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Czechs excited about future after Euro 2012

India TV News Desk 22 Jun 2012, 20:30:28 IST
India TV News Desk
Poland, Jun 22:  Despite exiting the European Championship with barely a whimper, the Czech Republic will return home feeling progress has been made as its coach attempts to drive through a rebuilding process before the 2014 World Cup.

The Czechs failed to have a shot on target during their feeble 1-0 loss to Portugal in the quarterfinals in Warsaw on Thursday. Reaching that stage had exceeded expectations, however.

Looking set for a short stay after being overwhelmed 4-1 by Russia in their opening game, Michal Bilek's young team beat Greece 2-1 and co-host Poland 1-0 to make the last eight, mirroring the achievement of the country's class of 2004.

“Overall, it was a success for us,” goalkeeper Petr Cech said. “Nobody believed we were able to advance from the group. We wanted to prove them wrong and we managed that. Given the problems in the qualifying, (reaching) the quarterfinal is a success.”

Despite having an extra day's preparation compared to the Portuguese, the match was a step too far for a tired-looking Czech team, which paid the price for sitting back and defending deeply when Cristiano Ronaldo headed home powerfully in the 79th minute.

Portugal's tournament-hardened players had too much nous and were hardly troubled by the sporadic attacks of the Czechs.

“It was a great experience for the lads who were with us at the Euros for the first time,” Cech said. “They can build on it in the matches to come for the national team.

“I hope we'll play well in 2014 World Cup qualifying and that we will have a chance to qualify for Brazil.”

The Czechs were without injury-prone captain Tomas Rosicky for that match and their final group game against the Poles, leaving the midfield short of artistry and exposing a weakness in the team.

With main striker Milan Baros also failing to score at Euro 2012 and on Friday announcing his retirement from international football, Bilek has work to do in that department, too.

Since taking charge in 2009, the coach has tested about 50 players in an effort to replace star players of the past, including Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky, Marek Jankulovski and others who were a driving force behind the team's march to the Euro 1996 final and the Euro 2004 semifinals.

Attacking midfielders Vaclav Pilar and Petr Jiracek were introduced last year as unknown players from provincial club Viktoria Plzen, but gradually became reliable starters and scored two goals each at Euro 2012.

Another newcomer, Theodor Gebre Selassie, was solid at right back and will join the two midfielders in the Bundesliga after agreeing to sign for Werder Bremen.

With Cech and Rosicky, the team's star names, still in place, Bilek's new team has gradually been winning over the critics, although Rosicky is warned he won't be around forever.

“I don't say I'm quitting, but at the same time, I know my age,” the 31-year-old Arsenal playmaker said.