Germany justified their traditional position as tournament favourites with a comprehensive opening-day victory against a Czech side of whom little was expected either before or after the match.
Making light of striker Jürgen Klinsmann's suspension and an early injury to Jürgen Kohler, one of the great man-markers, Germany scored two almost identical goals that exemplified the touch, power and confidence of their game. Christian Ziege, a new find at left-back, and Andreas Möller, an established midfielder, each took return passes before shooting low past Petr Kouba's right hand from outside the area to decide the match within the first 32 minutes.
The EURO '92 runners-up took a 26th-minute lead against Dušan Uhrin's charges when Ziege embarked on a marauding run. The 24-year-old played a one-two with Fredi Bobic, brushed off the challenge of Radoslav Látal and cut inside Miroslav Kadlec to beat Kouba from 20 metres.
It was no less than the dynamic Germans deserved, having already tested Kouba with a close-range Bobic volley and sent efforts by Möller and Thomas Hässler whistling narrowly wide. Germany had also lost their captain, Kohler, after just 14 minutes with a tournament-ending injury, although his successor to the armband, Mattias Sammer, would rise to the responsibility by leading the team to silverware.
It was not all plain sailing, however, and had Pavel Nedvěd not passed up the chance to score a first international goal on two occasions, the outcome may have differed. As it was, Möller doubled Germany's lead with just over half an hour played, finishing a 40-metre run with a low drive.
The second half was more of a holding operation, the Czechs looking more purposeful for the introduction of Patrik Berger. However, it was the two-time European champions who came closest to adding to their tally – Kouba denying Thomas Helmer and Hässler, and Nedvěd clearing another Ziege effort off the line. It was a match which left very few predicting that these sides would meet again in the final.