The Czech Republic became the first team to qualify for soccer's European Championship quarterfinals after coming back from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Netherlands, 3-2, yesterday in Aveiro, Portugal.
Goals from Milan Baros in the 71st minute and Vladimir Smicer in the 88th earned the victory over a Dutch team that led 2-0 after 19 minutes. The Netherlands won the championship in 1988 and advanced to the semifinals four years ago, but will be eliminated if Germany defeats the Czechs on Wednesday.
The Dutch will play Latvia that day in the last of Group D play.
The Czechs have an unassailable lead with a maximum six points from two games. Germany has two points; the Dutch and Latvia have one each.
The Czech Republic is the only team to win both its opening games this year.
"It was a fantastic evening and a fantastic match for us," said Czech captain Pavel Nedved. "The way we came back after going two goals behind was extraordinary."
The Netherlands led on goals by Winfred Bouma and Ruud van Nistelrooy. The game was tied at 2 when Dutchman Johnny Heitinga was sent off for a second yellow card in the 75th minute. His second offense came after he brought down Nedved, who 10 minutes later rattled the crossbar with a shot from 20 yards.
"Three or four times in the second half we were in scoring positions but we couldn't find the net," said Dutch Coach Dick Advocaat. "The team played well, but now we have to beat Latvia and hope the Czechs play a proper game against Germany."
* GERMANY O, LATVIA 0: Latvia's players garnered the team's first point in its first European Championship, then joined hands and ran toward their fans to celebrate at the end of the game with Germany in Porto.
The draw kept alive Latvia's hopes of reaching the quarterfinals. A 150-1 outsider to win the event with U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes on the eve of the tournament, Latvia would advance with a win over the Netherlands as long as Germany doesn't beat the Czech Republic.
Germany has quite a different pedigree. It has won the tournament three times and advanced to the World Cup final in 2002.
"It's a historic achievement for us, it has been an excellent day for our fans," said Latvia Coach Aleksandrs Starkovs. "We will now try to keep improving."
Germany striker Kevin Kuranyi almost scored three times in the first half. Latvia's Maris Verpakovskis had two penalty appeals rejected by English referee Mike Riley, and a shot on a breakaway was saved by Oliver Kahn.
"The first one was a penalty for sure," Verpakovskis told reporters. "But we're a little team and referees don't give them to us."
Note: Earlier in the day, tournament organizers said they charged Switzerland forward Alexander Frei with spitting at England's Steven Gerrard during their game Thursday and will hold a hearing Sunday.