David Rozehnal has been his usual serene self at UEFA EURO 2008, calmly going about his defensive duties without even conceding a free kick and completing 83 per cent of his passes in his side's two games to date.
Also an unruffled character off the pitch, Rozehnal, who has just completed a move from Lazio to Newcastle United, took time out after the Czechs' 3-1 reverse to Portugal to give an exclusive interview to FIFA.com.
Even in the wake of a disappointing defeat, Rozehnal was cool, calm and collected as he assessed the Reprezentace's efforts in their first two games in Austria and Switzerland, and remains convinced a place in the knockout rounds is theirs for the taking. To get there, however, Karel Bruckner's men must win Sunday's Group A clash with Turkey in Geneva or face a penalty shootout in the event of a draw.
Assuming that hurdle is overcome, Rozehnal and company will then have the chance of emulating the class of 1996, who went all the way to the final in England.
FIFA.com: David, were you surprised to lose 3-1 to
David Rozehnal: We're obviously disappointed, and not just because of the result - it's never easy to accept defeat - but because I felt we deserved more. It was a difficult performance to analyse. We had our problems against Switzerland and won, and then we play much better against Portugal and end up losing.
You seemed a little lethargic in the second half against
the Swiss. And today [Wednesday] Portugal got on top after the
break. Do you think the team has a problem in terms of
I don't think it's got anything to do with our fitness because we'd been preparing very hard to be in good shape for the start of the tournament, and I don't feel Switzerland or Portugal had the edge on us in that department. Our problems started after we conceded the second goal. We'd defended pretty well up to then but they put together a good team move and went in front. That forced us to push out a bit more to try and get the equaliser, but unfortunately they scored a third goal to seal the game.
That result put Portugal through, but the Czech Republic
are still on course for a place in the quarter-finals. How will you
be approaching the decisive final game against Turkey?
We were disappointed about losing, but we need to keep on going because it's still very much in our hands. One more win is all we need to achieve our initial objective of reaching the next round. Turkey are a solid side and they might also be a playing for a place in the quarter-finals [Editor's note: Turkey will go through if they beat the Czechs after their 2-1 win over Switzerland]. We're expecting a very demanding and physical match, but we will be ready for it.
Jan Koller operated as a lone striker against the Swiss,
with Milan Baros performing the same role against Portugal. Neither
of them managed to score, though, and it looked at times as if you
were short of ideas up front. Do you think they can both play
together? Would that not give you more options?
They are both talented, experienced players and they know how to adapt, so I'm sure they can play side by side. But at the end of the day it's up to the coach. He has a system in his head and there's only a place for one them at the moment. It worked out for us against Switzerland, but not so much against Portugal. But even though he didn't score, Milan had a good match. He created chances, did a lot of running, made himself available a lot and gave their defence problems. And Jan did the same things in our opening game. Neither of them have scored as yet but we're hoping they'll put that right in the next match.
The team sometimes looks as if it lacks experience and
creativity in the midfield. Have the retirement of Pavel Nedved and
injury to Tomas Rosicky taken their toll?
Yes, they have. Any team that's missing players like Nedved and Rosicky is obviously not going to be as strong. But we need to move on. You can't keep going over it all the time and we need to stop talking about them and wondering how we might be doing if they were here. The fact is they're not here at the Euros and we have a group of 23 players to work with. We shouldn't keep going back to the past and lamenting the fact they're not around.
In the past the country's greatest players, the likes
of Karel Poborsky, Vladimir Smicer and Patrick Berger, all played
in the midfield and attack. These days the team's key men, such
as you, Tomas Ujfalusi, Marek Jankulovski and Tomas Galasek, are
all defenders. Do you think Czech Republic have changed their
You could look at it that way I suppose, but the fact that we've become a more defensive side is nothing to do with any tactical switches or the coach changing his approach. It's just a natural development. It's very hard to replace players like Smicer, Poborsky and Nedved and we've had to adapt since they went. The team has really changed its style and we rely on our more talented and experienced performers now. And it's definitely true to say that our strengths are in defence right now.
Can the current Czech Republic team match the achievements
of the 1996 side and go all the way to the final?
The Nedved generation has gone now and new players have come into the national side. They need time, though. They've got the task of cementing a place in the team and of replacing those players. That process could take a few games, a few months or even a few years depending on the team. In any case, it's something every national side has to go through. You create your own style depending on the best players available. I honestly feel we've got a strong side right now, one that's capable of big things. All we need is a little time to grow and develop together, and a good run at these championships would really help us do just that.