Cinderella Czechs keep control
© Foto-net

The Czech Republic kept up their Cinderella run at Canada 2007 with two goals inside the first quarter-hour and a now-trademark sturdy performance at the back to smother Austria and book a place in their first world final since becoming an independent nation.

The Czechs came into their semi-final in Edmonton on the back of two consecutive penalty shootout victories, and few fans were expecting an early attacking surge and quick two-goal explosion like the one that saw Tomas Micola score in minute four and Martin Fenin again 11 minutes later.

"Sometimes when you score two quick goals you can get a little bit afraid and nerves can get the better of you, but this didn't happen to us tonight," said Czech coach Miroslav Soukup. "The game was very even after we scored. I take my hat off to my players because even when they were nervous they didn't lose their concentration. They played very well in what was the biggest game of their careers."

After the early two-goal outburst that saw them strike from close range on build-ups from both the right and left flanks, the Czechs never really looked troubled in what was most assuredly the young players' biggest-ever game at international level.

"This was the biggest game I have ever played and I can say the same for a lot of my team mates out there as well. We played really well and I don't think it's really set in yet just how much this all means to our team and our whole nation," added Tomas Pekhart of Tottenham, who came on as a sub in minute 61.

Fenin, whose goal in the 15th minute effectively ended the game as a contest, was sure the team's performance on the night, and at these finals generally, is down to the team concept espoused by coach Soukup and his staff. "I am pleased that people say I had a big impact on the outcome of this match but, for me, it is all about the team," he told reporters after the match. "It's always a great feeling when you score a big goal in an important game but there are ten other guys on the field and you can't do anything alone."

Fenin, now facing down the second consecutive biggest game of his life in the Final on 22 July, is ready to give his all with his mates against either Argentina or Chile. "Having got this close we will do all we can to win the cup," he said after helping to deny a previously impressive Austrian outfit. "When I came to Canada I wasn't thinking about coming this far, I was just dreaming about it."

Dreams aside, one reality the Czechs will have to deal with on Final day in Toronto is the suspension of Petr Janda, who picked up a second yellow in the semi-final.