One of the game's real gentlemen, it is hard to imagine Petr Čech losing his temper. Those who saw the Czech Republic goalkeeper signing autograph upon autograph at the squad's training ground in Wroclaw on Saturday could barely have envisioned Čech's giant frame simmering with frustration and disappointment only a handful of hours earlier.
The Czech squad left the Municipal Stadium Wroclaw on Friday evening downcast having been dismantled to devastating effect by Russia. Picking the ball out of his net four times in 90 minutes will do little for the morale of any goalkeeper, and Čech is no different. However, with their second Group A match against Greece fast approaching, he and his team-mates are endeavouring to turn negative thoughts into positive.
I think the anger has changed into determination. Determination to fix the bad start we had in the tournament," said Čech, who was beaten twice in both halves. "We felt the disappointment immediately afterwards, for sure. We did not succeed in any way in that first match, but we know we have another 180 minutes to play to allow us to qualify for the quarter-finals. So we're determined to do just that."
Time has not only eased some of the pain of that 4-1 defeat, but also given the Czechs the opportunity to analyse the factors that made their tournament bow such a bitter disappointment. The incisive play of their opponents, masterfully orchestrated by Andrey Arshavin, meant there was little Čech could do to prevent Russia taking the game away from the Czechs in the latter stages.
"The only lessons we learned were not to make unnecessary mistakes and to play much more aggressively," acknowledged Čech. "They had a lot of space and they have some very good players, so they were able to use that. We attacked them too late in the game, and they had already created their chances and scored them. We do not want to repeat those same mistakes and we will, of course, play more solidly in defence."
Despite their reverse, Michal Bílek's team head into Tuesday's second group stage encounter just a point in arrears of their opponents. Greece will also be without the centre-back pairing that started their dramatic 1-1 draw with co-hosts Poland, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Avraam Papadopoulos, sent off and injured respectively. The UEFA EURO 2004 champions might have had a further two points had Giorgos Karagounis converted a second-half penalty, and, given their spirited performance, Čech does not expect Greece coach Fernando Santos to radically alter his ethos.
"I think Greece will play the same way they played in the first match – they will defend well and will wait for counterattacks," he said. "The result of the first match means we have to go out and be attacking in our second game. But it will not be all-out attack as that would open us up at the back and would allow the Greeks to counterattack."
Another loss would undoubtedly provoke more Czech ire at their own shortcomings. No doubt it would soon dissipate to be replaced, not by determination, but by sadness at knowing that after their final group game against Poland, they would be making the short trip home. The tournament's last match in Wroclaw may also tug at the hearts of the inhabitants of the picturesque capital of Lower Silesia.
"It's great for us to feel at home here in Wroclaw. The Polish people have practically welcomed us as if we were a local team," said Čech. "
The people here have approached us with such warmth and it is heartwarming to have a stadium full of people just to watch us train. People applaud every goal and nice piece of play. This is how the European Championship should be."
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