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Zítka glad to put Čech's needs first

The Czech Republic's Daniel Zítka is focusing all of his efforts on getting fellow keeper Petr Čech ready for tonight's Turkey game, saying: "This is our job."

Jaromír Blažek, Daniel Zítka and Petr Čech in training
Jaromír Blažek, Daniel Zítka and Petr Čech in training ©Getty Images

The question is not even finished before Daniel Zítka replies: "He is." For the RSC Anderlecht custodian, there is no doubt that his Czech Republic team-mate Petr Čech is the best goalkeeper in the world.

'Complete goalkeeper'
Zítka has witnessed the Chelsea FC man's development at close quarters and is unequivocal about Čech's abilities. "He keeps cool under pressure, he's 26, he's been playing at the top level for five or six years. He's a complete goalkeeper at this level and I hope, for him, that he can continue for ten more years," said Zítka, whose admiration for his colleague was evident as he spoke to euro2008.com at the Czechs' training camp in the Austrian Alps.

Čech mate
Čech's brilliance between the posts has restricted Zítka – six years Čech's senior – to a single appearance for his country, a UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier against Cyprus last November. Far from trying to undermine the Czech Republic No1 to further his own ambitions, however, Zitka and fellow reserve keeper, Jaromír Blažek, actively try to ensure that Čech is in optimum condition for matches. "We want Petr to go into games without feeling there is pressure on him, and for him to feel mentally fresh so he can play freely," said Zítka. "This is our job – to have fun with him in training, make him laugh and try to prepare him without pressure."

Bit-part role
With more than a century of games under his belt in the Eerste Klasse, Zítka has developed into one of the Belgian top flight's most respected keepers, but he remains philosophical about his bit-part role on the international stage. "You have 16 teams and they all have three goalkeepers who are all No1s at their clubs – but only one can play," he said. "For the Czech Republic, it's Petr, and I accept this, I accept this role, and I'm very happy to be here with this team and with him."

Dugout fan
Zítka has witnessed the Czechs' two Group A matches so far from the bench, and will again be in the dugout at the Stade de Genève come Sunday for the winner-takes-all encounter with Turkey. Despite preparing for the game so as to be ready should misfortune strike Čech, Zítka admits he will, in reality, be little different from his ten million compatriots willing on the side from their living-room sofas. "I prepare the same as I do for club games. You have routines that you have used for a long time, so if you do that in your club, you do that here with the national team," he said. "But really you are like a supporter. You are close to the pitch, and you try to motivate your team-mates who are playing – that's all you can do."