Smicer strike takes Czechs through

Russia 3 Czech Republic 3

A goal with 90 seconds remaining, Vladimir Smicer's first in international football, last night ensured that there will be genuine dark horses in the quarter-finals. By the time the Czech Republic encounter their next hurdle - Portugal at Villa Park on Sunday - the stewards' inquiry will be in full swing in Italy.

Smicer, a 23-year-old substitute who joins Lens in France after the finals, earned his place in Czech folklore with a low shot from just inside the penalty area. The moment capped an extraordinary evening of fluctuating fortunes, in keeping with the traditions of Liverpool's great European nights, on which Russia fought back from 2-0 down to take the lead five minutes from the end.

At that point, Italy's place in the last eight looked secure. The Czechs, who had scored twice in the early stages and struck the woodwork on three occasions before their goalkeeper, Petr Kouba, had broken sweat, appeared to have lost not only the plot but the sub-plot to boot.

Talking of which, any match between Russia and an Eastern Bloc country their forces once occupied is never entirely free of political intrigue. This one came on the fifth anniversary of the day the last Soviet soldier left Prague, so it was not hard to imagine the emotional maelstrom through which the Czech nation went over the course of 90 minutes.

It began better than they could have dared to dream. Russia, depleted by injuries, suspensions and the decision of their coach, Oleg Romantsev, to send home a dissenter, had also dropped Dimitri Kharin and Andrei Kanchelskis. However, for all the upheaval, they initially looked no less forlorn, and the tournament's worst defence caved in twice in the opening 20 minutes.

First to exploit their slipshod marking was Jan Suchoparek, with a free header from Karel Poborsky's corner. Then it was the turn of Pavel Kuka. Easily shaking off the cumbersome Sergei Gorlukovich as Jiri Nemec's 50- yard pass fell to earth near the penalty spot, he headed the Czechs into what appeared an unassailable lead.

The margin of Russia's arrears might have been even more embarrassing. In the space of six minutes late in the first half, Michal Hornak's half- volley shook the underside of the bar after a corner by the impressive Patrik Berger; a Poborsky cross clipped the same woodwork on its way behind; and Stanislav Cherchesov made a stunning save to tip Berger's booming free-kick on to a post.

Romantsev promptly replaced both front-runners, and within nine minutes of the restart Russia were level. One of the substitutes, Alexander Mostovoi, headed them back into contention from Dimitri Khokhlov's centre. The right- back, Omar Tetradze, then helped himself after Vladislav Radimov fell when taking his pass under pressure from Nemec.

Russia were a team transformed. Despite enduring another escape when Poborsky's drive beat Cherchesov's dive only to come back off an upright, they went ahead for the first time when Vladimir Beschastnykh scored one of the competition's best goals to date from nearly 30 yards.

The Czech Republic could have been forgiven for believing that Italy's advance was pre-ordained. Smicer, pouncing on a pass by Lubos Kubik, had other ideas. Arrigo Sacchi will not be allowed to forget his name as the Italian inquisition gets underway.

Goals: Suchoparek (6) 0-1; Kuka (19) 0-2; Mostovoi (49) 1-2; Tetradze (54) 2-2; Beschastnykh (85) 2-3; Smicer (89) 3-3.

RUSSIA (4-4-2): Cherchesov (Tirol Innsbruck); Tetradze (Alania Vladikavkaz), Gorlukovich (Spartak Moscow), Nikiforov (Spartak Moscow), Yanovski (Alania Vladikavkaz); Karpin (Real Sociedad), Radimov (CSKA Moscow), Khoklov (CSKA Moscow), Tsymbalar (Spartak Moscow); Simutenkov (Regianna), Kolyvanov (Foggia). Substitutes: Mostovoi (Strasbourg) for Simutenkov, h-t; Beschastnykh (Werder Bremen) for Kolyvanov, h-t; Shalimov (Udinese) for Tsymbalar, 67.

CZECH REPUBLIC (1-2-5-2): Kouba (Sparta Prague); Kubik (Petra Drnovice); Hornak (Sparta Prague), Suchoparek (Slavia Prague); Latal (Schalke 04), Bejbl (Slavia Prague), Nedved (Sparta Prague), Berger (Borussia Dortmund), Nemec (Schalke 04); Kuka (Kaiserslautern), Poborsky (Slavia Prague). Substitutes: Smicer (Slavia Prague) for Kuka, 68; Nemecek (Servette) for Berger, 90.

Referee: A Frisk (Sweden).

Bookings: Russia: Nikiforov, Radimov, Tsymbalar. Czech Republic: Nedved, Nemec.

Man of the match: Berger.

Attendance: 21,128.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone