Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Baros brace inspires Czech juggernaut

CLEAN SLATE The Czech Republic, the only team in Euro 2004 to have won all their games, seems to be the team to beat as Denmark crashes out of title contention


The Czech Republic's Milan Baros, left, gets the ball past Denmark's Rene Henriksen, during their quarterfinal match at the Dragao stadium in Porto on Sunday.


Milan Baros scored twice in two minutes as the Czech Republic beat Denmark 3-0 on Sunday to advance to the semifinals of Euro 2004 and remain on course for its second final in the last three championships.

The only team with a perfect record so far, the Czechs joined Greece, Portugal and the Netherlands in the semifinals of a tournament full of surprising results.

Beanpole striker Jan Koller had opened the scoring early in the second half, before Baros stole the show, setting his country up for a semifinal with outsider Greece.

The Liverpool marksman became the top scorer of the competition with five goals and ran the Danish defense ragged in the most one-sided quarterfinal of Euro 2004. He received a standing ovation as he left the field in the 70th minute.

"Before the championship I said I'd love to score four. I'm glad I've gone one better," Baros said. "It doesn't matter which of the two is nicer. I'm happy with both of them. Maybe the more important was the first one because it made it two-nil."

A beaten finalist in 1996 on a golden goal from Germany's Oliver Bierhoff, the free-scoring Czechs now have the best attack in the tournament with 10 goals in four matches and will start as heavy favorites against the battling Greeks. The match against Denmark was the first time the Czechs didn't have to come from behind for their victory.

Koller slumped on his back at the final whistle, then ran to join his teammates as they jumped up and down in delight in front of their adoring fans at the Dragao Stadium.

"Kdo neskace neni Cech, hop hop hop" [If you don't jump, you're not Czech] was the supporter's song, and how they danced to it. Players grabbed Czech flags and stood for several minutes as the chanting continued.

Before Baros finished off the Danes, Koller settled the nerves.

In the 49th minute, Juventus star Pavel Nedved forced a corner. Karel Poborsky took it and Koller headed firmly past 'keeper Thomas Soerensen from 6m into the top left corner.

Borussia Dortmund's Koller, at 2.03m, is the tallest player in the competition and the goal was his second at Euro 2004 and 29th in 54 internationals.

Koller's goal came after a dull first half in which both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances in a tight first half. The second half proved much more exciting.

Nedved almost doubled the lead in the 56th minute, but his header was well stopped by Soerensen. Moments later, Nedved slipped trying to stop the ball going out and stayed on the ground clutching his right ankle.

He was booked shortly after for appearing to trip Thomas Helveg and then Baros scored in the 63rd and 65th to put the Czechs out of sight.

Collecting a Poborsky pass which caught out Danish defender Martin Laursen, Baros controlled the ball with one touch and lobbed it coolly over Soerensen with his next. Then, latching onto Nedved's pass, he outsprinted Laursen and slammed the ball into the roof of the net for his 21st goal in 29 internationals and eighth in his last six.

Baros struggled with injuries last season and, when fit, Liverpool's former coach Gerard Houllier was reluctant to use him. With five goals at Euro 2004, he moves ahead of Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelrooy to the top of the scoring charts.

Denmark lined up with a 4-5-1 formation, with top scorer Jon Dahl Tomasson foraging alone up front.

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