Friday 24 November 2017

Cech backing Trap's army to become Euro dark horses

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PETR CECH believes Ireland are Euro 2012 "dark horses" and reckons Giovanni Trapattoni's men can get out of their group of death this summer.

The Chelsea 'keeper last night trained with his Czech Republic team-mates at Lansdowne Road ahead of tonight's friendly and admitted the international window has come as a welcome break from his recent travails with Chelsea.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men face an uphill battle to qualify from Group C with Croatia, Italy and world champions Spain standing in their way. But the experienced stopper, who has faced Ireland three times previously in his career, believes the boys in green can do some damage to their more illustrious opponents in Poland.

"Because they went through a tough group and the play-offs, the team showed a good strength and they can really be a dark horse of their group if it goes well," he said.

"I know the players from the Premier League and I think it's a very good squad, playing good football, (they have) fast forwards with a good objective. They are dangerous from set-pieces as well and we have to be careful.

"For tomorrow's game the objective is for us to play well and get some confidence and hopefully we can go away with a good result. I played here twice and last time it was 1-1 in the qualification game, so it will be a tough test."

With so much turmoil going on at his club, Cech admitted that getting away from the constant speculation surrounding manager Andre Villas-Boas was welcome.

"If you have all the sort of problems in the club and the club is not doing well and you come to an atmosphere where everyone is relaxed because you have made our target by reaching the European Championships, then the atmosphere is different and you can enjoy it," he said.

"But you always separate the two teams because whatever problems you have with the national team or with the club, it doesn't really concern the team you're in.

"It's a different type of challenge. It will be a big challenge to turn things around."

But he still believes Chelsea can arrest their recent slide, saying: "I think we'll finish better than fourth."

Tonight's clash could see Cech reunited on the pitch with Stephen Hunt, with whom he collided in 2006, resulting in the goalkeeper leaving the field with a fractured skull and having to wear a head-guard on his return. But the Chelsea stopper bears no grudges.

"Well, we always have a little chat when we meet on the pitch," he said. "I don't travel to Birmingham to have dinner with him. I have no time for that! No, I'm joking. Anytime after the game when we meet each other, we have a little chat. At the last game of last season we swapped shirts as well."

Cech will captain his country tonight in the absence of Tomas Rosicky, who will be replaced in the side by 35-year-old Jiri Stajner. Former Liverpool striker Milan Baros -- now at Galatasary -- will lead the line.

The clash will be Robbie Keane's last game before his return to the US, but Cech reckons the Ireland skipper has proven his ability during his spell at Aston Villa.

"It still shows that he can score goals," he said. "It is clear that he still has the quality (to play) in England. Now he has decided to play in the US. It is his choice."

Irish Independent

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