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Decimated by suspensions, the Czech Republic produced a fine rearguard effort to overcome France on penalties and reach the final in their first UEFA European Championship as an independent nation.
The Czechs had enjoyed an unexpectedly trouble-free passage through to the last four but found their route to the showpiece beset by the absence of Jan Suchopárek, Radoslav Látal, Pavel Kuka and Radek Bejbl. Les Bleus were themselves without injured captain Didier Deschamps and suspended midfielder Christian Karembeu and a cautious encounter ensued at Old Trafford. Spot kicks were required, Reynald Pedros eventually missing in sudden death to hand Dušan Uhrin's charges a 6-5 triumph.
Such drama was conspicuous by its absence for much of the match, with no real urgency evident until after half-time. Youri Djorkaeff, so often France's main source of craft, was once again the instigator. The cunning forward was unfortunate not to give Aimé Jacquet's side the lead twice in as many minutes, rattling the bar with a 25-metre shot before firing over with a spectacular bicycle kick.
Djorkaeff's deviance sparked the Czechs into life, Patrik Berger's willingness to run at the opposition finally giving France something to ponder. Karel Poborský was equally eager to inject some life into his side but with only a solitary presence to aim for in attack, the Czechs' midfield linchpins were all too often crowded into submission.
It was a similar story for France – Patrice Loko ploughing a lone furrow in attack (Pedros did at least show a semblance of adventure from off the bench) – and extra time beckoned. Pedros and Loko came closest to breaking the deadlock but the golden goal merely served to encourage an even more conservative approach.
Five successful spot kicks apiece followed in the shoot-out before Petr Kouba denied Pedros and Czech captain Miroslav Kadlec set aside his reluctance to step up with a clinical finish which extended his team's unlikely adventure into the Wembley showpiece.
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