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  • Valverde. "I don't know why the classic was postponed"

That summer of 1996, the ball rose so much that perhaps it would have been no use for another goalkeeper to climb on Vitor Baia's shoulders. «The ball was going so high that I thought I could never finish inside the goal. Many do not remember me. But they do remember that goal. Karel Poborsky, feral mane, wild and twinkling football, touched the sky in the old Birmingham Villa Park. And hell three years ago, when he arrived at the hospital with a paralyzed face and a brain infection that could well have ended his life . It doesn't even matter to Poborsky to know if the bite of a tick that lived in his beard was to blame. Lyme disease, they call it. The doctors asked him the multiplication tables to see how he reacted. The only sequel that left him was a memory problem. But how to forget the glory. When Barcelona gets ready this Wednesday to play in the 10th district of Prague, in Vrovice, at the Eden Arena, it should look at the stories of a group of men willing to revolution.

Three years after the decline of communism led to the peaceful end of Czechoslovakia (finalist in the 1934 and 1962 World Cups; winner of the 1976 Euro Cup thanks to Panenka's goal), the Czech Republic agreed to its first major international tournament. Nobody noticed a team in which only six of its 22 members played outside the country. Five of the team members were players from the Slavia of Prague, the team of artists and intellectuals - Poborsky, Novotny, Smicer, Suchoparek and Bejbl himself - and four others had passed or later passed through their ranks - Berger, Kuka, Rada and Kubik -. The other big group of that team was made up of the Sparta players, the town team - Kouba, Hornak, Frydek and, of course, Pavel Nedved -.

What began with a defeat against Germany in Old Trafford (2-0) that had to start a calm path towards elimination, led to a succession of follies. Arrigo Sacchi and Paolo Maldini will never forget how that handful of Czechs, surrendered to vertigo and anarchy, flew towards their dream. López Nieto expelled Apolloni, and Bejbl finished off the transalpine (2-1). Smicer started a three-way tie against Russia when the fade to black seemed a fact. From there, the ecstasy. The spoon of Poborsky to Vitor Baia that eliminated in quarters to the Portugal of Figo and Rui Costa . The stop of Petr Kouba to Reynald Pedros in the penalty shootout that left out of combat a France that was already preparing to rule the world (Zidane, Desailly, Blanc or Lizarazu). Until the end of Wembley arrived, with the Queen of England in the box.

Bierhoff's golden goal

Matthias Sammer, who won the Golden Ball that year, could only stop Poborsky with a kick that made the Czech fly in the area. Berger scored the penalty. But a striker who should have a supporting role for Berti Vogts, Oliver Bierhoff, corrupted fate with two goals. The final, already in extra time, closed the game abruptly. It was the first golden goal in history. Kouba's fingers bent when there was no remedy .

The great European clubs, however, rushed to hire those boys as soon as possible. Alex Ferguson was in charge of personally calling Poborsky to sign for Manchester United. He recommended that the hair be trimmed, although he did not even manage to take the position that was for Beckham . In Benfica he scored a Maradonian goal. Bejbl and Smicer also left the Slavia after that Eurocup. The first signed for Atlético in exchange for 400 million pesetas because Radomir Antic thought it would give consistency to the midfield after the double hangover . Bejbl loved that Slavia's red and white had continuity in the shirt he would wear at Calderón. He scored two goals in four years and left the team in Second. Smicer, before becoming one of the heroes of the Champions conquered by Liverpool de Benítez, signed for Lens. Berger left Borussia Dortmund to play at Anfield. Nedved began his way to stardom in Italy signing for Lazio. While Petr Kouba marched to Riazor, finding there that the headline would be Songo'o. The Czech goal played seven games with Deportivo.

Poborsky, Nedved and Smicer met in the Eurocup of Portugal to try again, this time with Cech, Ujfalusi, Rosicky, Baros or Koller as companions . Greece denied them the final. This time, by another grotesque invention, the silver goal.

«Many do not remember me. But they do remember that goal. Poborsky knows that football, and life, sometimes depends on a moment. That everything changes.

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