Preparations should improve after collapse of some big teams at 2002 World Cup, says Petr Cech

Petr Cech, photo: CTK

The Czech football team are currently at a training camp in Seefeld in the Austrian Tyrol. Pavel Nedved, Jan Koller and Co. are preparing for the World Cup in Germany, where they will play their first game against the USA on June 12th. Just before they left Prague, I spoke to the Czech Republic and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech; I began by asking him about the form of the Czech players, several of whom have been injured in recent months.

Petr Cech, photo: CTK
"We still have three weeks to go. I think this enough time for us to be ready for the World Cup. We are just starting the preparation and...maybe our advantage will be that some of the players who have been injured will be fresh, they will be fit and they will be hungry for success. They will not be tired for the World Cup - maybe this could be an advantage for us."

What will you be focusing on at the training camp?

"I think this is up to our coach (laughs). I don't know the programme yet but...I think because some of the players played so many games and some of them didn't play so much the programme will be different the first week, for everyone, and maybe we will maybe train individually a bit."

Photo: CTK
At the last World Cup many big countries flopped, they did badly after - some people said - a long club season for some players. Is there a danger do you think that that could happen again this time, in Germany?

"Yeah, it can happen again. But I think now almost everyone's got experience with the last World Cup, when almost every favourite team had a problem with that. So maybe this experience can help them to deal with that this season. But in the end every player is individual and everyone copes with that differently. So this is up to team coaches, to really prepare everyone for the World Cup."

What does it mean to the Czech Republic that the World Cup is taking place in neighbouring Germany?

"It's great for Czech football, because everyone can come, everyone can see the game...of course everyone who's got a ticket can come, to be precise (laughs). So it's not far to go, so if you have a problem with a flight ticket...you don't need any in the Czech Republic to come to Germany, you take your car and go. So it's easier to travel for Czech fans. And we hope we will have all tickets sold and all players available, for Czech fans."

Photo: CTK
Is it an advantage for all European countries that the World Cup is taking place in Europe?

Milan Baros and Vladimir Smicer, photo: CTK
"I think it is. Because there are no time differences, there is no different weather, there is no different humidity, there is no different air...we know the weather and everything in Europe. So that is an advantage for us...but even for the fans it is better, because they don't have to travel 1,000 miles to be present and they don't need to wake up at 3 in the morning to see their team on the telly. So I think it's an advantage for people in Europe, yeah."

At the European Championships in Portugal many people said the Czechs played the most attractive football - do you think now more could be expected of the Czech Republic?

"I think everyone expects more from us than four years ago. Because we've been playing regularly very well during all qualification and friendly games and we've got some good players in the squad, famous abroad...I think we are now regarded differently than we were a few years ago."

Realistically speaking, what would be a success for the Czech Republic? If I said to you now, would you take a place in the semi-finals...

"It would be a great success. I think for us our target is to be in the last 16 and after that we will see."