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World Soccer: What are your thoughts on Group A?

Petr Cech: It’s actually very difficult because all four teams are of the same quality and anybody can beat anybody. Every point and goal will be important. Let’s get out of the group first, but reaching the quarter-finals would be great.

Does being drawn against Greece bring back bad memories of your semi-final defeat at Euro 2004?
Is this a chance for revenge?

It’s not about revenge but the motivation to get the best result – one that would put us through to the knockout stages.

Because of the history of the two countries, there’s always a lot of emotion when the Czech Republic play Russia at ice hockey. Is it the same with football?

I’ve never played against Russia so I don’t know. I don’t think it will be such a big deal for the new generation, who haven’t been affected by what happened in the past.

You’ll play co-hosts Poland in your final group game. How difficult would it be to get a result from that game if you needed one?

It will be difficult because they are playing at home and will have incredible support. Hopefully we won’t need a result by then.

Are there any young, up-and-coming Czech players we should look out for at the tournament?

Let’s see who makes the squad first!

Following Viktoria Plzen’s recent successes, several of their players have been called up to the national team. Coming from Plzen yourself, it must make you especially proud…

Of course. It was great for Viktoria Plzen and great for the national team too, because we suddenly gained a lot of players with Champions League experience, which was vitally important.

We basically lost two generations of players recently so it has taken time to rebuild the team. We’re a small country so it is good to see more Czech-based players in the squad. My worry is that after Euro 2012 everything could go back to how it was before, with most of the Czech-based players being bought by good European teams.

Michal Bilek was heavily criticised in the Czech media during the qualification campaign. What do you think his strengths are as a coach?

He did very well under pressure – which he didn’t deserve because it was hard for him to rebuild the team without so many experienced players.

In your opening Euro 2012 qualifier, you lost at home to Lithuania. What has changed the mood of the squad since then?

It’s mainly because our new players have had a chance to grow up alongside the more experienced players. We have developed into a more close-knit team, our spirit is excellent.

The Czech Republic lost twice to Spain in qualification. Can anybody stop them at Euro 2012?

At a tournament anything is possible and nobody is unbeatable – even the best team in the world, like Spain.

What’s your earliest memory of the European Championship?

Watching the Danish miracle in 1992. Of course, four years later we reached the Final and, as a 14-year-old, I was so caught up in it all. It was great to see the buzz around the whole country. But it was sad to lose in the Final.

Euro 2012 comes at the end of a long and difficult Premier League season. Do top-level footballers play too many games?

I don’t mind the number of games. Most players would say that it would just be nice to have more of a rest before the next season starts.

Interview by Sam Beckwith

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