The Czech Republic came away with a victory in Saturday night's friendly with Israel in very fortunate circumstances.
The match, played in Hartberg, Austria, was not easy on the eye as both sides failed to create many clear-cut chances. A powerful drive from outside the area for the Israelis, which sailed inches wide, was the best chance of the opening exchanges.
It was an experimental side for the Czech Republic, with regulars Petr Cech, captain Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil, Michal Kadlec and Jan Rezek all watching from the stands.
Captain for the night, Milan Baros, was the man who made the break-through for the Czechs in the 18th minute. After receiving the ball from Milan Petrzela, Baros was in plenty of space in the box and in a one-on-one with the Israeli keeper, Ariel Harush. When it seemed smarter to shoot, Baros took a heavy touch and had to chase the ball away from goal. Luckily for the Czechs, Harush charged out and tripped Baros in a poor attempt to reach the ball. Baros himself stepped up and neatly tucked the peno into the bottom-left corner for his 41st international goal.
The game failed to liven up after that, as both sides struggled to create anything in the final third. However, on the brink of half-time, the Israelis hauled themselves back into the game with a well-worked goal. Some neat play on the right-hand side of the box, resulted in Maor Melikson lofting the ball into the box and Itay Shechter connecting with his head around the penalty spot and flicking the ball past Vaclav Drobny and into the far corner.
At half-time, Michal Bilek made three changes with Theodor Gebre Selassie, Marek Suchy and Tomas Necid coming on for Frantisek Rajtoral, Tomas Sivok and Milan Baros respectively.
The game didn't change much as the second half proved to be played at the same leisurely pace as the first one. More substitutions followed as David Lafata came on in the 65th minute for Milan Petrzela and David Limbersky replaced Daniel Pudil in the 79th minute.
The match appeared to be petering out into a 1-1 draw when in stoppage time, the Israelis failed to clear a Czech corner from the left and the ball fell to the sub Lafata at the edge of the box. His half-volley was weak and low but a cruel deflection off an Israeli defender saw the ball loop over the already diving Danny Amos and into the goal to seal a win.
Lafata was the top scorer in the Czech league this year with 25 goals, a new record, but this was only his third international goal in 17 appearances and his first in more than five and a half years.
All in all, it was far from a perfect performance by the Czechs but the win, and goals from their strikers, will surely help in their preparation for the tournament. The Czech Republic will play another friendly, against Hungary on the first of June, before they start their EURO 2012 campaign against Russia in Wroclaw on the eighth.
Currently working in Brazil, Finbarr will be giving his take on Brazilian football in his regular Extratime.ie column. Finbarr peviously studied in Spain and worked in the Czech Republic and had regular column pieces on local football in both countries. You can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org