TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Czech Republic captain Tomas Rosicky is fit and ready to play in his country’s European Championship opener against defending champion Spain on Monday.
Rosicky missed virtually all of last season because of injuries, but said he has had plenty of opportunities to get healthy.
“I played all the three friendly games before the start of the tournament,” Rosicky said Sunday, a day before his team’s Group D match at the Stadium de Toulouse. “Even before that, I was in full practice for two months. I feel fine, everything is all right and I hope it will stay this way.”
The 35-year-old Rosicky, who is playing in his fourth and almost certainly his last European Championship, has been the Czech Republic’s spark in midfield and his experience will be vital against Spain. He played at Euro 2000 and then led the team to the semifinals at Euro 2004.
But he missed the 2008 tournament with a knee injury, sustained an injury again during the 2012 edition and missed a large part of the qualifying campaign this time around. He has made more than 100 international appearances, and after recovering from injuries that prevented him from playing in the Premier League last season, he is ready to add more.
He laughed when asked what the secret was to his longevity and whether he would play until he was 40.
“It’s difficult to explain,” he said. “There’s nothing special. You have to take care of your body and sacrifice your life for football. I play football because it’s fun for me. If next year, if football won’t be fun for me, I will retire.”
The Czech team finished first in its qualifying group, but Rosicky knows it will be tough to get a result on Monday.
“We have to have a great performance — not just individually but as a team,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about luck. We have to have luck, but we have to deserve it.”
Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba has excited fans by playing attacking soccer since taking over after the team failed to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Czech Republic’s victory over the Netherlands in qualifying ensured that the Dutch team didn’t secure a place at Euro 2016.
Besides Rosicky, Vrba also will be relying on his fullbacks to lead attacks. But Vrba, who was a central defender, also knows how to organize his team defensively and said he has spotted a weakness in Spain’s team after analyzing hours of video.
“Of course I won’t tell you what it is,” Vrba said.
The coach said that he and his players have been watching highlights of past Czech successes, including winning Euro 1976 and Antonin Panenka’s famous penalty in that tournament.
While the Czechs could be considered the outsiders of Group D, which also includes Croatia and Turkey, their opponents on Monday aren’t taking them lightly.
“Czech Republic is a very complete and well-organized team, and are good in deadball situations,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “So, it’s a team to watch out for.”
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