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Much has been written about the Czech Republic's attacking approach prior to and during UEFA EURO 2004™, but in their semi-final against Denmark Karel Brückner's side also provided ample evidence of their undoubted defensive ability.
No way through
The Danes, operating in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, were reduced to long-range attempts as they found no consistent way to threaten Petr Cech's goal for the duration of this semi-final encounter at Porto's Estádio do Dragão.
For the Czechs, only Greece stand in their way of a second appearance in a UEFA European Championship final in three attempts. In Milan Baroš, the Czechs possess a striker in form, and with a support team comprising Jan Koller, Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborský and Tomáš Rosický, coach Karel Brückner has the potential firepower to have a major say in the destiny of this event.
'Heaven or hell'
"We had enough energy and power to come good because we preserved some energy against Germany," the Czech coach said. "Our play was a bit different from the group games because it was a knockout match. You either win or lose at this stage, so there are no second chances. It's heaven or hell. The fact we are in the last four is a success for us."
Brückner hopes that having been able to rotate his team in the group stage, his side can overcome potential fatigue, saying: "I have seen all Greece's games, and the one against Portugal was especially interesting. They have a very strong defence and I remember some of their players from my career as Czech Republic Under-21 coach.
Importance of rest
"It's a certain advantage that they have had three more rest days than us in the competition and more time to prepare for the semi-final. That was why I decided to change my lineup for the Germany fixture. We had to consider that we could have six matches here, and our games against Latvia and the Netherlands had been difficult for us too."
Having found the net in every finals match to date, Baroš now tops the goalscoring chart with five goals from four appearances. "It was a great game for us and as we won 3-0 we are very happy with that," the striker said. "I haven't really thought about the Golden Boot.
'Dreams come true'
"If somebody told me before the tournament that I would score five goals I wouldn't have believed them but dreams come true. The most important thing is that we're in the semi-finals. We knew it would be difficult against Denmark. The important thing was that we scored first. They then played more offensively and we were able to finish the game after 70 minutes."
But despite his obvious delight with the results to date, the Liverpool FC striker was eager not to get carried away, adding: "The Greeks are strong and it will be a different game. I don't agree that it will be an easy game as they beat France and are very good defensively, but I am looking forward to it. If we win we are in the final and if we lose we go home."
Having lost Ebbe Sand to injury, Morten Olsen had no natural target man in his ranks and was forced to use Jon Dahl Tomasson as his main striker with Claus Jensen instigating their attacks from midfield. But with Tomasson's ability to play off a target man clearly blunted, the Danes managed only one shot on target and were unable to muster any response to the Czechs, especially after Koller's opening goal four minutes into the second half.
"We played very well in the first half and I think we were a lot better than the Czechs," Olsen said. "After the break we gave away soft goals. I think they had four chances and scored from three of them. The individual mistakes cost us the game. I think the team was well organised and we though about substituting a defender [after Koller's goal], but then we conceded the second. It is sad we have to leave because we have a good team. I'm very disappointed."
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