The line between success and failure is sometimes thin. In the final moments of their third UEFA EURO 2012 game against co-hosts Poland, the ball was flying towards the Czech net, but defender Michal Kadlec managed to head it away. Had he not, his side would have been going home today.
Polish supporters generously applauded the side that had just eliminated their team as the Czechs' saviour came to terms with his achievement. "I don't know what happened there," Kadlec told UEFA.com. "I was just in the right place at the right time to head the ball away. I was amazed that the Polish fans applauded us together with our fans at the end. Our supporters applauded the Polish team. It was as it should be around football."
As celebrations warmed up at the Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, the players chanted the name of their coach Michal Bílek, who never lost faith in his side despite their 4-1 first-day defeat to Russia. While many had suggested that Milan Baroš might be on the bench for the Poland game, the coach held his nerve and was rewarded with a great performance – tellingly, the UEFA EURO 2004 top scorer came off to a Czech ovation when he was substituted. "He deserves our respect," said the coach.
That late clearance could lead some to suggest that the Czechs had luck on their side in Wroclaw, but – if he felt the need to justify himself – Bílek could easily point out that Kadlec was only playing in the centre of defence because he had put him there, drafted in after that 4-1 loss to Russia. Having been taught a footballing lesson then, the Czechs learned from it. They did not panic, made the necessary repairs, kept their heads up and ultimately turned things around.
"I am glad we have qualified," said Bílek. "I am really happy for my team. That is what is important. I don't need to hear the supporters chanting my name." After all, he has his team to do that for him.
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