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Football

Late Baros strike puts Germany out


story.baros.afp.jpg
Milan Baros celebrates the goal that put Germany out of Euro 2004

LISBON, Portugal -- Germany slipped out of Euro 2004 after a 2-1 defeat by a second-string Czech Republic, who had already qualified, saw them miss out on the quarter-finals for the second successive European Championship.

The three times champions had to win to guarantee their progress having earlier drawn with the Netherlands and Latvia but the Dutch took the runners-up spot in Group D after a 3-0 win over Latvia and will play Sweden in the quarter-finals.

Despite a fierce second-half onslaught Germany could not subdue a Czech side showing nine changes from the team who secured their place in the last eight as group winners with a 3-2 victory over the Netherlands last weekend.

Germany did briefly lead through a stunning Michael Ballack goal in the 21st minute but the advantage last for only nine minutes as Marek Heinz equalised with an equally-superb strike.

With the Germans pushing for the winner, Czech substitute Milan Baros scored on the break 12 minutes from time to make it three wins out of three -- the only unblemished record.

It was a disappointing display by the 2002 World Cup runners-up, who failed to show the necessary urgency against a Czech team who were able to relax and enjoy the occasion.

Germany follow Italy and Spain as big name casualties of a tournament that has already lived up to its billing as one of the most open for years.

The Czechs, who had already won the group, can turn their attentions to a quarter-final meeting with Denmark in Porto.

FIRST START

Germany coach Rudi Voeller had reacted to the lame goalless draw with Latvia by giving a first start to midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and, after a cagey opening, the 19-year-old played a major part in the first goal.

Bernd Schneider whipped in a cross from the left, Schweinsteiger knocked it down into the path of Ballack and the midfielder struck a fierce 20-metre shot past the helpless Jaromir Blazek.

The Czechs, each man playing for a place in the quarter-final team, deservedly equalised on the half-hour mark when Heinz left Oliver Kahn flailing with a perfectly-placed 25-metre free kick into the top corner.

Voeller sent on Lukas Podolski to bolster his attack at halftime and Germany soon took control with an inspired Ballack driving them on.

Around the hour mark he fizzed a low shot just wide then sent another against the post, Blazek saving Schneider's follow-up.

Germany continued to exert pressure, Schneider heading wide, Christian Woerns having an effort cleared off the line and Blazek again defying Kevin Kuranyi.

But just as the equaliser looked inevitable, the Czechs broke and Baros tucked the ball past Kahn at the second attempt in the 78th minute.

The victory was revenge of sorts for the Czech Republic, beaten by Germany with a golden goal in the final of Euro '96.

It is also a repeat of four years ago when Germany needed to beat already-qualified Portugal to reach the last eight but lost 3-0.

Germany coach Rudi Voeller said his side's elimination from Euro 2004 was a great disappointment, coming just two years after his country had reached the World Cup final.

"Of course, the disappointment is huge," he said after the 2-1 defeat.

"Two years ago there was great delight at getting to the final of the World Cup, and now we are eliminated. That is tough.

"It was only in the second half that we played the way I imagined. The only things lacking were the goals.

"At this tournament we only managed partially to play good football. We only scored two goals, and that is far too little."

As at Euro 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands, the Germans go home early from a European Championships without a victory.

But Voeller said there was no comparison between the two situations. Germany were in a better position than four years ago, with a number of young players coming through, he said.

Czech coach Karel Brueckner, who had made nine changes from the team that beat the Netherlands 3-2, said: "It was good work from my side. We showed that we don't have an A or B team but that everyone is a member of the Czech team.

"We prepared for the match seriously. All the players played for prestige."

Former German great Franz Beckenbauer said: "The German team actually did everything right in the second half, except score a goal.

"It was just in the period of pressure that the second goal was conceded. That broke morale. The goal fell at the worst possible moment."

Midfielder Michael Ballack: "That we can't score is our biggest problem. Now we have to see we can get a good side together for the 2006 World Cup in Germany."


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