Coach Vrba not ready to Czech out of France just yet

Trailing 2-0 Croatia with just 15 minutes remaining on Friday, the Czech Republic were heading to a second Euro 2016 defeat

But a brilliant header from Milan Skoda and Tomas Necid's 90th minute penalty rescued a 2-2 draw and the Czechs now have a viable chance of reaching the last 16 - if they can beat Turkey, who have lost both matches, in Lens on Tuesday.

A win would take them to four points, potentially enough for second on goal difference or goals scored if Spain beat Croatia, or at worst into contention to be one of the four best third-place teams.

"We'll play for everything in the last match, that's positive," coach Pavel Vrba said. "The match wasn't going well for us but we managed to get the spark of hope.

"The important thing is that we still have our fate in our own hands and high hopes that we can beat the Turks."

Events in the stands late on, when flares thrown from the Croatia fan section caused the match to be delayed, overshadowed action on the pitch but regardless the Czech Republic had secured a potentially crucial point.

Croatia were only one goal up at the break but their dominance was such that Vrba was moved to question his team's desire.

"I told my players at half-time that if they didn't want to play football, they should not be here," said Vrba.

Initially little changed in the second half but Croatia playmaker Luka Modric going off injured gradually allowed the Czechs to come back into the contest.

"I'm not going to say it didn't help in some way," Vrba admitted, though he stressed he tried to focus on his own team rather than individuals in the opposition.

Both Skoda and Necid came off the bench as Vrba tried desperately to save the game but it was a moment of inspiration from veteran captain Tomas Rosicky which sparked life into the team.

The former Arsenal player, who suffered a hamstring problem late in the game, sent a delightful cross to the head of Skoda with the outside of his foot before the Czechs arguably enjoyed another piece of luck with the match interruption.

Any rhythm Croatia had vanished after the match restarted and their coach Ante Cacic pointed out the players, with friends and family in the stand where fighting had broken out, struggled to concentrate.

A penalty conceded for handball by Domagoj Vida gave Necid or the other penalty-taker, Vladimir Darida, the chance to complete the fightback.

"I just told Vlada that I was going to score," Necid said, and he did so with a powerful kick high into the net.

"I decided immediately put it under the crossbar," he added. "I do not know whether it was the safest option."

But staying alive in a tournament in such a fashion is rarely the result of taking the safe option.

Last update: Sat, 18/06/2016 - 11:09
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