PRAGUE – Czech Republic forward Zdenek Ondrasek waited more than a decade for his national team debut but the man known as the “Czech Cobra” took his chance with a late goal that secured a famous 2-1 win over England in their Euro qualifier on Friday.
The well-travelled 30-year-old came off the bench in the 65th minute and grabbed the winner five minutes from time when he confidently fired past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford after Lukas Masopust burst down the right and picked him out.
His goal in their top-of-the-table Group A clash dealt England a first tournament qualifying defeat in 10 years.
Czech manager Jaroslav Silhavy, who coached Ondrasek earlier in his career, said he chose to send the striker on partly because he had been scoring goals in the United States.
“It is true that I have known Zdenek,” Silhavy said. “He scored in training and had this positive attitude when we spoke with him. So all that helped us with the decision to put him there as the first replacement and it paid off.”
Ondrasek launched his career with then second division Ceske Budejovice in 2007 before spending time in the third tier.
He eventually got a move to top-flight Norwegian club Tromso in 2012 before joining Wisla Krakow in 2016 where he scored 20 league goals in 66 matches in the Polish first division.
Ondrasek, whose nickname comes from a giant cobra tattoo on his back, notched seven goals in 17 appearances for FC Dallas in his innaugural season after signing for the MLS club in 2018.
For the Czechs, his first cap could not have come at a better time. The result means they join group leaders England on 12 points with four wins, though they have played a game more.
“We made the choice for Zdenek, it proved to be the right one,” Silhavy said.
“It is always like this that when a coach picks a new player and that player scores, then it is the coach’s golden hand.”