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Soccer News of Monday, 19 June 2006

Source: Daily Record

Cech praises teammate Essien

PETR CECH fears the Group of Death could kill off the Czech Republic - and he will have an unhappy souvenir hanging with his proud collection of shirts.

Michael Essien inspired Ghana to a brilliant victory and swapped shirts with his Chelsea team-mate despite leaving the Czechs' chances of progression hanging by a thread.

The Czechs were outplayed and only a string of brilliant saves from Cech prevented the scoreline being even more comprehensive.

It leaves the Czechs - ranked the second best team in the world behind Brazil by FIFA - needing to beat Italy in their final group match on Thursday while Ghana can guarantee their place by beating USA.

Cech admits they have made life very difficult for themselves as he paid tribute to Essien after his virtuoso performance.

He said: "If we want to win the World Cup - and we believe we can - then we have to come through this group and it's still possible.

"It's bad for us as we are under pressure but we will keep fighting.

"We knew it was going to be a difficult group but we've lost only one game and now we still have a chance to qualify. We just need to beat Italy.

"That will be really tough because Italy are a good side but we can still beat everyone in this group because we know we have a good team.

"African countries have a chance if they keep going like this. Everyone who has qualified has a chance, but they are getting stronger with every tournament. But Essien showed what a great player he is. He was excellent in Ghana's first game and he really played well for them.

"I'm not a big collector of shirts but I have some special shirts from goalkeepers in my house so Michael's will go in the collection and I just hope it doesn't bring back too many bad memories of this World Cup."

Ghana took a second minute lead through Asamoah Gyan then Sulley Muntari hammered home an 82nd-minute clincher.

But that was only half the story as Cech made brilliant saves, Gyan hit a post from a controversial 65th minute penalty and Ghana were caught offside a staggering 10 times as they wasted chance after chance.

Gyan was also booked for taking the penalty too soon as Argentine referee Dario Garcia was sending off Tomas Ujfalusi for his trip on Matthew Amoah and that rules him out of their final Group match.

Essien is now confident his team can progress - and has warned the Czechs and Italy one of them is going out.

He said: "With this win we have made the group very tough for the Czechs and Italy and we have made sure we can still go through.

"This is a great result for us, Africa and African teams as a whole. It really shows what we are capable of against one of the best teams in Europe."