Cyprus Mail
Football Sport

Old hand Cech holds key to Czech progress

Petr Cech, set to become the country’s most-capped player, will anchor a largely untested line-up that will look to build on their qualifying success

The hopes of the Czech Republic lie in the usually safe hands of goalkeeper Petr Cech as they seek to emerge from a Euro 2016 group that includes champions Spain and has no obvious weak link.

Cech, set to become the country’s most-capped player, will anchor a largely untested lineup that will look to build on their qualifying successes and avoid an early exit by at least eclipsing Turkey and Croatia in Group D.

Coach Pavel Vrba believes his squad have the right mix of youth and experience, with Cech and Arsenal team-mate Tomas Rosicky providing the latter as they make their fourth and fifth European Championship finals appearances respectively.

The expected return of Rosicky from a calf injury should provide a welcome boost in attack but injuries have limited the gifted playmaker’s appearances in recent seasons and his fitness will be closely monitored.

Cech, though, has remained a steady presence on the Czech backline, helping to guide them to seven wins in qualifying.

The 33-year-old goalkeeper moved to Arsenal this season after spending 11 years across London at Chelsea, where he won four titles and the Champions League trophy in 2012.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger calls Cech’s presence between the goalposts “calming” and last December the keeper broke a Premier League record by reaching his 170th clean sheet.

The Czechs fell to Portugal in the quarter-finals at the last European Championship – missing an injured Rosicky – and in 2008 Turkey ended their hopes at the group stage after Cech conceded two late goals.

Cech is tied with Karel Poborsky, a hero of the 1996 Czech team who finished Euro runners-up, on 118 national team appearances. Rosicky is third on the list with 100 caps.

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