After Matchday 7 in the German Bundesliga, Hertha Berlin sporting director Michael Preetz labelled new signing Vladimir Darida as “the heart of our team”. Yet the Czech centre midfielder could also be described as Hertha’s lungs, as in covering almost 13 kilometres per game he has been one of the most hard-running members of the side in every outing so far.
That should come as no surprise given that last season at SC Freiburg he ran further than any other player in the entire league with average of 13 kilometres per game. Moreover, Darida never looks as if he is struggling; in fact, it appears as if he enjoys running great distances. “Sometimes you do reach your limit but I don’t have any problem running,” the Hertha No6 told *FIFA.com *with a grin.
It is a quality that caught the eye of Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba, and Darida has now been part of the national set-up for over a year. Indeed, the right-footed 25-year-old recently helped the eastern Europeans reach UEFA EURO 2016 thanks to a campaign in which they caused an upset by leaving group favourites the Netherlands trailing in their wake to book automatic qualification for the tournament in France.
*“I’m sure everyone thought the Netherlands would finish top and that we’d be fighting for second place along with Turkey and Iceland,” said Darida calmly and almost shyly, despite the scale of his side’s achievement. “It was certainly a big surprise. It was fantastic because nobody would’ve thought that we’d qualify with two games to spare. That meant we could just really enjoy our last two matches.” At this point a huge smile spread across his face as he recalled the moment when qualification was secured.
That experience will serve Darida well at Hertha. The fact that Preetz described the diminutive midfielder as the team’s heart, rather than its lungs, was due to another of his impressive attributes. Darida, who won the Czech Cup in 2010 and the Czech championship in 2011 and 2013 with Viktoria Plzen, is not only a strong runner but also boasts excellent technique, as highlighted by a pass completion rate that regularly tops 80 per cent.
It is therefore only logical that he is primarily fielded in central positions: at club level he plays an attacking role, whereas with the national side he is more of a holding midfielder. However, the 28-time international is in no doubt as to which position he prefers: “I want to score goals and get assists. I love attacking. I always want to have possession and be on the ball, playing short passes with few touches to speed the game up. I can’t go into many one-on-one situations in the middle of the pitch as it’s dangerous. I have to keep it simple, but nevertheless get forward intelligently.”
*Russia in sight
*The Sokolov native may not be among the oldest members of the Czech side, but he nevertheless has great experience and is extremely driven. His plans for the future include participating at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, even if getting there presents the Czechs with a similar challenge to the one faced during EURO 2016 qualifying.
They were drawn in Group C alongside Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino and Germany. Asked whether he is looking forward to facing his adopted homeland, Darida was unequivocal: “Yes, absolutely. We’re playing the world champions!
“Germany are a big team and they’ll probably finish top,” the Czech No22 continued. “There are two or three other sides apart from us who’ll be looking to upset them or fight for second place. We need to go into our matches with Germany like we would any other game. We mustn’t be afraid. We just have to play football and give everything we’ve got.”
Giving everything is not a problem for the tireless Darida. And regardless of the position he plays, his superiors would no doubt be delighted if, alongside a heart and lungs, they also had him as a World Cup participant in their team.