Dramatic turnaround due reward for Czech 'faith'

Although Marcel Gecov could scarcely fathom the late turnaround that helped the Czech Republic pip England to the semi-finals, he said his side's persistence deserved such a finish.

Having been barely a minute from elimination at the hands of England, it is hardly surprising Czech Republic midfielder Marcel Gecov found it difficult to grasp the reality of his nation progressing from Group B to the semi-finals.

Danny Welbeck's 76th-minute goal at the Viborg Stadion looked as if it would be enough to secure Stuart Pearce's men the victory they required to join section victors Spain in the last four. However, substitute Jan Chramosta, who had been on the pitch just six minutes, struck an 89th-minute equaliser to put the Czechs on course for the point they needed to progress.

"I still can't believe it," said Gecov, who then saw another replacement, Tomáš Pekhart, score in added time to earn Jakub Dovalil's men a remarkable come-from-behind win. "England put pressure on us in the second half. We didn't play the way we intended. We mostly defended, which wasn't very effective and we were punished for it. But you should never lose faith. We only needed to score a goal. Football can be a game of luck, and our dream was fulfilled."

Dovalil's men would have had a rather rude awakening had Chramosta not scrambled the ball beyond England goalkeeper Frank Fielding. "Today, we were lucky, because England played better, but we fought hard," said Chramosta, who now has three goals in four Under-21 appearances. "The coach put me there to score and that's what I did – it's wonderful."

Though Lukáš Mareček's stinging volley forced an excellent first-half save from Fielding, the Czechs were forced to defend increasingly deeply as England took charge. "The second half didn't go the way we expected. We defended a lot," said centre-back Ondřej Mazuch. "We hoped to score but conceded first. So we changed our tactics and played a more open game. Two new forwards came on the pitch, and they made the difference."

The Czechs' win means they will now face Switzerland in Wednesday evening's semi-final in Herning. "Any team that qualifies for a semi-final must be strong," said Mazuch, whose side would seal an Olympic Games place at the first attempt with victory. "They have quality defenders and other good players. We must prepare well, we have two, three days to recover. I believe that today's victory will increase our confidence and the match will be a success for us."