Baros double fires Czechs into Euro semis
The Czech Republic has continued its determined assault on Euro 2004 when two quick-fire goals by striker Milan Baros inspired a resounding 3-0 quarter-final win over Denmark on Sunday.
After a goalless first half, Jan Koller's header put the Czechs on course for a fourth successive victory before Baros struck twice in two minutes to set up a semi-final against Greece at the same Dragao Stadium on Thursday.
"The most important thing here was the first goal," Baros told reporters. "It was a great game for the Czechs. We are in the semi-final so I am happy with that.
"We knew before the game it was going to be difficult."
The Greeks, who upset France 1-0 in their quarter-final, will have to find another level to halt the Czech juggernaut, which is threatening to take them all the way to their second European title following their 1976 triumph as Czechoslovakia.
"Greece beat France and played very well," Baros said. "They have a good defence and they are strong and it will be a different game. I don't think we are favourites."
The Czechs had fallen behind in all three Euro 2004 group games and seemed determined to avoid having to do the same with a risk-free first half.
Denmark, who had turned on the style in their 2-2 draw with Sweden, also took a cautious approach and the result was a half of neat football without a meaningful effort on goal.
That all changed after the break as Karel Poborksy, a veteran of the team that reached the Euro 96 final, and Pavel Nedved instantly injected pace and determination into the midfield.
The opening goal came in the 49th minute when Poborsky found Koller with a corner and the tallest man in the tournament jumped under little challenge and coolly nodded the ball into the net from eight metres.
Baros, who scored in all three group games, then took centre stage.
In the 63rd minute, he ran on to a perfect Poborsky through pass and exquisitely chipped the ball over the advancing Thomas Sorensen.
Two minutes later Nedved set him on his way and after driving forward to the edge of the box Baros lashed a fierce shot past the despairing keeper to take him to the top of the Euro 2004 scoring charts with five goals.
The double strike knocked the stuffing out of the Danes, who had competed strongly in the first half without forcing Czech keeper Petr Cech to make a save and were similarly toothless in the second.
The result continued the Czech Republic's dominance over Denmark, making it 12 wins, six draws and just one defeat in 19 meetings.
It also took their winning run at European Championships to a record-equalling five, which includes a victory over Denmark in their last group game four years ago when they went out in the first round.
The only black marks for the Czechs were a thigh injury that forced defender Martin Jiranek out of the match in the first half and an extremely harsh booking for Nedved.
The inspirational Juventus midfielder missed the 2003 Champions League final through suspension and would be devastated if the same thing were to happen with another booking in a victorious semi-final.
Hosts Portugal play the Netherlands in the other semi-final on Wednesday.