Ireland match "do or die" for Czech football team

Photo: CTK

Wednesday has been called "do or die" for the Czech national football squad if the team hopes to compete at Euro 2008 next year in Austria and Switzerland. To secure a tighter hold on the crucial second spot in Group D the Czechs would ideally need to win Wednesday night against visitors Ireland, but many pundits are sceptical that will happen.

Photo: CTK
Football fans will remember that the last time Czechs appeared at the European Championships they were a force to be reckoned with, with players like Pavel Nedved and Milan Baros in top form. The team now, despite talents like Tomas Rosicky, is a far cry from that team just a few years ago. The Czechs have now notched up a number of poor performances, the latest against minnows San Marino on Saturday. Although the Czech players eventually won 3:0, their game left much to be desired. The problem, say observers, is a combination of factors: a current lack of form, a broader lack of talent, and inflexibility on the part of the team's coach to make necessary changes.

Eye on the ball: coach Karel Bruckner,  photo: CTK
Ahead of Wednesday's game I spoke to Karel Haring of the Czech daily "Sport", asking him what coach Karel Bruckner could do under present circumstances.

"I think that unfortunately for him he doesn't have many options, because when he lost Koller for this game (yellow cards) there are not many opportunities to improve the offense. There is only Rosicky and the rest, I think, are average. If we compare it with the team at Euro 2004, where players like Nedved, Poborsky, Galasek, and Rosicky were at their best form - that was one of the best midfield lines in Europe. I think that now we have only an average midfield now. The Czech team is now in a phase of 'rebuilding' - looking for new players."

RP: What kind of opponent is Ireland for the Czechs?

Photo: CTK
"I think that it will be a very tough game for the Czech Republic: the Czechs don't like facing English-style play and opponents who fight who go 100 percent for every tackle. I think we could see it in the teams' first match-up, where the Czechs were very lucky to escape with a draw."

RP: Do you think that the Czechs still have a good or fair chance to reach Euro 2008? They are currently 2nd in Group D behind Germany...

"Of course they still have a good chance but if they draw in their current form they can have more complications than they expect. To be honest I don't expect that the Czech Republic will win Wednesday's match and a draw would complicate the situation for Czechs because they would find themselves under enormous pressure. In short, I think that the situation in Group D will still be open after Wednesday's game."