The Czech football squad are now at their base camp in the Austrian Tyrol, and looking forward to playing Switzerland in the Euro 2008 curtain raiser on Saturday evening. The Czechs experimented with line-up and formation in two successful warm-up games last week against Lithuania and Scotland, though it is still not clear whether they will play with two strikers or a five-man midfield. I spoke to goalkeeper Petr Čech before the team left Prague on Monday, and began by asking him what had been learned from last week’s friendlies.
“I think it was a good test to try many players and see how it works. This is a positive. Of course we have a squad of 23 players and most of them got a chance to impress the manager in the last two games. We know everyone is ready, especially knowing that you have a good squad and all 23 players can play. It’s important because we know anything can happen – if we get some injuries we know we have replacements, so it’s important.”
What about the line-up and the formation? It’s not clear yet what formation you will take – has Karel Bruckner, the manager, give you any indication of who’ll be in the starting 11 in the first game on Saturday?
“We don’t know, we don’t know yet. There is still one week…and I think he will choose the line-up and the system which in his mind will be the best to play against Switzerland. As I say, we tried two different systems and I think both of them were working quite well – we’ll see which one he chooses for the start of the game.”
Are you afraid at all that the first game is against the hosts Switzerland – could that affect the game do you think?
“Yeah, it can, it can. Surely there is a lot of pressure on their shoulders because it’s the opening game. The opening game itself is a special event. Then they’re playing at home and everybody expects them to win and they are the hosts of the tournament. I think this is something they have to cope with, and we know that from that there can be a lot of motivation. It’s always difficult to face the hosts in the first game but I think we are ready for anything and we need to play our game. We will see.”
“I think we can say that Portugal is the favourite in the group, and then you’ve got three teams which are more or less with the same ambitions. Of course we want to join Portugal or whatever team goes through to the quarter-finals. It’s our target, and let’s see. Personally I can’t wait for the tournament to begin because it’s always better when you kick off as early as you can.”
Apart from the Czech Republic who would you tip to win the tournament?
“I think for me the favourites for the tournament are the teams from Group C [France, Italy, Romania, Holland]. The two who qualify from Group C I think will be big favourites to win the whole tournament.”
Finally, how are you doing yourself? How have you been feeling since the Champions League final?
“I think life goes on. There is another challenge – the European Championship is another task and I’m only thinking about that.”
The Czech Republic play Switzerland on Saturday, Portugal next Wednesday and Turkey on Sunday week.
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