Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Czech Republic sends Germany home

EURO 2004 Rudi Voeller's men squandered an early lead and tumbled 2-1 to the Czech Republic, as the Netherlands advanced ahead to the quarterfinals

AP , LISBON, PORTUGAL

Edgar Davids of the Netherlands, right, moves past Imamts Bleidelis of Latvia during their Euro 2004 Group D match at the Municipal stadium in Braga, Portugal, Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

From World Cup runner up to first round loser again at Euro 2004.

Germany, three-time winner of both the World Cup and European Championship, is going home early again.

Germany squandered an early lead and fell 2-1 to all-conquering Czech Republic on Wednesday, allowing the Germans' bitter rival Netherlands to advance to the quarterfinal of Euro 2004.

While the Dutch beat Latvia 3-0 in Braga, the Germans lost to what effectively was the Czech "B" team with Marek Heinz firing a long range free kick into the top corner and Milan Baros tapping in from close range for his third goal of the campaign.

"It's a huge disappointment," said coach Rudi Voeller, who took over after the Euro 2000 disaster where the Germans finished bottom of their group. "Two years ago we were so happy to have been World Cup runner-up, now we are out, that's bitter.

"Only in the second half we played the way I wanted, the only thing missing were the goals. We only managed to play good soccer here occasionally. We only scored two goals, that's too few."

With the Czechs resting nine players for their quarterfinal meeting with Denmark, the result looks even worse for Voeller's team.

Wednesday's result meant that only the Latvians, who entered the competition as 500-1 outsider, finished below the Germans in Group D. Voeller's men managed only a 0-0 tie with the modest Baltic team having also been held 1-1 by the Dutch.

The Dutch, meanwhile, were celebrating and are now convinced they can capture another Euro title to go with their 1988 triumph in Munich.

Dutch captain Phillip Cocu said his team, leading 2-0 late in the second half, got a boost when the crowd cheered indicating the Czechs had gone ahead 2-1 in their game in Lisbon.

"It gave us an incredible shot of adrenaline," he said.

"You can see how we are growing in the championship. We are on our way now. If we continue to show the same kind of form, we have a good chance to advance further."

Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored twice in an eight minute spell in the first half and now is tied with England's Wayne Rooney as top scorer with four goals.

The quarterfinal lineup includes four teams who have won the title before -- France, Czech Republic (as Czechoslovakia), Denmark and the Netherlands -- while four former champions are catching early flights home.

Russia, Spain, Italy and Germany, the first three winners of the championship, are out.

In terms of fan support, the first matchup between Portugal and England at Lisbon's Stadium of Light on Thursday is worthy of the final itself.

The English have effectively made Portugal's biggest stadium their home and go to the new home of Benfica for the third time in four games. It's host Portugal's second visit.

The game has many individual matchups with Portugal's Brazilian coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, taking on England's Swedish manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. The last time they faced each other, Brazil knocked England out of World Cup 2002 -- also in the quarterfinal -- before Scolari's men went on to win a fifth title.

Real Madrid stars Luis Figo and David Beckham are rival captains while Portugal's rising star, Cristiano Ronaldo, will be marked by his Manchester United teammate Gary Neville.

Portugal has to find a way to stop the freescoring Rooney. The 18-year-old striker had netted four times in two games to become the biggest star of the championship so far.

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