Nedved fears final heartbreak

Agence France Presse

Sintra, June 29:

The Czech Republic’s influential midfielder Pavel Nedved has slammed the refereeing which has left him on the brink of missing out on a major final for the second time in his career.

Nedved was shown the yellow card by referee Valentin Ivanov for tripping Jesper Gronkjaer during the Czechs’ 3-0 win over Denmark in Sunday’s Euro 2004 quarter. TV replays showed Gronkjaer had blatantly play-acted in order to get the Czech playmaker booked. But that does not change the fact that another yellow card for Nedved in Thursday’s semi-final against Greece would rule him out of the final, should his side qualify. The Juventus star, the current European Footballer of the Year, missed the 2003 Champions League final against AC Milan at Old Trafford for the same reason. Deprived of his inspiration, Juventus were unable to break down Milan’s defence and finally lost on penalties.

“It wasn’t a foul. I didn’t do anything to be punished,” Nedved said of the incident with Gronkjaer. “I just made a normal tackle and it wasn’t a foul. The referee got it wrong.

“Now I know that if I get another yellow card I would miss the final and that would be terrible, especially after what happened with Juve. “But I can’t afford to think about it. I have to go out and play my normal game and hope the refereeing is better than it was last night.”

Karel Bruckner, the Czechs’ veteran coach, admitted that losing Nedved to suspension would be a severe blow but underlined that his team was capable of winning without its star player, as they showed when Nedved was rested for the first round victory over Germany.