May 2, 2012 5:37:46 pm
Czech coach Michal Bilek has taken the first step towards silencing the critics who believed he lacked the experience to rebuild the national side when he took over in 2009.
Charged with qualifying for the Euro 2012 finals after missing the last World Cup,the former international midfielder Bilek accomplished his first mission – and now seeks tournament success with a mixture of youngsters and ageing big names.
The Czechs face,Poland and Greece in the group stages with all their matches in Wroclaw,where Bilek hopes to build on the playoff win against Montenegro that catapulted the team into the tournament.
We would like to follow up on the good end to autumn,when I think we played well,said Bilek,who spent much of his playing career with Czech powerhouse Sparta Prague,ahead of the team’s recent 1-1 draw with Ireland.
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The hardworking former midfielder,who scored 11 times in 35 appearances for his country and played in the 1990 World Cup finals,said he had not yet decided on a final squad,but during the Ireland match he stuck with the core players he relied on during the qualifiers.
Bilek,a free-kick specialist who spent a year playing in Spain for Real Betis,paraded his coaching credentials after winning the domestic double in his first season in charge at Sparta Prague in 2007,but was dismissed the following year.
He later served as assistant to his national side team mate Ivan Hasek for the Czechs and then took over after the failure to make the 2010 World Cup.
Despite some initial bumps,Bilek ensured that the Czechs kept up their record of qualifying for every Euro tournament since the Czech Republic and Slovakia split in 1993.
Bilek will need to inspire the best from long-serving national team r egulars such as Chelsea’s Petr Cech,Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros,of Galatasaray in Turkey.
Also key will be emerging names such as Wolfsburg’s Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar of Pilsen,players who grabbed Champions League experience last season with domestic league winners Pilsen.
Bilek has two more friendlies against Israel and Hungary to prepare the Czechs for the tournament as the coach looks to repeat the relative success of 2004,when the Czechs reached the last four and were regarded as one of the best sides in Europe.
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