CZECH REPUBLIC legend Karel Poborsky will be hoping he’s toasting a famous Wembley win for his country while celebrating the anniversary of his most incredible goal.
The Group D leaders head to London tonight looking to cement top spot and continue their unbeaten Euro 2020 campaign against England.
It will no doubt be an occasion that evokes many memories for footy-mad Czech supporters – and especially the former Manchester United winger.
It was 25 years ago that Poborsky and his team-mates enjoyed an incredible run all the way to the final of Euro 96 in England.
After an amazing journey to the Wembley showpiece, the underdogs suffered heartbreak as Oliver Bierhoff’s golden goal secured the crown for Germany.
But it was a summer to remember for Czech Republic and their star-studded squad that contained iconic names such as Pavel Nedved, Patrick Berger and of course the man dubbed ‘The Express Train’ Poborsky.
And there was one moment in particular that announced the long-haired flying winger’s arrival on the world stage of that much-loved tournament and tomorrow marks the anniversary of it.
Poborsky and his team-mates faced the much-fancied Portugal side that contained the likes of Luis Figo, Fernando Couto, Paulo Sousa, Rui Costa and Joao Pinto in the quarter-final on June 23, 1996.
But the so-called ‘golden generation’ of Portuguese stars were sent packing as the now 49-year-old attacker produced a moment of magic to chip Vitor Baia and fire his team into the semi-final.
Recalling that iconic goal at Villa Park in the 1-0 win, the 118 time-capped Poborsky told Uefa.com: “Many people remember ‘Poborský’s goal against Portugal’.
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“It doesn’t really represent my long-term quality as a player – it is not the thing that defines my career.
“But on the other hand, at least people remember something. It is very nice people remind me of that moment now.”
He continued: “I have to admit that we were tremendously lucky. We defended for almost the entire game.
“The whole game was basically played in our half. They were favourites … a technically gifted team.
“When Jiri Nemec passed the ball to me, there was a fight over it. It made no sense. The ball ricocheted a few times, fell behind the three Portugal players, and I had some space to run alone.
“If it was one-on-one, maybe the game would have gone another way. It was lucky that the ball bounced off those players and fell behind them.
“Vítor Baia was too far [from his goal line]. The ball went really high and bounced a little on the grass, so I didn’t have to kick it. It was more of a throw.
“I picked it up from underneath. I chose a technical finish as I was used to doing that my whole life; I had scored two or three similar goals before.
“It was only a question of whether it would go into the net after it bounced, and luckily it did.”
Poborsky, who holds the record for most assists in European Championship history with eight, said: “The result was amazing, but it was important for the team to beat Portugal. It meant that they had to go home, while we would stay until at least the next match.”
He had already been instrumental in helping Slavia Prague to title glory and a run to the Uefa Cup semi-finals.
But it was Poborsky’s displays at Euro 96 that convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to fork out and bring him to Old Trafford after the tournament.
Poborsky, reflecting on his stint at United, told FourFourTwo: “When Manchester United’s offer landed on the table, it was an obvious choice to make.
“Moving from Slavia to United in the mid-90s, it was like two different worlds. It was a massive step in my career, and in my life.
“United had a great squad but I didn’t speak English and the language barrier was the biggest issue.
“In the end, I was there for just 18 months. It was almost impossible for me to secure a regular place in the starting line-up ahead of David Beckham, at the beginning of his amazing career.
“But I don’t feel any bitterness. The players accepted me and I always tried my best, even though I only came on for the last 20 minutes of games. I’ll never forget my time with United.”
Poborsky went on to sign for Portuguese side Benfica and later Lazio in Italy before heading back to Prague to join Slavia’s rivals Sparta.
He then finished his career at Dynamo Ceske Budejovice, who retired their No8 shirt following his retirement in 2007.
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