PRAGUE: Despite Czech Republic’s 4-1 loss to Russia in their opening match, Chelsea’s Petr Cech said that the defeat was not a mortal blow to their hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals, although he admitted their defence needed to tighten up.
“The next step will be to win the next game,” said Cech. “It’s true that this game didn’t end up well but at the 2006 World Cup, we beat the US 3-0 and then went back home after the group games. We have to improve our defence for the next game and combinations too as there were too many losses of possession and we found it hard to play then.”
Czech Republic still have a realistic chance of progressing if they can beat Greece on June 12 and co-hosts Poland on June 16 in their remaining two group-stage matches.
“The first game sometimes shows what the group will be like but it’s not the key one, the crucial game will be the second one. If we fail in that, our chances of advancing will be very thin.”
Dzagoev earns boss’ praise
Russian coach Dick Advocaat heaped words of praise for two-goal hero Alan Dzagoev, whose performance against Czech Republic earned him the man-of-the-match award.
“Alan played in all our qualification games, he’s got a lot of talent,” said Advocaat. “He’s been training for two and a half weeks since coming back from injury and he’s getting fitter and better day by day.”
Russia currently top the group while the Czechs lie at the bottom of Group A after Poland drew 1-1 with Greece in an eventful tournament opener at the National Stadium in Warsaw.
Polish replacement keeper Przemyslaw Tyton, who was the co-hosts’ unlikely saviour as he saved Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis’s penalty just seconds after coming on when first choice Wojciech Szczesney was sent off.
“I felt like I was in a dream, this was the chance I really wanted to help the team,” said Tyton. “I am happy that I saved this penalty kick. On top of that, it’s the first time my mum was watching me play in the squad, so I’m pleased that I’ve given her something to remember.”
Poland will play their next group match against Russia on June 12.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2012.