Group relatively weak but too many draws cost us World Cup place, says Petr Čech

Marek Jankulovski, photo: CTK

So it’s official, the Czech Republic’s footballers will not be going to next year’s World Cup in South Africa. With Slovenia, as expected, beating San Marino, the result of the Czechs’ final qualifier against Northern Ireland in Prague on Wednesday night became irrelevant. In any case, a poor game ended 0:0. It was the last match in charge for coach Ivan Hašek and the last appearance for left back Marek Jankulovski, who retires with 78 caps. Given the fact their group looked relatively easy, where did it all go wrong for the Czech Republic? That’s a question I put to goalkeeper Petr Čech.

“On paper it’s been the weakest group we’ve had over three qualifying campaigns. But we didn’t start well. We drew with Northern Ireland and then when we lost to Poland we had a spell of two or three games when we didn’t play well. And another draw in Slovenia…I think it was too costly for us.

Milan Baroš of Czech Republic, Stephen Craigan of Northern Ireland (right), photo: CTK
“We dropped too many points at the beginning and then over the last four games [after the appointment of Hašek] we did our best and were chasing results, but it was too late.

“So I think, you know, having made four draws in one qualifying campaign, it’s too many. And in a system where you have three points for a victory, it’s better to win twice and to lose twice than to have four draws, and as I said we had too many draws.”

What are the main tasks facing the new Czech coach?

Petr Čech, photo: CTK
“I think the new qualifying campaign [for Euro 2012] is going to be a big task for everyone. And getting back to our best will be the main task.

“I think in the situation that Czech football is in after the change of directors [a new Czech FA executive was elected in July], we need to get back to winning ways. The new directors will need a success to build on. We need to get back…going to the European Championship in Ukraine and Poland.

“We will see. But the Czech coach will find a good team with a good attitude. I hope we won’t have too many changes, because I think we still have quality in the group. Of course Marek Jankulovski will retire, but he’s the only one. So I think there are plenty of players we can build on.”

And did Marek Jankulovski say anything to you guys tonight after his last game, or did you say anything to him?

Ivan Hašek, Marek Jankulovski (right), photo: CTK
“Yes, he thanked everyone for the beautiful 10 years he spent with the national team. It’s always a sad moment, because historically he’s one of the best players we’ve had – playing for AC Milan and for the national team for ten years. He was one of the greatest players we’ve had, so…it’s always a sad moment when you have someone saying goodbye, but it’s like that, and we wish him well.”