Unloved, unwanted and
unappreciated by fans who have long doubted him, Czech Republic
coach Michal Bilek's achievement in guiding an unfancied side to
the Euro 2012 quarter-finals should help silence the critics.
Throughout a bumpy qualifying campaign that only saw the
Czechs book their ticket to the tournament through a play-off win
over Montenegro, Bilek has been pilloried by fans and local
media unhappy with his squad choices and tactics.
During their opening Group A match shouts of "Bilek out"
filled the stadium as Russia ran riot in a 4-1 victory and most
people wrote off the Czech's chances at the finals.
But a few tactical changes showed that Bilek does have the
tactical nous needed to get the job done as the team rebounded
for wins against Greece and co-hosts Poland to win the group.
He brought defensive midfielder Tomas Hubschman into the
line-up and moved the lively Petr Jiracek to the wing.
In the final two games the Czechs conceded only because of a
Petr Cech blunder while Hubschman helped make two goals and
Jiracek scored twice.
They also changed their style of play, showing more patience
going forward and not exposing themselves to the kind of swift
counter-attack goals they conceded against the Russians.
"Of course I'm not happy about it," Bilek said about the
jeers from the supporters. "There are some fans who show you
from the beginning the are not rooting for you as a person.
There is nothing I can do about it."
The jeering was absent during a gripping game against Poland
in which Bilek's men had to play without their injured captain
and playmaker Tomas Rosicky.
The Czechs withstood early Polish pressure and took the lead
in the 72nd minute when Jiracek collected a pass from Milan
Baros and cut inside a defender before slotting the ball into
the net in a build-up that started with Hubschman.
The Czechs advance to the last eight with Greece, who upset
Russia 1-0 in Warsaw, and will play the runners-up of Group B.
"We won the two matches we had to and we are going on,"
Bilek said after the Poland win. "Seeing the fans happy gives us
a lot of strength."
The victory puts the Czechs back in the knockout stage of a
major tournament for the first time since making it to the
semi-finals in Euro 2004 when they lost to Greece.
Charged with qualifying for Euro 2012 after the Czechs
missed out on the last World Cup, Bilek turned to a core of
young players who played key roles to turn around the team's
Jiracek, defender Theo Gebre Selassie and tricky midfielder
Vaclav Pilar joined the squad in the past year and have all made
a big difference as Bilek sought to groom a new generation.
The hard-working former Czech midfielder, who scored 11
goals in 35 internationals and played at the 1990 World Cup, can
now be satisfied that while he may not be popular he has given
the fans everything they wanted and more.
"The team is confident and we trust each other," Bilek said.
"We've been in difficult situations but we have been able to
play as a team."
Bayern overcome heartbreak of losing two finals in three seasons by beating Dortmund 2-1
Decision not to send off Bayern Munich defender Dante rankles with upbeat Dortmund boss
Heynckes becomes only the fourth manager to win the European Cup with two different teams
Dortmund striker could soon join German rivals and newly-crowned Champions League winners
Ten years on, the legends speak to FFT
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Nike CR7 IX for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010