PRAGUE (Reuters) - A Tomas Soucek hat-trick helped the Czech Republic to storm back from an early deficit to thrash Estonia 6-2 on Wednesday and kick off their World Cup qualification campaign in style.
Estonia, who hosted the Group E qualifier in Poland due to COVID-19 restrictions in the Baltic nation, opened the scoring against the run of play in the 12th minute when Rauno Sappinen slid a low shot past Czech goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka.
The Czechs equalized six minutes later on a short-range Patrik Schick volley before Antonin Barak netted to give the visitors the lead and Soucek nabbed a brace to round out the first-half scoring.
The West Ham midfielder completed his hat-trick in the 48th minute when he tapped the ball into an empty net after the keeper was pulled out of position to give the visitors a 5-1 lead.
Jakub Jankto extended the lead in the 56th minute before Henri Anier pulled back a late goal for Estonia. The Czechs face a stiffer challenge on Saturday when they host Belgium, who beat Wales 3-1 in their Group E opener.
(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by Clare Fallon)