The Czech Republic secured first place in UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 5, but beaten visitors Iceland are nonetheless set to join them in the play-offs.
Three points clear at kick-off, the Czech Republic needed only a draw to make sure of top spot and goals from Lukáš Vácha, Tomáš Pekhart and Jan Kovařík put the 2002 champions in control before Alfred Finnbogason's consolation. However, despite the result, Iceland's impressive goal difference took them through as one of the four best runners-up* across the ten groups – reward for their 4-1 win against Germany last month that ended the holders' hopes.
Vácha broke the deadlock on 20 minutes, turning in Kovařík's low cross from the right, and 20 minutes into the second half the home side doubled their lead, Jan Vošahlík's ball from the right allowing Pekhart to tap in from close range for his seventh goal in four qualifying appearances. Two minutes later, Kovařík effectively sealed victory courtesy of a spectacular shot from nearly 30 metres out, and it was also from long range that Finnbogason pulled one back.
"I was very happy with the first half," said Czech Republic coach Jakub Dovalil. "Iceland came back into the game more in the second half, but we were able to make it 2-0. Overall, I'm very content."
His counterpart Eyjölfur Sverrisson also had reason to be pleased. "We lost the game but we're happy because we're in the play-offs and that's a first for Iceland," he said. "My team didn't play well today, but we lost seven players to the senior team. We now want to do well in the play-offs: it'll be hard, but we'll try." The play-off draw will be held at 12.30CET on Friday, with the winners of the two-legged ties between 9 and 13 October joining hosts Denmark in next summer's finals.