Thursday, June 08, 2006

Getting Ready for the Czechs

As you begin studying at the Czech side we'll match up against on Monday, don't get psyched out about their #2 FIFA World Ranking. The US knows about inflated FIFA rankings as well as anyone. Past success just doesn't seem to equate well into future predictions. "Two years ago, we were playing great football," Smicer, an injured Czech forward says. "Now maybe the World Cup is one or two years too late. I don't think we're too old, but we have a problem of fitness."

Note: Bruce Arena is reading this too. Morrocco game's post-match quotes from Bruce Arena, "I take the blame for this loss. I probably over-trained our guys."

Jere Longman of the NY Times, whose becoming a trusted voice in American soccer journalism for Reckless Abandon, explains how time will be a factor for the Czechs, who want to follow up on their recent success, reaching the semifinals of the Euro 2004. Czech midfielder Vladimir Smicer, who will miss the tournament said, "Expectations are high because people know this is the last chance for our generation. Unfortunately, we're going to the World Cup and we don't know what shape we are in."

For Reckless Abandon's part, the Czechs seem like a team with a fragile ego, not unlike the US. Both want to prove themselves in this World Cup, to assert their place on an international stage, and to affirm their past success. Both have a mix youth and experience. Both have great experienced keepers, Keller and Petr Cech, who they'll lean on, and honestly will need to make a few impossible saves, ala Brad Freidal, for these teams to go deep in the tourney. Both have aging midfielders, Nedved and Reyna, who want to end their international careers colorfully. Rosicky for the Czechs, age 25 and a play maker, mirrors young American talent like Donovan and Beasley as the next generation of national talent.

Look for this game to be close, without many goals, but with two teams fighting for their international reputations and the upperhand in the Group of Death.


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