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Sunday, 14 May, 2000, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
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Czech Republic
The Czechs sealed qualification with victory over Scotland
After a faultless display in the qualifiers, in which they recorded a perfect 10 victories out of 10, the Czechs' only fear can be that they have peaked even before the finals have begun.

A world ranking which rose to second, behind only Brazil, flattered them not one bit - even though the collective might of Scotland, Bosnia, Lithuania and the Faroe Islands, who made up their group, was not the most testing.

The disappointment of France 98, where they failed to qualify for the finals, was put to one side and they could hardly have been more dominant in scoring 26 goals and conceding just five.

Even when they seemingly slumped headlong towards defeat against Scotland, conceding two goals in Prague, they responded with three second-half strikes to claim an impressive win.

The Czechs were surprise finalists at Euro 96
European Championships have been kind to the Czechs.

Once they have qualified, they have never faired worse than third place - and they reached the final in 1996 only to go down to a "golden goal" against Germany at Wembley.

In the days when they competed as Czechoslovakia, they won the tournament in 1976 on a penalty shoot-out and finished third in 1960 and 1980.

The Czechs' recent success is all the more impressive for the absence of a truly world class player, or indeed an out-and-out goal-scorer.

For all that, coach Josef Chovanec has instilled in his side an attacking ethos, built around the midfield talent of free-kick specialists Patrik Berger and Pavel Nedved.

Berger will not be available until the third match of Euro 2000 after being red-carded in the last qualifier against the Faroe Islands, but Chovanec made the most of the Liverpool midfielder's absence through suspension from the home friendly against Australia in March.

Among others, Martin Cizek, from TSV 1860 Munich, and Slavia Prague's Ivo Ulich were considered as replacements.

Uncapped Sparta Prague goalkeeper Jaromir Blazek was also called into the squad against Australia as cover for the injured first-choice keeper, Pavel Srnicek.

One certainty for Chovanec will be the presence of Jan Koller, who came to the fore in the qualifiers with six goals - taking his tally to nine in ten internationals.

Just four years ago, the tall Anderlecht striker was playing Fourth Division Czech football.

If they are to sustain their proud record in European Championships, Koller will surely have to continue his meteoric rise.

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