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Croatia sew up Group A with thrilling Czech win

Czech Republic 4-5 Croatia
The hosts are through to the last eight as Group A winners despite a frantic second half in which the Czechs levelled from 3-1 down.

Dario Marinović (left) is congratulated by Tihomir Novak
Dario Marinović (left) is congratulated by Tihomir Novak ©Sportsfile

Croatia advanced to the last eight of UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 as Group A winners courtesy of a 5-4 victory against the Czech Republic, who are out.

Leading through Jakov Grcić and Dario Marinović by the 23rd minute, the hosts were pegged back by Michal Belej. Frane Despotović restored the two-goal cushion and while Marek Kopecký and Roman Mareš helped level matters, Tihomir Novak and Marinović, again, sealed a win which means Croatia remain in Split to play Ukraine in the quarter-finals on Monday.

Needing a two-goal triumph to progress at the expense of the hosts, the 2010 semi-finalists tried to force the issue yet in doing so almost came unstuck, Libor Gerčák thwarting Marinović in an early one-on-one. Tomáš Neumann's side responded through Jan Janovský, but the size of their task grew when Grcić's shot was went in off Kopecký.

Exuding confidence, Grcić executed a bicycle kick into the side netting moments later. Content to bide their time before the goal, Mato Stanković's team intensified that approach while retaining their menace, Franko Jelovčić hitting the woodwork one such example.

Marinović doubled the lead two minutes after the restart with a final individual goal from Grcić's chip forward. Bringing the ball out of the air with aplomb, he put Gerčák on his backside before calmly finding the net.

Now desperate, Neumann deployed Jiří Novotný as a flying goalkeeper; it immediately paid dividends as the No3 set up Lukáš Rešetár for a shot which Belej nudged in. No sooner had the plan worked, though, then the Czechs found themselves two behind again, Despotović easing the tension with a punt into the unguarded net.

Kopecký and Mareš gave the Czechs a ray of hope but a fierce Novak drive and Marinović's shot into another empty goal put the gloss on proceedings. Though Novak put through his own net, the Czechs' chances disappeared altogether when David Frič was sent off.


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