Czech players fail to show

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Sport now, and in football, the national team's preparations for their friendly match against Slovenia in Ostrava on Wednesday have been thrown into disarray by the withdrawal of nine key players.

Team coach Josef Chovanec was stunned when by Sunday evening only four players--the Sparta trio of Jarosik, Blazek and Bolf and the Teplice striker Verbir--had checked into the team hotel in Prague. The newspaper Sport have gleefully pointed out that the various coaches, doctors and masseurs outnumbered the players by two to one.

However, Chovanec refuses to get flustered by the situation saying, "It is very difficult, but then so is life. We're not going to overdramatise this."

Fact is, though, that whatever team takes the field against Slovenia on Wednesday night, it will give little indication of the strengths and weaknesses of the Czechs ahead of their opening World Cup away match to Bulgaria next month. The bulk of Chovanec's Euro 2000 team will be absent with players such as Patrik Berger, Karel Poborsky, Pavel Nedved and Tomas Rosicky all crying off with ailments ranging from sprained ankles to aching knees. Vladimir Smicer isn't even claiming injury--the Liverpool midfielder says that he wants to remain focused upon his club's preparations for the start of the Premier League season.

At least it gives a chance to blood some of the lesser known Czech talent. Chovanec was swiftly on the phone to call around for last-minute replacements and players such as Petr Vlcek and Lukas Dosek seem likely to play.

Quickly on to the Gambrinus League and Slovan Liberec are the early leaders, maintaining their 100% percent record with a 2-0 home win over Ceske Budejovice on Friday night. Champions Sparta have also won all three--the latest a 1-0 home victory against local opponents Dynamo Zizkov.

Click here for all the Gambrinus League results, plus the league table.

Finally, the build up for the 2000 Sydney Games really gets underway Monday as the 48 members of the Czech Olympic Committee select the 126 sportsmen and women that will represent the country down under.