When the Football Association of the Czech Republic (ČMFS) decided changes needed to be made after missing out on the last FIFA World Cup at the end of 2009, they turned back to a man partly responsible for much of their recent success, Dušan Fitzel.
Involved with their youth teams from 1998 to 2005, he helped bring through the likes of Tomáš Rosický and Petr Čech. Since returning as technical director following a spell as Malta coach, the Czech Republic secured a clean sweep of qualifications for the EURO finals at Under-21, U19 and U17 level in 2011 as well as UEFA EURO 2012. He spoke to UEFA.com about his aims.
UEFA.com: What were your objectives when you took the job?
Dušan Fitzel: Well, they asked me to come back to the FA as technical director because our football went down a little, you know. We were falling in the FIFA rankings and in youth football we weren't qualifying for the final tournaments. They said we don't have a lot of talent, but I think we still have a lot of talent. Now we just tried to change completely the philosophy of Czech football, especially in the youth environment. We created a licensing system for youth clubs and youth teams, the same as UEFA has for the Europa League and Champions League.
I hope it's going to be a success. But last season we had excellent results because all the teams qualified for their respective EUROs as well as the Under-17 World Cup; even the national team qualified for the main EURO. From this point of view we are quite satisfied. But the question mark is: if we are proving our quality by those results, or if it was just luck that we qualified. Because we still have a lot of room to improve, to play better football.
The philosophy is not just to win – we want to play good football, that's the main aim, and this is my goal as technical director, to try to change the mindset of coaches, to play good football, and then to get good results. But first comes the good football.
UEFA.com: How important was it for the U17 and U19 teams to compete in their final tournaments?
Fitzel: Mainly it was a fantastic experience for the players because it's about their development. I'm not counting the results because it's excellent experience for a player to face teams such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain, England – that's a fantastic opportunity to compare the quality of our players with the top teams. And this is the main aim, even though I'm glad that we qualified for the U19 elite round this season because we have a great group with France, the Netherlands and Norway. Tough, but this is exactly what we want – we always want to meet the best, to compare ourselves with them.
UEFA.com: Do you think there has always been a particular Czech style of play?
Fitzel: You know, the Spanish are still playing their way, Germany are changing a little bit, but overall the German and Spanish always play their way. Whereas we try to be tactically and technically better and try to bring our style closer to the Spanish, German and Dutch, while also trying to keep a Czech feel as well.
We can also look at how, for example, we got a fantastic result with young players like Vladimír Šmicer and Pavel Nedvěd, who were just starting their careers, at EURO '96. That seems to me an excellent example of how we can promote young players, give them more confidence and make them believe in their ability.
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