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Czechs take nothing for granted
They may be unbeaten in two years and boast the European Footballer of the Year in Pavel Nedved but Czech Republic coach Karel Brückner is not one to rest on his laurels.
Monday, 02 February 2004

 

"I only look ahead," said the 64-year-old, who has overseen a run of 19 games without defeat. "We are just at half-time and the real proof will come in Portugal." Brückner may have in mind EURO 2000, where he was assistant to Jozef Chovanec and a tournament for which the Czechs qualified with a perfect record only to go home after the group stage. 

Key to Brückner's team overcoming the Netherlands in qualifying was stability - ten players started at least seven of the eight qualifiers - and he acknowledges that fitness will be a vital factor come June. "I am not afraid that the team will misfire in Portugal," he said. "However, injuries can take their toll." 

Brückner will certainly be glad to see forward Milan Baroš back in action. Baroš has scored 12 goals in 21 internationals but has not played since breaking his ankle playing for Liverpool in September. Now training again, he should return soon. Another regular who should return this month is Hamburger defender TomᚠUjfaluši who injured knee ligaments in December. 

Brückner's other cause for concern going into 2004 were possible mid-season transfers and their unsettling effect. "A move to a new side is always questionable," he said in January. "The new coach may have a different idea about a player's role. The language barrier is also a problem and the player may even lose his place in the lineup. I would prefer moves after EURO 2004." 

To this end, Brückner will be relieved that goalkeeper Petr Cech is staying with Stade Rennais until the summer. Cech, who is expected to join Chelsea, conceded only five goals in eight qualifying games. Two players have made moves, however, and it remains to be seen how this affects their prospects. 

Defender Adam Petrouš and second-choice goalkeeper Antonín Kinskı have both joined clubs in Russia, Petrouš leaving Slavia Praha for Rubin Kazan and Kinskı joining Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast from Slovan Liberec. The transfers may not endear them to Brückner, who rarely considers CSKA Moskva midfield player Jirí Jarosík, until last summer the most expensive player in Russian football. 

Perhaps Jarosík's example caused Vratislav Lokvenc to reject a move to Japanese side Vissel Kobe. The striker opted to remain at Kaiserslautern and will stay in contention for the Czechs' six scheduled warm-up matches, beginning with a trip to Palermo to face Italy on 18 February. With dark horses Latvia and familiar rivals Germany and the Netherlands awaiting in Portugal, the preparations need to be perfect.
- Ladislav Josef

 

 

 

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