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Czech Republic captain Tomas Ujfalusi's ready for Euro 2008 opener against Switzerland

Czech Republic captain Tomas Ujfalusi's ready for Euro 2008 opener against Switzerland

Czech Republic captain Tomas Ujfalusi declared himself fit and ready to play a day before Saturday's European Championship opening game against co-host Switzerland.
"I was training with the team yesterday and the problems have gone," Ujfalusi said Friday. "I'm ready to play tomorrow."
Ujfalusi had an abdominal muscle problem earlier this week and his absence would have been another serious blow for the Czechs, which lost playmaker Tomas Rosicky.
The captain was declared unavailable following surgery on his left knee tendon last month, forcing a rethink of the team's entire approach. Now, Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner has at least his best possible defense available.
All other Czechs were available, Ujfalusi said, except right back Zdenek Pospech, was ruled out of the game against Switzerland due to a virus.
Without Rosicky, Bruckner tested a five-man midfield in the team's last Euro 2008 warm-up matches with Jan Koller as the lone striker. The Czechs won both the games _ 2-0 against Lithuania and 3-1 against Scotland. Bruckner, who is widely expected to stick to the formation at the tournament, had already warned that the Czechs can't afford to apply the same attacking approach that won them accolades at the last European Championship in Portugal four years ago.
On Friday, Bruckner remained typically silent about his possible starting lineup.
"We have two or three strong options," Bruckner said. "We'll use one of them."
Ujfalusi, who has left Fiorentina and is heading for Spain, is expected to anchor the Czech defense in the center alongside David Rozehnal, with Zdenek Grygera on the right and Marek Jankulovski on the left.
The experienced defense with all players from the Italian league is a precious asset of the Czechs.
"This could be an advantage for us," Ujfalusi said. "The Italian league focuses a lot on defense."
With Petr Cech, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, guarding the goal, the defense proved reliable during the qualifying campaign, allowing its opponents to score only five goals in 12 matches.
While Bruckner's defense is almost the same as at Euro 2004 _ just Rozehnal replacing Rene Bolf _ where the Czechs reached the semifinals, the midfield is where the team looks almost entirely different. Gone are former attack-minded stars Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky and Vladimir Smicer, with only defensive veteran Tomas Galasek remaining in the squad.
David Jarolim is likely to start in Rosicky's post on Saturday, with Galasek and Jan Polak alongside, and with fleet-footed Libor Sionko on the right and Jaroslav Plasil on the left.
"The coach had to find adequate replacements and we proved to be on the right track when we advanced from the first place" in the qualifying group, said Ujfalusi, who temporarily took over captaincy from Rosicky. "We have confidence and I hope we'll prove that at the championship."
A likely lone Koller up front represents another visible change in Bruckner's attacking strategy. After he did not hesitate to boost his attack by four full-blooded strikers as the Czechs successfully rallied in each group game in Portugal, he will rely on a striker who scored just two goals for FC Nuremberg in the Bundesliga this year.
"Jan Koller has always been well prepared for the play in the national team," Bruckner said of the country's record scorer with 54 goals. "We know how to use him."
To prove his words, Koller scored twice against Lithuania last week.
Despite the changes, Bruckner looked confident ahead of the tournament that is the last of his coaching career.
"I don't agree that this squad is significantly weaker ... than the one in Portugal," Bruckner said. "This is a strong team."


Updated : 2021-06-17 04:23 GMT+08:00