It has been a mixed few weeks for Petr Cech. The Czech Republic goalkeeper claimed a third Premier League championship medal with Chelsea in May as the Londoners pipped Manchester United to the English crown, but then, weeks later, he could only watch from the sidelines as the many of his team-mates packed their bags and boarded planes to South Africa.
With Slovenia and Slovakia having snatched the two FIFA World Cup™ berths available in the Czech Republic's qualifying group, Cech has been afforded an unwanted lazy summer before he returns to the frenetic pace of the English game. Here, in South Africa for an adidas event, he talks exclusively to FIFA.com about the key men in England's FIFA World Cup campaign, why he became a goalkeeper, and how hard it is to watch the greatest football tournament on earth unfold from the sidelines.
FIFA.com: Petr, David James is someone you know well from the Premier League. How important is he to England's hopes of progressing?
Petr Cech: David James played all the qualification games for England and they did very well. He did very well. Then he got injured and I think that was the only reason Robert Green started the tournament because he played the last five games before the World Cup and he did well too, so I think the manager had a difficult choice to make. He decided to keep Robert Green in goal because he had played the last five games for the national team, and maybe the understanding with the defence was better. But I think you can see that David James had a very good season - even though he had a lot of injuries, when he played he played very well. He is 40 years old, so he has got a lot of experience, and I think he could be the right choice now.
Are your Chelsea team-mates John Terry and Frank Lampard just as crucial to England's hopes?
When you have John Terry and Frank Lampard in the team it is always a big boost, and a big help. I know both of them from club football and I know how important they are on the pitch. I think if you have those people playing well and feeling well then it can help others around them to feel confident. England had a bit of a scary moment before the Slovenia game when they knew they had to win, but they managed to go through, and that will give them a lot of confidence for the match against Germany.
How hard has it been to watch the FIFA World Cup as a fan rather than be part of it?
It is very hard. When you don't get to the World Cup, first you have the bitter disappointment straight after the qualification stages because you know that you are going to miss the big event, and then you have to watch it as well, which is the worst part because when you get over the initial bitterness - saying 'well, we didn't qualify but it's OK' - then you see all the games and the atmosphere. I've been to many European Championships and World Cups and they are great events, so it is always very sad not to be involved.
Can you bring yourself to watch the FIFA World Cup games, or is it too painful?
I can, but I select which games I watch. I don't watch all the games though - I played almost 70 games last season and when you are not involved you want to have a bit of rest, without football. So, I haven't seen many games - I've just watched the highlights on the internet and seen the results. And I'm pretty happy, I have to say.
What made you become a goalkeeper?
I had wanted to be a goalkeeper in ice hockey. Then I started playing football and I actually tried being in goal from time to time, just for fun. When I was about eight, we had a game and even though our team had three goalkeepers none of them turned up, so somebody had to play in goal. So I did, and I ended up in goal full time after that.
Which goalkeepers have stood out for you so far in South Africa?
I haven't seen so many games, so it is hard for me to comment on other goalkeepers because I don't have enough information. Of course, you can always pick out little mistakes but so far, I think it has been a good tournament for the goalkeepers. You can see there have not been many goals scored and the goalkeepers have done well.
What is the most important quality a goalkeeper can have - technique or mindset?
For me, the most important quality for a goalkeeper is mental strength because as a goalkeeper you always have a huge amount of pressure on your shoulders. You are always the one to blame because you are always the one to concede the goal and although, at times, you have no chance of saving it, the supporter always says the goalkeeper should have done better. As well as that, you know that if you make a mistake as a goalkeeper you are going to end up conceding - it is very rare when you make a big mistake that it is not followed by a goal. And this is a huge pressure. You also need to accept that you can have a great game, but if the striker scores the winner, then it is all about the striker.
Are you at all superstitious?
No, I'm not superstitious because I do not believe that doing the same things before every game helps you to play better. I know players who are superstitious and when they suddenly realise they have done something in a different way before the game, it puts them in completely in the wrong frame of mind. It is not necessary to be that way just because of superstition. I do my usual warm-up and preparation before each game, but if I do it in a different order I don't mind.