At the age of 35, Marek Kopecky is the oldest member of the Czech Republic squad in Thailand to take part at the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012, with the exception of 37-year-old keeper Libor Gercak.
Making full use of his extensive experience, Kopecky proved how key he is to this Czech side by scoring his team’s opener in their first Group E game against Kuwait and playing an influential part in the narrow 3-2 success.
“As I’m one of the older players at the core of a very young squad, naturally I tend to take on a certain level of responsibility,” said the Czech No8 to FIFA.com. “It’s a role that suits me perfectly. I just hope they find my experience useful and that it helps us all go as far as possible.”
The eastern Europeans were dominant for much of the aforementioned encounter, against a Kuwaiti outfit that reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Futsal Championship UAE 2012. In fact, goals from Kopecky, Michal Belej and Tomas Koudelka had given them a 3-0 lead by the 35-minute mark. Comfortably in control, coach Tomas Neumann’s team then went on to suffer a worrying drop in intensity in the game’s closing stages.
“It was our first match at this World Cup,” said Kopecky, by way of explanation. “The first game is always the hardest because you’re so determined to start with a win. It’s sometimes difficult to handle the pressure, even more so in a very competitive match.
“Strangely, we lost our nerve even though we were 3-0 up, and our opponents took advantage to fight back,” added the player, who also appeared at this competition in Brazil four years ago. “We simply can’t afford any more lapses like that in our upcoming games.”
The veteran duo of Kopecky and custodian Gercak were both pivotal against Kuwait, inspiring their team-mates with shining individual displays. While the former stood out due to his composure and ability to slow the play down when required, the latter pulled off a string of decisive stops to keep his team in the lead.
“I’m very happy about what we showed as a team,” said the No8, clearly preferring to turn the focus onto the squad as a whole. “We’ve got loads of young players in this side, who are still short of international experience. Our objective is to grow and progress with every game,” added the keen tattoo enthusiast.
Next up for the Czech Republic is another testing encounter, this time versus Egypt on Tuesday. Beaten 3-1 by Serbia in their first game, the Pharaohs are now obliged to pick up a positive result against the Czechs to keep their qualification hopes alive.
“The match against Egypt looks like it’s going to be very tough too,” said Kopecky. “They’re a good side, with several very talented individuals who catch the eye. It’s certainly not going to be an easy ride for us.”
That said, victory for the Czechs would undoubtedly be a significant step towards reaching the knockout phase. “Our priority goal is to reach the Round of 16 and from then on, anything’s possible,” said the forward, part of the squad that finished third at 2010’s UEFA Futsal EURO. “But if luck goes against us, we could also easily end up facing one of the tournament favourites at that stage of the competition.”
His young squad-mates can rest assured, however, that in case of a tussle against one of global futsal’s elite nations, they have an attacker with the experience, composure and natural leadership skills to point them in the right direction.