Star striker Milan Baros hoping Czechs can reach World Cup for first time since Italy '90


On Wednesday evening the Czech football team begin their campaign to reach the 2006 World Cup with an away game against the Netherlands. Before the squad left for Amsterdam, I spoke to Milan Baros, who became a world star this summer when he became the top scorer at the European Championships in Portugal. I began by asking the 22-year-old striker whether he and his team mates had been aware of the football mania here in the Czech Republic during Euro 2004.

Milan Baros, photo: CTK
"Of course the people lived with us, they supported us and we were happy with that. We knew about the atmosphere here and what the people were doing."

Did it make much difference to your privacy, because now everyone in this country must know your face?

"(laughs) Yeah, it's changed a little bit, yeah."

Also I noticed during Euro 2004 you wore blue boots - with which you won the Golden Boot - but I haven't seen you wearing them for your club: are they just for international games?

"Yeah, these boots are just for international games, because at Liverpool we have a red kit so I wear red ones."

The Czech team has had two very good years. Now you're starting again to try and qualify for the World Cup. Is it hard after the success of reaching the semi-final at Euro 2004 to start again from the beginning?

Milan Baros, photo: CTK
"We'll see. Hopefully we can go through from this group to the World Cup, because we haven't been there for maybe 16 years. So that's our target and we want to achieve that, so we will do everything for that and hopefully we can do that."

At your club Liverpool you're under a bit of pressure after Michael Owen left - you and [Djibril] Cisse are the main strikers - do you enjoy that pressure?

"(laughs) Yeah, I think it's great if you can play for Liverpool. We just started the season and hopefully we can replace Michael. He was one of the best strikers at Liverpool ever so we have to do our best to replace him."

And your Czech club-mate Vladimir Smicer had an operation recently - how's he doing, do you know?

"He's still on crutches, so I think one more month on the crutches and hopefully he's going to be back soon, I think about Christmas time, so it's still a long way for him."