Cool Fenin keeps Czechs loose

If their training session two days before their first-ever world Final is anything to go by, the Czech U-20s are a vision of calm and high spirits. Despite being heavy underdogs in Sunday's Final against star-studded five-time champions Argentina, the Europeans are looking lively and full of optimism.

"We play a lot of jokes and pranks in the team, it's really common for us," ace striker Martin Fenin told after a training session in which he pulled an elaborate joke on his mates and coaching staff. Feigning a collision in a light-hearted, small-sided game, the two-goal scorer fell to the ground and appeared to be bleeding profusely from his head. After the trainers - who were in on the joke - 'treated' him, he got up from the ground laughing his head off to a roar from coaching staff and team-mates alike.

"There is a lot of back and forth in training and we like to have fun at each other's expense," said Fenin, the team's self-proclaimed king joker said. "It's especially important before a big game, it's good to keep the mood light and this is just one way to do it."

"I saw there was no contact on the collision, so I figured he was having another joke," head coach Miroslav Soukup said. "He's always doing these kinds of have to watch him like a hawk."

Teammate Tomas Pekhart of Tottenham - the only non-domestic player in the team - also knows Fenin's antics all too well. "Before the tournament, we decided together that we'd shave our heads if ever we reached the Round of 16," he said. "It was Fenin's idea - he's the real joker in the team. He always does these things, like the fake blood today at training. He did that to scare the coach, because he is an important player and Soukup would have been annoyed if he was actually injured."

Ahead of what is surely the Czechs' biggest-ever game - a re-match of their opening-day match with Argentina that ended 0-0 - the Czechs are taking Fenin's lead. In a training session that lasted no more than 45 minutes, there were no shouts, orders or serious faces. Goalkeepers played head tennis using a goal frame as a net, players had juggling contests and all involved looked to be having fun.

The secret to the Czechs' calm, according to Fenin, is simple: unity

"Everyone knows we don't have too many stars in our team, but our strength is gained from teamwork and unity," he said "This makes us stronger than a lot of other teams. Our team spirit is second to none. Individually our technique is not as good as the Argentines, but collectively we are probably stronger in our spirit."

It's not all jokes and good humour for Fenin and co though. When talk of having 'nothing to lose' up against fancied Argentina and Sergio Aguero in the Final starts, he turns suddenly serious and politely interrupts. "In fairness we have a lot to lose...we are not tourists in this final. We can lose a world cup on Sunday and we will do everything to make sure we don't do that. Argentina has not beaten us yet."

And the first call the Czechs' ace striker and king joker would make if they win on Sunday? "Oh for sure, I would call my mother first of all," says Fenin. "I haven't spoken to her in a while and I want to hear the pride in her voice."