Canada veterans back for more
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When it comes to the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Tomas Pekhart and Ondrej Mazuch have been there, done it, bought the t-shirt and very nearly brought home the trophy. Between them, they arrived in Egypt with 13 appearances at this tournament to their name - 10 more than the other 502 players at Egypt 2009 combined.

Yet given the nature of their first taste of this competition, it should hardly be a surprise that the Czech duo have returned for a second helping. Both were central figures in their team's fairy tale run to the final of Canada 2007, and returned home with silver medals, countless memories and greatly-enhanced reputations.

Pekhart was the youngest player in the Czech squad, yet became an ever-present as they marched through the rounds before going down gallantly at the hands of Argentina. "I have some fantastic memories of that tournament and am still very proud that we reached the final," he recalled with a smile. "It was a fantastic experience for me because I was still just 17 and up against players three years older than me. I learned so much. Now I am one of the experienced guys and it's important that I let the younger players know what to expect."

As captain, Mazuch arguably carries an even greater burden of responsibility. Fortunately, the tough, uncompromising centre-half - who won a move to Fiorentina on the back of his performances in Canada - believes he is better equipped than ever to lead by example.

For me personally, there is a big difference for the better from 2007. I feel a lot better and more confident about myself now.
Ondrej Mazuch

"For me personally, there is a big difference for the better from 2007," he told "I feel a lot better and more confident about myself now, and obviously I have a lot more experience. I guess we will only know at the end of the tournament if this group is as strong as the team we had in Canada. My view is that the two are very similar, but we need to prove that on the field."

Pekhart shares his skipper's view that comparisons between the sides are premature at this formative stage of Egypt 2009. However, he admits to being encouraged by the early signs that good fortune and mental fortitude - two key ingredients in their Canadian success story - look to have remained in place. "You need to be strong mentally in every single game and also lucky, and I think we were quite lucky against Australia," he said. "Hopefully that's a good sign."

Having just returned from a broken foot that sidelined him for three months, Pekhart can hardly be blamed for looking for encouraging omens. The big striker took his first, tentative steps on the road to match fitness with a 26-minute run-out - and a superbly-executed penalty - in the Czechs' opening match. He admits, however, that he is not yet firing on all cylinders.

He said: "It was very important make a positive start and to see the ball go into the net was a fantastic moment for me, especially as it was a very important goal. To be honest, I didn't feel completely confident out there, but I suppose that is to be expected after three months out. The goal should help me and I expect that I will get better and better with each match."

And what of the Czechs' class of 2009? Is Pekhart confident that they too can grow into this tournament and once again go the distance?
"We hope so! But let's see how we get on against Brazil first," was his sensible response. "They are one of the strongest teams in the world, and if we play like we did against Australia, we could be in trouble. I hope we show more aggression and, if we can get through, maybe then we can talk about getting to the final again."