Who knows, maybe if I hadn’t played well, Blšany would have changed their mind. But I felt great. The first game went well for me and Mr Beránek noticed.
Now just get to the final, boys. That would be fabulous. But it wasn’t meant to be. We were staying at a small hotel near Břeclav and the whole building was brimming with excitement. We were confident we could defeat the Poles. We could still remember the friendly match we played against Poland before the championship started: we completely destroyed them in the second half. “One more step and we’re going to New Zealand,” we were repeating to ourselves. “No one is going to stop us now.”
That was the thing. The teams who placed first, second and third in the tournament were automatically granted a place at the FIFA U-17 World Championship, and that was a great challenge for us. Travel to the other side of the globe, see New Zealand? Hell yeah! We believed in ourselves; we thought at worst, we’d finish third. We could see ourselves playing with the parrots in New Zealand.
“We’re going to destroy them!” That was what we entered the pitch with. But we were so wrong. When you’re sixteen, there is a big chance you’ll underestimate your opponent and overestimate your own strengths, and that’s precisely what happened to us. Within thirty minutes we were 0-3 down. It was terrible! The crowd of seven thousand fans in the stands of the Kyjov stadium started to boo.
After the interval we finally started to play. What a game! We were giving it to them, continuously attacking their goal. We scored twice, we created so many goal-scoring opportunities, took so many shots. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to score the badly needed equaliser and force another extra time.
We still had a chance to win bronze, finish third. But we were out of luck, the World Cup was not meant for us. Tomáš Jun managed to equalise against the Germans, so it was 1-1, but then they scored again and we didn’t have a reply for that. To this day I regret the first goal we conceded. It was in the 57th minute, the Germans sent an arched cross into the penalty area, David Bystroň jumped under it and I remained half way out of the goal, because I was convinced that there was no need to rush anywhere: “He’s going to head the ball away.” Unfortunately, the ball went flying on and the German player Löhring put it past me easily. If I’d anticipated that, if I’d stayed in my place… But “ifs” are not important in football.
Maybe I could have prevented the second goal too, the one that decided everything in the last seconds. It was stoppage time, and we forgot to defend because everybody was rushing forward – and then there was a quick counter-attack, a shot from a sharp angle, the end. Goddamn, we’re playing for the third place, and this happens? It was a stupid goal, a stupid defeat. The Germans were jumping on each other’s backs with joy while we were standing there, petrified. It was all gone. The medals, New Zealand, the parrots. We’d been so close. Only coach Štěpán kept a cool head: “Once we all get over this disappointment, we’ll realise that finishing fourth in Europe isn’t bad at all.”
He was right, it wasn’t bad at all. And the tournament also opened a door for me – a door leading into big football.
P.S. The following chapter coming up next week!