Leipzig, June 11 :

Ranked No 2 in the world the Czech Republic will take on USA in what promises to be an exciting encounter at Gelsenkirchen. The Czechs are battling with injuries with Vladmir Smicer out of the tournament and Milan Baros injured.

They have failed to make it to the finals since 1990 when former Czechoslovakia qualified in Italy. In what is expected to be the last chance for mostly veteran squad led by some of the top players in Europe, the Czechs believe that they have a team, which could take them to the title. Semi-finalists in Euro 2004 and coached by Karel Bruckner, the team plays attacking football which has brought them success.

Leading the way in the midfield will be Tomas Rosicky, 2004 European footballer of the year Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky. Rosicky is only 25 but the rest are in their 30’s and it will be their last chance ever, to get their hands on the trophy. Forward line of the Czechs is formidable with Aston Villa’s Milan Baros and the 6-ft-7 Jan Koller of Borussia Dortmund. With Baros injured and unlikely to take part in the opener, Bruckner could use either Marek Heinz or Jiri Stajner. Koller is also coming off a knee injury and it remains to be seen whether he will be back to full fitness. Goal should not be a problem as its’ manned by none other than Chelsea’s Petr Cech.

Claudio Reyna will be leading out the US team to the fourth consecutive finals. In 2002, USA reached quarter-final and it will be tough act to repeat with teams like Czech Republic and Italy in their group.

USA has not fared well against European opponents and while playing in Europe they have lost all the seven matches. Injuries to Reyna and John O’ Brien in the midfield is also a big concern. In 1990 WC, US lost all three matches, but this time around they must be hoping at least better than that.