Croatia still the team to beat in Eastern Europe
Thursday, September 06 2007 @ 05:01 pm ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
Saturday 25th August saw the Austria Kangaroos, Czech Lions and Croatian Knights descend on Prague for the second leg of 2007's Central Europe Tri-nations. The battle-hardened Croatian squad, featuring a few Croatian-Australians with experience kicking the footy down under, again proved too strong for the Czech and Austrian sides, although the Austrians were notably improved and broke through for their maiden tri-series win over the Czechs.
Czech Republic vs Croatia
The first game was led early by the Croatian Knights gaining great clearance from the centre and converting. Sadly for the hosts, despite creating opportunities of their own, this was to be the theme of the match.
The Czech Lions, bolstered by the return of Tiger JD, were no match for the Knights, who have the luxury of some Australian groomed players on their team list. Silky skills with the ball and good foot speed, meant the Knights got themselves in front spot early and were able to stay there throughout all four quarters.
Although winning the third quarter, the Lions could not keep the momentum going in the final quarter, where the Knights added 4 goals and 5 points to the Lions solitary point. The only setback for the Knights was the loss of captain, Kolja Koracak, in the third minute of the match with a strained knee.
Final score: Croatia 14.10.94 defeated Czech Republic 6.5.41 (After handicap: Croatia 137 defeated Czech Republic 67.)
Austria vs Czech Republic
Austria, looking relaxed despite the morning drive from Vienna, arrived in Prague with the goal to winning their first Tri-Nations match without relying on their handicap points. The day finally came, with the Kangaroos posting their maiden victory!
The Czech Lions began to look more organised from the moment they took the field in the second match of the day. However, losing two players with ankle strains put the pressure on the hosts to take control of the game. Once again, the Lions scored consistently in the first half, and won the third quarter, but faltered at the last hurdle and couldn’t push past the Kangaroos. Even an inspirational mark and goal from debutant Petra Zezulkova, couldn’t ignite the Lions for a final quarter flurry of goals.
First-gamer Stuart was superb in the centre for the Kangaroos and ultimately guided Austria to their first Tri-Nations win.
Final score: Austria 9.14.68 defeated Czech Republic 8.8.56 (After handicap: Austria 98 defeated Czech Republic 82.)
Croatia vs Austria
The third and final match of the round was fittingly the deciding match for the 2007 Prague Cup. Both Austria and Croatia were undefeated on Czech soil in 2007 and this was going to be an arm wrestle.
Full of confidence, Austria flew out of the starting blocks and posted 27 points in the first quarter. This was definitely a shock to the Croatians, who were apparently caught napping after having the rest between their two fixtures. Not to be outdone, the Knights posted 26 points of their own in the second quarter, to go in to the main break five points to the good.
Injured Knights captain, Kolja Koracak, must have had a few choice words to say to his players at half time because they came out firing and scored a match clinching 31 point quarter. The final quarter was icing on the cake for the Croatians as they banged home three majors to Austria’s zero in the last twelve minutes.
Final score: Croatia 14.7.91 defeated Austria 7.8.50 (After handicap: Croatia 131 defeated Austria 80.)
So, we say congratulations to Croatia, for winning the Prague Cup and well done also to Austria for their fine performance last weekend. The Czech Lions had absolute pleasure in hosting the visiting sides in Prague and look forward to meeting in Zagreb, Croatia on October 6th for the third and final round of Tri-Nations 2007.
Photos of the event can be found here, courtesy of Monika from the Austrian team.