Moldova holds Czech Republic to goalless draw in Euro 2024 Group E qualifier
There was no separating the sides at Stadionul Zimbru in Chişinău tonight, as Moldova defied a disparity of 136 places in FIFA’s rankings in this Euro 2024 Group E qualifier, bravely holding Euro 2004 semi-finalists Czech Republic to a 0-0 draw.
Facing the Czechs for the first time since a Euro 2004 qualifier held back in June 2003, the 174th-ranked Moldova gave a good account of themselves early on – although Vitalie Damașcan departed just 11 minutes in, following a challenge from Tomáš Holeš. His fellow attacker Ion Nicolaescu was having a better time though, as he got into some promising positions, only to be eventually halted by a Czech defender on each occasion.
Despite the visitors being mostly sound in defence, there was still a massive scare in store for Jaroslav Šilhavý’s side during a tense opening half-hour, with a corner resulting in efforts from Veaceslav Posmac and Maxim Cojocaru both being blocked on the line by Vladimír Coufal. The Czechs duly regrouped after that close escape, and Jan Kuchta was denied by the offside flag before Tomáš Čvančara headed wide from a promising position.
The biggest opportunity of the first half fell to Tomáš Souček moments before the break, when David Jurásek’s cross was flicked on by Čvančara, only for the captain to see his effort go behind off the crossbar. That should have set the visitors up for a boisterous restart, but it wasn’t until just before the hour mark that they forged any telling chances, with Kuchta and Čvančara both trying their luck from outside the box – and Dorian Railean awkwardly dealing with the two efforts – before Nicolaescu had a strike denied at the other end.
Memorably hitting seven unanswered goals across their two prior H2Hs against Moldova, the Czechs remained patient despite getting very little out of a stubborn home defence. As the minutes ticked by, Adam Hložek fired wide after breaking into the box, and Petr Ševčík’s audacious attempt worried Railean before fizzing off target, giving Moldova every reason to shut up shop and take a hugely creditable point.
Against all pre-match expectations, Moldova held on to go a fifth competitive match unbeaten. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic wasted what looked like a golden opportunity to start their qualification campaign with back-to-back wins, but they still remain top of Group E thanks to their opening victory against Poland. The Euro ’96 finalists’ next stop in this Euro qualification saga is the Faroe Islands in June.