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Czech Republic and Serbia progress

The Czech Republic are through to the elite round as Group 5 winners thanks to a 1-0 win against Serbia, who finished runners-up ahead of hosts Israel after some last-day drama.

Czech Republic coach Jaroslav Hřebík can now look forward to the elite round draw
Czech Republic coach Jaroslav Hřebík can now look forward to the elite round draw ©Sportsfile

The Czech Republic advanced to the elite round as Group 5 winners with a final-day victory against Serbia, who finished runners-up after a last-minute equaliser from Lithuania denied hosts Israel a place in the top two.

Serbia began the third round of action in first place but came close to dropping out of the automatic qualification spots as they succumbed to a 1-0 loss in Bat-yam, Michael Krmenčik hitting the all-important goal for the Czech Republic after 52 minutes.

A red card for Filip Stojkovič 19 minutes from time hampered Serbia's chances of pulling level, but they qualified ahead of Israel thanks to a better head-to-head record after Eliahu Ohana's charges could only draw 2-2 with Lithuania.

Israel fell behind to their Baltic rivals on the strike of half-time in Herzliya as Deividas Kapustas found the net, but the home side battled back to put themselves into a winning position, with Haytham Halabi levelling after an hour and Shahar Hirsh seemingly sending them through with three minutes remaining.

They had not counted on Martynas Jefišovas conjuring a 90th-minute equaliser, however, as Lithuania secured their second point in three games and spelt heartbreak for their opponents.

Lithuania's first point had come in a goalless draw against Serbia in their opening game on Tuesday, when Israel got off to the best of starts with a 2-1 success against the Czech Republic, Ben Azubel and Omer Nachmani delivering a comeback win late in the first half after Tomaš Kunc had put the visitors ahead.

That put Israel in a strong position, but they lost 1-0 to Serbia two days later, Aleksandar Mitrović firing the only goal of the game on 48 minutes. Meanwhile, a third-minute Jakub Plšek strike brought the Czechs back into contention courtesy of their 1-0 success against a Lithuania side that finished with nine men. They made sure to build on that result in their final outing and, along with Serbia, can now look forward to the elite round draw.

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