence is even better than Brazil's."