Surprise third-place finishers two years ago, the Czech Republic commence their UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 campaign versus Romania in Split on Thursday with history weighing heavily against them.
Since Tomáš Neumann took charge, the Czechs have yet to defeat Thursday's opponents in nine attempts, a sequence which includes an 8-4 defeat in their opener at what was Romania's finals debut in 2007. Most recently, Cosmin Gherman scored the only goal when the teams met in the qualifying round last February, though that result ensured both sides went through, with the Czech Republic topping the group.
Defender David Frič, who featured in both of those games, said: "We've played many times against Croatia [who they face on Saturday] and Romania, so we know their players and mentality and we know the matches will be very hard."
Referring to the qualifying loss in Tirgu-mures almost 12 months ago, the Slov-Matic Bratislava player continued: "It was the last match of the group and very decisive, that's why it finished 1-0, but now we have an excellent opportunity to win and I hope we do so."
Sito Rivera, whose Romania team were beaten 2-1 by Croatia in the Group A curtain-raiser on Tuesday, will need to lift his squad for a fixture they need to take something from to remain in contention for a quarter-final berth. "We lost but it's not too bad because it wasn't by much," said Rivera, extracting the positives. "If we win against the Czechs by a few goals everything will be OK."
Though the record books point towards a Romania victory, Rivera is not one to be swayed by statistics. "We've beaten them a few times before but that's in the past and we must look to the future," he said. "The Czech Republic are a good team and it'll be a good match."
The Czechs were involved in several of those two years ago in Hungary, where they lost their first outing 6-1 to Azerbaijan before recovering from four goals down to beat the hosts 6-5 with 19 seconds remaining. In the last eight they upset Italy on penalties en route to claiming bronze.
"We hope we can go through to the quarter-finals and maybe we can gain a medal − that's our aim," added Frič. "It's too early to say [whether we can emulate our 2010 achievement] but for now we just want to prepare for Romania."