Euro 2012: Petr Cech Is Key for Czech Republic in the Knockout Phase
Petr Cech is the key to the Czech Republic's Euro 2012 title hopes. The Czech Republic's victory over Poland on Saturday, and Russia's loss to Greece, pushed the Czechs into the final eight, and
elite goaltending will either make or break Michal Bilek's squad as they enter the quarterfinal stage.
Their ability to stick around, at least a bit longer, will ride solely on their defense's ability to defend their end of the pitch.
I firmly believe stingy defense will always defeat elite offense, and Cech must stay healthy and play at his usual elite level if his squad wants to continue their Euro 2012 run.
Let's take a look at Cech and why he's the key component to the Czech Republic's dreams.
Cech is undoubtedly one of the world's top keepers. He has enjoyed an illustrious career, and his heroics for Chelsea this season only add to it.
His height (6'5'') and reach give Cech an obvious advantage between the pipes. He frequently stretches his way to flabbergasting saves and crowd-pleasing moments.
Claiming crosses, and all balls in the air, is really the only knock on Cech's skill set. He's often reluctant to leave his line. This leads to ill-timed jumps, poor communication and poorly conceived goals.
Other than that, Cech is superb. He bolsters the Czech Republic's defense with his leadership and experience. Since 2002, Cech has made 90-plus appearances and has cemented himself as the leader of Bilek's defensive unit.
Athleticism, quickness and agility are key ingredients for a world-class keeper.
Cech possesses all three and then some.
How Far Can He Take His Side?
The Czech Republic is a strong side. Without Cech's presence, they would still be a formidable foe for many international squads.
But Cech could take this team further than many had anticipated.
Granted, Bilek's offense is still without star midfielder Tomas Rosicky, but they have the talent to make up for it.
Which is more important?
On Saturday, they held a 16 percent advantage in possession versus the Poles, and they completed 82 percent of their passes. That doesn't happen without talent.
Petr Jiracek is a leader offensively. Tomas Hubschman is a stellar defensive midfielder, and Vaclav Pilar did an excellent job filling in for Rosicky on the wing.
If Cech plays to his full potential, the Czech Republic has enough talent to challenge many world superpowers. They are not better than Germany, or Spain, but Bilek's side is a dangerous underdog from this moment forward.
A healthy Cech equals success for the Czech Republic.
If Cech is in top form, their success could be larger than imagined.
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