- Czech Republic taking part in their fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup
- Captain Seidler: "Aiming for the knock-out phase"
- Coach Neumann: "Need to be stronger mentally"
In a nerve-wracking November penalty shoot-out, Czech Republic edged out Croatia to book their ticket for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™. It was 24-year-old Jiri Vokoun who converted the eighth and final penalty (taken from a distance of six metres in futsal) that saw the Czechs qualify for their fourth World Cup after 2004, 2008 and 2012.
"I was nervous before taking my penalty,” he said of his golden goal. “I tried to not think too much about what was at stake. I just told myself to shut my eyes and hit it, and luckily it went in. When I saw the ball in the back of the net, I didn’t really know what to do, but then I realised that my team-mates were running over to me and I felt an incredible feeling of joy come over me.”
Should it come to penalties in Lithuania however, the versatile AC Sparta Prague player will not necessarily be front and centre, saying: "I can’t say for sure that I’ll definitely take one, but if I’m asked then I’ll step up."
In their last World Cup appearance, in Thailand eight years ago, the Czechs made it through to the last 16 before bowing out to Russia – their best performance to date. "Since the World Cup in Chinese Taipei in 2004, we’ve only missed out once, in Columbia, but we’re delighted to be back again now," said coach Tomas Neumann.
This will be the third World Cup with Czech Republic for 50-year-old Neumann, who has every confidence in his squad. "We have some exceptional players who have a real sense of team spirit, and that’s our main strength,” he explained. “To take it up a notch, we’ll have to work on our mental strength and that’s what we’re going to do. My players need to build up more confidence and carry that over when they go out and play."
For captain Michael Seidler, confidence does not seem to be in short supply. "We’re all really looking forward to the World Cup,” he said. “We want to keep on playing our own style of futsal when we’re there and make it through to the knockout phase.”
Should they get that far, then the Czechs will likely come up against some of the big-hitters of futsal, both in terms of players and countries, with Seidler picking out some of the top candidates. "I think that Brazil, Spain and Russia will be vying for the title," he said, while his personal favourite player turns out for Portugal. "For me, Ricardinho is the best in the world."
The Czechs currently do not have someone with that kind of individual flair in their ranks, but for the 30-year-old who plays on the wing for AC Sparta Prague, that should not be a problem. "Our team is very well balanced and we all know one another inside-out because we’ve been playing together for quite a while now. We’re not the type of team that anyone will feel comfortable playing and we’ll be a tough opponent for anyone we face."
The World Cup in Lithuania will kick off on 12 September 2021, and it will be intriguing to see just how well the Czechs will perform.