After two seasons of struggles, Bordeaux have finally regained some stability under new captain, Czech midfielder Jaroslav Plasil, putting their woes at the wrong end of the Ligue 1 table behind them to ease into the top half.
In fine form before the midwinter break, Les Girondins then faced a daunting February schedule, with games against Toulouse, Lille, Lyon and Montpellier ahead of them. And though the current league leaders proved too strong for them last weekend, edging to a 1-0 home win, Plasil and Co can take great satisfaction from winning the first three of those matches.
“It’s always good to play big games and see how good you really are,” the Czech Republic star told FIFA.com. “And the great thing for us is that we showed up for every one of those big tests.”
The most notable of their three victories this month was the 5-4 win at Lille. That said, the experienced Plasil was disappointed to see his side concede four goals, an indication of how seriously he takes his job and the responsibilities that go with it, responsibilities that weighed heavily on him when he was first handed the captain’s armband.
“I took things to heart a little too much,” said the former Monaco man in reference to the start of his tenure, which was marred by Bordeaux’s shaky form. “I used to beat myself up a bit but it didn’t really help much. The good thing is the more experienced players responded and let everyone in the team know there was no way we should be down in 18th place, which is where we were for a few games, and that we had to wake up and do something about it.”
The 30-year-old joined Bordeaux from La Liga side Osasuna just after their championship triumph of 2009. The pressure of defending their title proved too much, however, as results took a turn for the worse midway through the following season. Plasil remained undeterred, however: “It was very frustrating for me but I never lost heart. In fact, if anything it made me even more determined to turn things around.”
Another EURO challenge
Capped 69 times by his country, Plasil also has UEFA EURO 2012 to look forward to at the end of the season. After finishing somewhat fortuitously ahead of Scotland in the qualifying group and then negotiating the play-offs, the Czechs found themselves drawn into a wide-open Group A with co-hosts Poland, Russia and Greece, the very side who stopped their impressive run at EURO 2004.
“They scored a silver goal at the end of the first half of extra time [in the quarter-finals],” recalled Plasil, an unused substitute on that occasion. “It was very hard to take because the opportunity was there for us to reach the final and perhaps even win the competition. It was a terrible shame. We had some great players like [Karel] Poborsky, [Vladimir] Smicer, [Pavel] Nedved, [Jan] Koller and [Marek] Jankulovski. It really was a terrific side.”
Though most of the members of that golden generation have long since retired, the current Czech crop is shaping up nicely, with Plasil now an established senior member of the side.
“It’s a well-knit unit with some old hands who’ve seen an awful lot in the last ten years, like our keeper Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros,” explained the Bordeaux man. “We’ve also got some younger players who are keen to show they deserve their place. That’s very important for the balance of the team and it gives us a bit of an unpredictable edge. Hopefully that’ll help us go on and achieve something big at the EUROs.”