A late strike from Iain Hume gave Canada their first points of the competition and relegated 10-man Czech Republic to last place in Group C in a fine all-round performance at the Rashid stadium, Dubai on Thursday. The late goal, Hume and Canada’s second in the competition, came after striker Pavel Fort had missed a penalty and defender Petr Knakal had been sent off. The Canucks finish the group in third place and, with three points, still have a chance of qualifying for the last 16, while the sorry Czechs go home following their first loss.
Canada coach Dale Mitchell gave striker Elliott Godfrey his first run out in their final group match. Iain Hume, perhaps their best player of the finals, had a fine chance early on but after taking the ball around the long hands of Tomas Grigar, he failed to find the net from the tightest of angles (10).
The Czechs, needing a win to be sure of going through, had started slowly relying on the quick feet of left-winger David Limbersky to cause danger. The Viktoria Pizen player twice went close. First when his cross fell just behind Fort after he had beaten his man to get to the goalline and then when, well placed, he skewed a 25-yard shot wide (25).
Canada continued to dominate possession, though, while the Czechs began using the long throw to pose problems before half-time.
Whatever coach Pavel Vrba said in the dressing room it seemed to do the trick as the Europeans came out with far more urgency. Within five minutes, they had won a penalty after a bad mistake by right-back Richard Asante allowed Limbersky to retrieve the ball on the goalline and wriggle through towards goal before the Canadian multiplied his mistake by bringing down the flying winger. Fort stepped up and telegraphed his penalty to Alim Karim’s left for a comfortable save low down (50).
And Vrba’s men were to suffer another blow minutes later when central defender Petr Knakal cynically brought down Kevin Harmse to be shown his second yellow, then a red card.
“The penalty and sending off were obviously crucial moments in the match,” said a visibly disappointed Vrba later. “After that we did not have the legs to go on.”
ume thought he had scored after bending the resulting free kick towards the top corner but Grigar, needing all his 1.93m, make a spectacular flying save (63).
The Czech Republic hit back, in what had rapidly become an exciting end-to-end contest, as captain Tomas Sivok flicked a Ladislav Volesak free kick inches wide (69). Substitute Emil Rilke then fired straight at Karim from inside the area.
“We had some pace on the bench and every coach knows to use the width of the pitch against 10 men,” explained Mitchell of his changes after the sending off.
But it was Canada who, playing with an extra man, were beginning to get on top. Sita-Taty Matondo, who had been thrown on with 20 minutes to go, shot weakly from a Hume pass (73). Defender Atiba Hutchinson then headed a corner inches wide before the North Americans got the goal their play deserved. Matondo sprinted onto a defence-splitting pass and squared it for Hume to side-foot home from three yards (1-0, 80).
Captain Gordon Chin struck a 25-yard drive just wide before Matondo had a great chance to settle matters only to see his shot terrifically saved by Grigar.
The Canadians greeted their supporters at the end while the Czechs sank to their knees in disappointment. “We had played well in the first-half of the previous two matches so we thought we’d time our energy to peak in the second half,” said Vrba. “But it has been a long season in the Czech Republic and may players couldn’t perform to their ability. The responsibility is mine.”
“We have improved with each match and today we played well for the full 90 minutes,” added Mitchell. “Whatever happens now, it is extremely gratifying to get the win - nobody can take that away from the boys.”