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Czech Republic knows it has to do better to advance to quarterfinals at Euro 2008

Czech Republic knows it has to do better to advance to quarterfinals at Euro 2008

The Czech Republic knows it will have to play better than it did against Switzerland to progress at the European Championship.
The Czechs were uninspiring in beating the tournament co-hosts 1-0 in Basel on Saturday to open Euro 2008. Switzerland controlled the match for long stretches _ having 55 percent of possession and out-shooting the Czechs 13-8 _ and could have won if not for the goalkeeping of Petr Cech.
"It's important that we realize it was not our best game," Cech said. "We made a lot of mistakes."
Cech emerged with credit, saving several clear-cut scoring chances. The youthful Swiss team lacked a scoring threat in front of goal, while the experienced Czechs looked happy to soak up pressure and attack on the break.
"We were the lucky team," said midfielder David Jarolim, who had the difficult task of taking injured playmaker Tomas Rosicky's role. "It was not an excellent performance from us, everybody knows that. But of most importance is that we've got the three points."
The win gives the Czechs a great jump on advancing to the quarterfinals. But they have been here before, beating the United States 3-0 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany before losing to Ghana and Italy to bow out of the tournament.
Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner may have called the performance "a job well done" and spoke about "a successful start to the tournament," but he is also aware his team has to improve to be able to succeed against the star-studded Portuguese on Wednesday.
The question remains what is the coach, who typically doesn't reveal his plans, going to do?
"The winning lineup can be subject to change," Bruckner said Sunday but his options are limited.
After Rosicky was declared unavailable following surgery on his left knee tendon last month, Bruckner changed the team's previously attacking approach and opted for a more defensive style.
That was reflected in a 4-5-1 formation on Saturday, with lone striker Jan Koller in front of two defensive players _ Tomas Galasek and Jan Polak _ in a five-man midfield. What mostly worked in last week's warm-up matches against Lithuania and Scotland, which the Czechs won 2-0 and 3-1, was ineffective against Switzerland.
"It was tough because I was up front all alone. We were under pressure all the time," said Koller, the Czech's all-time leading scorer who was substituted in the 56th minute after failing to pose a serious threat on goal.
Substitute striker Vaclav Sverkos scored a lucky winner in the 71st minute. However, play remained the same.
"We saw the attacking was not what it supposed to be," Bruckner said. "The defense was doing well, but the transition from the defensive phase to the attacking was not."
To change that, he would possibly have to field another striker to join Koller.
Significantly, Koller and Sverkos played alongside each other for part of the game against Lithuaniam, when the Czechs were arguably at their recent best. Milan Baros, the top scorer at Euro 2004 who has not been in form for a while, or young Martin Fenin are also available.
Moreover, further changes may be needed in a midfield that focused too much on defense and failed to create opportunities for Koller.
Bruckner previously said Rosicky was irreplaceable and Jarolim proved him right Saturday. Jarolim was solid but lacked creativity. Marek Matejovsky, who had also been tested in Rosicky's playmaking role, could step in.
Without a much-needed revival, the Czechs face the threat of history repeating itself from two years ago.
"Now we face Portugal and Turkey and if we want to win, it's a must for us to perform much better against them," Koller said.


Updated : 2021-05-15 14:28 GMT+08:00