Dovalil: It's a great honour
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"Tight in defence, well organised and physically fit." That is how Czech Republic U-20 coach Jakub Dovalil described his team's strengths in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.

In a few weeks' time, the eastern Europeans will be taking part in their sixth FIFA U-20 World Cup, and hopes are certainly high. Having made the quarter-finals in 1983 and 2001, and been eliminated at the first hurdle in 1989, the Czechs almost went all the way last time out, falling only in the final to Argentina.

My first aim is to get out of the group stage. I'd obviously love to make it through to the final again, but that won't be easy.
Czech Republic coach Jakub Dovalil on his targets for Egypt 2009

Not that they are already planning quite that far ahead this time around, in Egypt. "My first aim is to get out of the group stage," said Dovalil. "I'd obviously love to make it through to the final again, but that won't be easy since a lot of countries will have very strong squads."

The 35-year-old certainly knows his youth football, having previously coached his country's U-16 and U-17 teams. Dovalil was Miroslav Soukup's assistant at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007 and is now looking to confirm the success that the team had in Canada, although he states that "as far as I'm concerned, Germany, Brazil and then the African countries are the favourites for the title".

Revenge
Czech Republic also have a score to settle with their neighbours Germany, after Horst Hrubesch's youngsters knocked out their hosts at the UEFA European U-19 championship 2008, courtesy of a 119th-minute goal in their semi-final.

"It's a great honour to be playing alongside the likes of Spain, Germany, England and Italy, and it proves that we belong among the best 15 teams in Europe," continued Dovalil. Results at last year's European U-19 finals - a 2-0 win over England, a 4-3 defeat by Italy and the Germany game - prove that.  

In Egypt, the Czechs have been drawn in Group E with Australia, Brazil and Costa Rica. "If we can beat Australia then we'll stand a good chance of getting through," said Dovalil. "The Australians are a tough team but they're beatable. We'll then face Brazil in our second match. It's a special occasion for any team to play Brazil - you never know how it will end up. And finally we'll face Costa Rica, probably with a quarter-final slot up for grabs."

Dovalil does not intend to bring his squad together and set out his recipe for success until shortly before the tournament starts, and it is already a couple of months since the last get-together. The Czechs played two friendlies back then and managed draws against U-20 opposition from Egypt and Korea Republic.

It's a great honour to be playing alongside the likes of Spain, Germany, England and Italy, and it proves that we belong among the best 15 teams in Europe.
Czech Republic coach Jakub Dovalil

"The good thing is that many of our players get regular playing time with their clubs," he added. "Some of the players coming with us to Egypt were also involved in the U-21 European Championship, so they have played a lot together and will be ready for when the tournament starts."

Players like Tomas Necid and Libor Kozak are already regulars with their clubs, while others such as Miroslav Stepanek ply their trade in some of the toughest championships in the world. "A World Cup is always a good chance for players to show their clubs just what they are capable of," Dovalil explained, though he is realistic enough to know that his team does have its weaknesses. "In terms of individual technique and in some one-on-one situations, Germany and Italy have caught us out there in the past and those are things that we have to work on."

As the interview drew to a close, Dovalil revealed why he prefers coaching younger players. "They're all eager to learn and curious, and they really give it 100 per cent when it comes to football," he said.

Maximum effort is what Czech Republic will need to have any chance of going one better that they did at Canada 2007.