Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek praised his players for reacting well to the pressure in maintaining their hopes of a place in the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals after a 2-1 win over Greece in their Group A match Tuesday.
The Czechs had gone into the match on the back of a 4-1 hammering by Russia in their first game, but two goals in the opening six minutes calmed their nerves. Despite a dreadful error by goalkeeper Petr Cech early in the second-half which handed the Greeks a lifeline, the Czechs easily held on to win.
Victory puts them on three points, while the Greeks have one with their final match to come against co-hosts Poland. The Czechs' joy at the win, though, will have been tempered by what could be a serious Achilles tendon injury to captain Tomas Rosicky. However, Bilek while concerned about what the scan on Wednesday would reveal, was proud of his players to have avoided cracking under the pressure.
"We played really well in the first-half and were really good, and passed the ball around really well," he said. "It was tougher in the second-half because Rosicky couldn't play and then we conceded an horrific goal which allowed the Greeks to get back into the match. Our defence was really good today. I am happy, because we were playing under a lot of pressure, we knew that the EURO was finished for us if we lost."
Now we'll focus on the last game against Poland which will be terribly important.
The Czechs second scorer Vaclav Pilar said that it was thanks largely to their much more solid defensive display that they prevailed. "We knew what they could do, we know they're bulldogs who don't give up a single tackle," he said. "We surprised them by scoring twice in six minutes and the defence played a great game then, so we managed to win. We needed the two goals to calm down, to gain confidence, then we could relax because we knew we were up."
The Czechs' other scorer, Petr Jiracek, was outstanding all match in what was an inspired tactical switch by Bilek, who moved him to the right side. Jiracek said he didn't care about where he played but also urged his team-mates not to get too carried away as the Polish game remained crucial.
"We mustn't get too satisfied, we know we had to fight hard," he said. "Now we'll focus on the last game against Poland which will be terribly important and we've got to handle that."
All was not rosy for Bilek as, apart from the injury to Rosicky, he and veteran striker Milan Baros were booed by the Czech supporters. Baros, who like Rosicky and Cech remain from the side beaten by Greece in the EURO 2004 semi-final, was eventually taken off after another poor performance, but Bilek took aim at the supporters for their treatment of the former Liverpool striker.
"I know that I am not popular, but what do you want me to do? For Baros, well he did not deserve that, he has after all scored 41 goals for the national side," the coach said. "I am sorry that they whistled, because our supporters created a great atmosphere, but that is really pathetic.
"It is a team sport, even the other players who aren't the target are upset by it. All the players need the support of the supporters, even when they are not playing very well."