Jiracek saves the Czechs again
When it comes to saving the Czech Republic at the European
Championship, midfielder Petr Jiracek is emerging on the Czech team
as the man to beat.
In the absence of injured captain Tomas Rosicky, the 26-year-old
playmaker battled tirelessly in midfield and scored the decisive
winner in a 1-0 victory over Poland that fired the Czech Republic
to the European Championship quarterfinals for the first time since
2004 after the team won Group A with six points.
”To advance in first place is fantastic,” Jiracek said.
The team was struggling in the first half without its usual
It’s been a fantastic year for Jiracek. Last year he was noticed
while playing in the Champions League for his Czech club side
Viktoria Plzen, losing out in the group stage to Barcelona and AC
Milan. He soon found himself signed by Bundesliga club Wolfsburg in
December and playing regularly for the national team.
After suffering a demoralizing 4-1 loss to Russia in the
tournament’s opener, The Czechs returned with a 2-1 win over
With Greece beating Russia 1-0 on Saturday, the Czechs needed a
win to advance and Jiracek made it possible with his second goal of
It came from a quick counterattack in the 72nd minute, when he
collected a pass from Milan Baros in the box, cut right to pass
Poland’s Marcin Wasilewski and right-footed the ball inside the far
”We had a poor start but we gradually improved, started to
create chances and finally, we deserved to score,” Jiracek said.
”We all worked hard, everyone played. I’m glad we came back and
showed the strength of the team. I’m really proud that we came back
after the loss to Russia and responded to criticism with two
Before receiving the ball, he had run across the field to be in
the right place to strike.
”I was already totally exhausted,” Jiracek said. ”But we’re
at the European Championship and I said to myself that I may never
get another chance like this. Everything was at stake. We just all
played at 120 percent.”
Jiracek was substituted in the 84th minute by Frantisek
Rajtoral, several minutes after a swerving drive by Lukasz Piszczek
hit him in the head and he had to be treated by team doctors.
The team was struggling at the first half without its usual
”Tomas is essential for us,” Jiracek said. ”We’re all calm
when he’s on the field. ”Without him, we all knew we have to play
better than usual and that’s what we did.
If Rosicky recovers for the quarterfinals at Warsaw and joins
Jiracek in midfield, the Czechs will have a creative force that
might be good enough to successfully replace retired stars such as
Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky and Vladimir Smicer.