The Czech national football squad defeated Liechtenstein in their 2012 European Championship qualifier on Tuesday, a win that was seen as obligatory against the football minnows. Striker Milan Baroš and Michal Kadlec both scored to secure the team’s 2:0 win. Despite the success, the squad’s play, especially in the second half, was less than scintillating and many are critical the Czechs will have to improve significantly in September if they want to get to the final competition. Earlier I spoke to sports journalist Karel Haring and asked him for his impressions from Tuesday’s game.
“The way they played against Liechtenstein wasn’t as impressive as we or the fans expected: the first half was a little bit better, they scored a great goal and created additional chances, but in the second half the level of the performance fell and they lacked pace, speed and too often they played through the centre of the pitch against the defence and there was no space for final passes.”
How would you compare it to the recent match against World Champions Spain?
“They were two completely different games. In Spain we were in the position of Liechtenstein, we were the underdogs, so we concentrated on defence and tried to stop the Spanish attacks, but I think it isn’t possible to compare. In the first we had defensive tactics, in the second the team was set on combining passes and setting up plays but it didn’t fully work.”
How would you rate the national squad overall? People look back to Euro 2004, when the Czech Republic had one of its best teams ever, or 2008 when the team was still fairly strong; where does the team stand now?
“I think the current team is average within Europe: you can’t compare this team with the one that played such beautiful football at Euro 2004. The level of quality is different: there is no Pavel Nedvěd, no Karel Poborský, no Vladimír Šmicer. It is not easy to replace such players because they were truly extraordinary. But I still think – despite the lower level of quality in the current squad – that the team should have played better in throughout the qualifiers. Namely, if they had earned at least a point in the game against Lithuania, which they lost, they would have almost secured second spot in their group now. They are in second spot now, but they should have played a bit better.”
The Czech team is basically concentrating now on qualifying from the second spot: is it likely they might still qualify directly for Euro 2012 or will they probably have to play a preliminary playoff?
“Because of points they lost early in qualifying, I don’t think they have much chance of qualifying directly, I do think that they will be able to secure second place and take part in a playoff for a final spot in the competition. But my feeling that that last step will be very tough and my feeling is that they haven’t got what it takes. Of course, it will depend on who they might face but there aren’t many easy opponents at this high level of competition. On the other hand, in six months a lot can change and players’ form can improve. Also, the Czechs play well when they aren’t the favourite, coming back on the counterattack, so that could help. I think if it comes to it though that the playoff will be very, very difficult.”
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