Czechs beat Greece 2-1, revive Euro 2012 hopes

Before the match, the Czech fans booed their coach. Six minutes

after the start, they could barely contain their joy.

After an embarrassing 4-1 opening loss to Russia at the European

Championship, the Czechs attacked right from kickoff and scored two

quick goals en route to a 2-1 victory over Greece on Tuesday.

”Everything worked for us tonight,” Czech Republic coach

Michal Bilek said. ”I am happy with every player.”

Petr Jiracek scored the first goal, beating Greece goalkeeper

Costas Chalkias in the third minute after a pass from Tomas

Hubschmann sliced through the Greek defense. Vaclav Pilar added the

second three minutes later with his second goal of the tournament.

He was first to a ball sent across the goal by teammate Theodor

Gebre Selassie.

”This was a big goal for me, and it’s great for the team,”

Pilar said. ”I went in very hard in to meet Gebre Selassie’s cross

and got to the ball with my knee.”

Substitute Fanis Gekas pulled one back for Greece in 53rd minute

with a tap in after Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech spilled the ball

and bumped into defender Tomas Sivok.

But the Greeks rallied too late, and their chances of advancing

were hurt following their 1-1 draw with co-host Poland in the

opening Group A match.

The Czechs, however, put their bid to reach for the

quarterfinals back on track, and they avenged their semifinal loss

to eventual champion Greece at Euro 2004.

”We knew the Greeks would fight hard and be tough on the

tackles, and that’s what happened,” Bilek said. ”But we didn’t

linger on the ball, and that denied them possession … Our defense

was excellent tonight.”

The low point for the Czechs came with Cech’s second-half

blunder, which allowed Greece back into the game.

”It was my mistake. Who else is there to blame?” the Chelsea

goalkeeper said. ”I’d been playing well till then, and I was

determined I wouldn’t let any in.”

The Greeks, who played without two first-choice central

defenders, nearly scored in the 41st minute, but the header from

Giorgos Fotakis was ruled out for offside.

Greece recovered well after its disastrous start, but lost

another player when Chalkias limped off in the 23rd minute. He was

replaced by Michalis Sifakis.

”This was another game with a very bad start for us,” said

Greece coach Fernando Santos, whose team had trailed after 17

minutes in the draw with Poland. ”We were chasing the game for the

whole match after going two down so quickly.”

Despite the defensive problems, Santos stuck with his attacking

lineup of three forwards. The strategy helped the Greeks dominate

the second half.

Before Euro 2012, Greece’s defense had been an important feature

in its campaign to qualify, conceding just five goals in 10

games.

”We conceded so few goals in qualifying, and this happens to

us,” Santos said. ”We did find our balance but could not get a

second goal.”

Czech Republic captain Tomas Rosicky came off with an Achilles

tendon injury in the second half, and team officials said it was

too early to say whether it would rule him out for the last group

game against Poland.

Czech Republic: Petr Cech, Theodor Gebre Selassie, Tomas Sivok,

Michal Kadlec, David Limbersky, Tomas Hubschman, Jaroslav Plasil,

Petr Jiracek, Tomas Rosicky (Daniel Kolar, 46, Frantisek Rajtoral,

89), Vaclav Pilar, Milan Baros (Tomas Pekhart, 64).

Greece: Costas Chalkias (Michalis Sifakis, 23), Yiannis

Maniatis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Vassilis Torosidis, Jose Holebas,

Giorgos Karagounis, Giorgos Fotakis (Fanis Gekas, 46), Costas

Katsouranis, Costas Fortounis (Costas Mitroglou, 71st), Georgios

Samaras, Dimitris Salpingidis.