Czech Republic beats Norway

The Czech Republic qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time after beating Norway 1-0 in the second leg of their playoff.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:53 IST
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The Czech Republic qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time after beating Norway 1-0 in the second leg of their playoff and winning 2-0 on aggregate. Tomas Rosicky volleyed the winner in the 35th minute after Milan Baros' pass to Pavel Nedved was deflected to the unmarked Rosicky. The forward sent a low shot from 10 meters that beat Norway goalkeeper Thomas Myhre. The goal was Rosicky's 15th in 52 international appearances. "We are absolutely delighted that we've made it," Rosicky said. "Norway played very well. It was a tough job." Mounting pressure Vladimir Smicer, who headed in the lone goal in the team's 1-0 win at Norway on Saturday, nearly scored in the 17th. He collected a cross from the right from Zdenek Grygera, but his low attempt went well wide. At the other end, Steffen Iversen had his drive from outside area deflected over the bar. The visitors, searching for an equalizer, put the Czechs under pressure toward the end of the first half and goalkeeper Petr Cech was stretched by another shot from Iversen in injury time. Popular appeal The Czechs had two goals disallowed - in the 60th minute when Smicer beat Myhre from an offside position, and when Poborsky netted from offside in the 80th. The sold-out crowd of 17,500 erupted in wild celebrations at the final whistle, and injured Czech striker Jan Koller - the nation's most prolific scorer - came onto the pitch to join in. "It's fantastic," Baros said. "I'm happy that I'm part of the team that made it to the World Cup. We didn't concede a goal in the two matches, which is of most importance in the games like these ones. I think we were better in both legs." New innings Although Czechoslovakia - which split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 - played in the World Cup finals several times, the Czech Republic has never qualified. Czechoslovakia reached the World Cup final twice, losing to Italy in 1934 and Brazil in 1962. It was also European champion in 1976. "It's the peak of my career," said coach Karel Bruckner, who led the Czechs to the semifinals at Euro 2004. The Czechs are 33-7-6 under Bruckner, who took over after the country failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals. (AP) Lineups: Czech Republic: Petr Cech; Zdenek Grygera, David Rozehnal, Tomas Ujfalusi, Marek Jankulovski, Karel Poborsky, Tomas Rosicky (Rostislav Kovac, 68), Jan Polak, Pavel Nedved, Vladimir Smicer (Jiri Stajner, 75), Milan Baros (Jaroslav Plasil, 90). Norway: Thomas Myhre; Jon Inge Hoeiland, Erik Hagen, Brede Hangeland, John Arne Riise (Marius Johnsen, 90) , Kristofer Haestad, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Fredrik Stroemstad, Thorstein Helstad (Ole Marti Aarst, 58), Steffen Iversen (Jan Gunnar Solli, 46), John Carew. (AP)