Czech Republic Win Kicks off Euro Championships

Article excerpt

BASEL, Switzerland -- Switzerland lost its leading scorer to a knee injury. The Czech Republic's offense idled in midfield. The European Championship opener was headed to a dreary 0-0 draw.

Up stepped Vaclav Sverkos, an unlikely hero. He came off the bench and scored his first international goal, giving the Czechs a 1- 0 victory Saturday.

Sverkos scored from 16 yards with the outside of his right foot in the 71st minute, after beating the offside trap off a brilliant header by Tomas Galasek.

"It was the best moment of my football career," said the striker, who was making only his third appearance for the national team. "I was trying to shoot as soon as possible because the defender was coming."

But the goal needed a lot of luck.

Midfielder Galasek admitted that his headed pass to Sverkos was not necessarily intended for the striker. Sverkos then mis-hit his shot.

"I didn't get as much on it as I wanted," said Sverkos, who came on in the 56th minute for the 35-year-old Jan Koller, usually the Czechs most dangerous scorer. "I was lucky."

Switzerland, which controlled for long stretches, not only lost the opening game in front of a home crowd of 39,730 at Basel's St. Jakob Park. It lost captain and leading scorer Alexander Frei, who injured his right knee shortly before halftime. The striker was taken off the field in tears and returned to the bench on crutches. …