Czech commitment pays off, says Smicer
Matchwinner Vladimir Smicer praised his Czech Republic team-mates for a "very committed performance" as they won 1-0 in Oslo in their FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off first leg on Saturday night.
The Czechs, who finished second to the Netherlands in European Zone Group 1, will be expected to finish off the Norwegians in Prague on Wednesday and book a place at Germany 2006.
"We faced a tough opponent today, the pitch was difficult and it was not easy to play on it," Smicer said. "But I think we had the game under control thanks to our very committed performance."
Norway's direct football, with John Carew and Steffen Iversen up front, had little impact on a resolute Czech defence and Smicer continued: "The Norwegians had dangerous long balls and long throw-ins. But we managed to achieve a very good result that counts and we are all happy about it. Our chances for the second leg are good now.
"We came to Norway with the aim to win, or at least to score an away goal, and we have achieved both of these things and now we are all excited and happy about it. But it is necessary to have a good rest before Prague and prepare well for the second leg as the Norwegians are awkward opponents."
Smicer, who was playing in his 80th match for the Czech Republic, struck the game's only goal after 31 minutes. Pavel Nedved, returning to the side for the first time since UEFA EURO 2004, slid the ball down the right for Karel Poborsky and his cross found the unmarked Smicer, who had no trouble in planting his header past Norwegian goalkeeper Thomas Myhre.
The Bordeaux player said: "I did not see the defender slipping before the cross, I just concentrated on the ball from Karel Poborsky, I knew where he was going to aim the cross. Milan Baros took the attention of the defenders at the near post and the ball came over. I just said to myself that I have to get the ball on target. It was a nice cross and my header was also not bad, I think."