While the Czech Republic cruised through UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying round Group 1 with something to spare, Cyprus joined them in the elite round by the narrowest of margins on a dramatic final day.
The Czechs overcame Cyprus 4-1 and secured 3-0 wins against Gibraltar, making their UEFA football debut, and Croatia to finish five points clear in the standings and leave Cyprus and Croatia – who drew 2-2 on matchday two – battling for second place. Croatia had beaten Gibraltar 7-0 in the opening round of matches and, when Cyprus matched that tally on matchday three thanks to two goals in added time, it was they who snatched the runners-up berth.
Dominik Mašek scored twice from the penalty spot in the Czechs' opening win against Cyprus, and also added the opening goal against Gibraltar. The forward was also on target against Croatia to end the mini-tournament with four goals, two more than team-mate Lukáš Buchvaldek, who also scored in the first two games.
"The win against Cyprus lifted our confidence and opened the way for qualification," Czech coach Miroslav Koubek told UEFA.com. "Our organisation of play is good, but in spite of qualification there are still things that can be improved. We will work on our technical skills, ball control, passes and look where we need other options."
Despite Marko Kolar's hat-trick against Gibraltar, Croatia were left counting the cost of letting slip a 2-0 half-time lead against Cyprus in the second round of matches, Antreas Makris scoring twice – including an equaliser in the final minute of added time. That would not be the final last-gasp equaliser involving Cyprus, as Croatia's closing defeat by the Czechs opened the door; going into added time they led only 5-0 but goals from Antreas Karo and Christos Djamas secured a memorable triumph.
"Congratulations to my players and to everyone involved with this team," said Cyprus coach Yiannos Stavrinos. "This was truly a great accomplishment. My players deserved to go through in this group despite the unfortunate start they had. They showed their true fighting spirit and got their reward."
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.