Group C: Serendipity (‘Happy coincidence’)
Ahead of last week’s all-decisive parallel showdowns between Sweden-Denmark and Italy-Bulgaria, Danish coach Morten Olson joked that a 2-2 draw between the two Scandinavian neighbours would be the perfect result. And 2-2 was the score line after 90 minutes, Jonson equalising for Sweden one minute before the final whistle. Italy, for whom Cassano scored the winner in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, were on their way home, equal on points but with fewer goals scored. Accusations of match fixing erupted from the Italian FA in Rome, who had arranged for extra cameras to record every detail of the Nordic derby. But, fortunately, any independent observer can testify that a great game of attacking football ended in a fair result, which everyone had hoped for but no one could have predicted. Serendipity!
Group D: Czech mate
Coach Karel Bruckner proved himself to be a master tactician as his Czech Republic side, missing no less than nine first-team regulars, dismissed an inept and at times seemingly unwilling German team from the Euro 2004 competition. Ballack had given the 2002 World Cup finalists a glimpse of hope with a spectacular 21 minute goal, only for Manchester United new boy Heinz to equalise with a perfectly executed free kick 10 minutes later. Liverpool’s Milan Baros, on as a substitute, bade the Germans farewell in the 77th minute, beating Khan at the second attempt. Meanwhile, van Nistelrooy scored twice against Latvia, with Makaay adding a third to see Holland safely through to the next stage of the championship.