Mon, Jun 21, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Latvia surprises Germany with tie

EURO 2004 The draw leaves the Germans with just two points from two matches and in danger of being eliminated in the first round of the event


Latvia's Maris Verpakovskis runs past Germany's Dietmar Hamann during their match at Bessa stadium in Porto on Saturday.


Latvia produced one of the biggest surprises in history Saturday by playing to a 0-0 tie against three-time champion Germany.

The draw leaves the Germans with just two points from two matches and in danger of being eliminated in the first round for the second straight time.

In Saturday's other Group D match, substitute Vladimir Smicer scored in the 88th minute to rally the Czech Republic to a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands, making the Czechs the first team to advance to the quarterfinals.

Germany plays its next match Wednesday against the Czech Republic. Latvia, a 500-1 long shot entering Euro 2004, thought it had a scoring chance when striker Maris Verpakovskis was brought down by Frank Baumann. But English referee Mike Riley did not call a penalty on the play. Just before halftime, Latvia almost scored but German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn stopped a low shot from Verpakovskis.

Miroslav Klose nearly won the game for the Germans in penalty time, but his header from about 15 feet went wide of the goal.

"We had our chances but we couldn't convert them, that was our problem," German midfielder Philipp Lahm said. "The group is still wide open, there's still a chance to advance."

The Dutch took a 2-0 lead after only 19 minutes on goals by Wilfred Bouma and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, but the Czechs narrowed to 2-1 in the 23rd on a goal by 6-foot-9 striker Jan Koller. Milan Baros scored in the 71st minute to make it 2-2, setting the stage for Smicer's winner.

"It was a fantastic match," Baros said. "Our first goal came after their mistake and that boosted our self-confidence. We knew that if we beat the Dutch we qualify and we went for it."

On the winning goal, Baros' shot was deflected by Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. Karel Poborsky collected the deflection and passed to Smicer, who tapped the ball in from close range. The Dutch finished with 10 men after Johnny Heitinga was sent off on his second yellow card with 15 minutes to play. The victory means the Czechs have six points in the group, followed by Germany (2), the Netherlands (1) and Latvia (1).

Czech Republic 3, Netherlands 3-2

The Czech Republic became the first team to book a place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2004 after they stormed back from two goals down to beat the Netherlands 3-2 in a gripping Group D clash.

Second-half substitute Vladimir Smicer completed one of the most dramatic recoveries in the history of the European championships, netting a dramatic close-range winner two minutes from time after Jan Koller and Milan Baros had wiped out the excellent Dutch start. Man of the match Pavel Nedved saluted his team's sparkling comeback.

"It was a fantastic evening and a fantastic match for us. The way we came back after going two goals behind was extraordinary."

Czech coach Karel Bruckner said: "I can sum up the match very quickly by saying that was good work out there.

"I'm not worried about our next opponents, only about my own team who, I hope, are going to gain in strength."

Dutch coach Dick Advocaat could not hide his dismay.

"Naturally I am very disappointed. We had several goal-scoring chances and could have won this match 3-1 or 4-1. Three or four times in the second half we were in scoring positions but we couldn't find the net."

"The team played well tonight but now we have to beat Latvia and hope that the Czechs play a proper game against Germany."

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