When Josef Csaplár was last involved in the Czech Republic setup, he helped bring through the likes of Petr Čech and Tomáš Hübschman. Having returned as Under-17 coach last year he has set in place a change of philosophy to get the conveyor belt started again.
Speaking at the UEFA European U17 Championship in Serbia, where his side opened Group B with a 1-1 draw against Romania on Tuesday, Csaplár thought back a decade, when he was involved with a team who were runners-up at U18 level in Finland having been semi-finalists a year earlier.
"In that [generation] we had Petr Čech, Tomáš Hübschman, Václav Svěrkoš," Csaplár told UEFA.com. "We took a lot of players to the highest level of European football, and for the current team that's the absolute priority.
"The biggest problem for Czech football is this. We had a lot of youth success – second at the 2007 [FIFA] U-20 World Cup and third at the 2008 European U19 Championship. But there was a problem transferring players to the highest level, that was very weak. In 2005 the Czech national team was second in the FIFA rankings, today 32nd.
"My mission under the new technical director Dušan Fitzel is to return to the philosophy of developing players [over and above results]. Since 2001 my philosophy and style have been the same but the players have changed. They were more skilful. So I and every coach in the Czech Republic have to ask what has happened in the last ten years.
"The philosophy was only about results and league tables, more than education and development, and this has been the consequence for Czech football."
Having helped FC Slovan Liberec win the Czech title in 2002 while also involved with the national team, Csaplár went on to coach SK Slavia Praha, Panionios GSS, Wisła Płock and FK Viktoria Žižkov. After that he had spells as a scout for Everton FC and Wisła Kraków as well as working as a television pundit, before taking over the Czech U16 and U17 teams last year. He is clear what he wants to see in a young talent.
"When I look for a player, the key word is harmony – harmony between skills, mentality and character," Csaplár said. "I asked my players, 'Did you see Barcelona versus Real Madrid?' 'Yes.' 'What did you see? Messi, Iniesta, Pedro – tracking back.' They are skilful players but their mentality is for the team. If you have good football skills and no character, you have no chance. You need a big character."
Victory against the Netherlands in Belgrade on Friday would at least book a FIFA U-17 World Cup slot and could ensure a semi-final place; Csaplár is sure his squad have the character he craves. "Absolutely," he said. "
The first thing I see in players like Messi, Ineista and Xavi is the winning mentality, team spirit. Wayne Rooney – the Manchester United philosophy is about mentality. In my team, character is the priority."
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