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Czech victory would cap Poborsky's superb career
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-01 06:32

The Czech Republic's players, young and old alike, are determined to give Karel Poborsky the perfect retirement gift - a Euro 2004 winners' medal to go with his 100th international cap.

But they can only achieve a date with destiny if they beat Greece in Thursday's semi-final in Porto and the 32-year-old midfielder survives uninjured without any disciplinary problems.

"We all want to do it for him," said fellow-midfielder Tomas Rosicky, nine years his junior. "He is such an example to us all. For players like me and Milan Baros he is a teacher. He has so much experience.

"He is a great player. A truly great player. We are very lucky to have him in our team and we learn so much from him. If he can win his 100th cap we know we are in the final so of course we all want to do it for him and also for ourselves."

In his career, Poborsky has not only travelled widely and played for many clubs, he has also carried an image of the Czech Republic's style and verve with him - a responsibility that is appreciated by the rest of the squad.

Great reward

"If he can win his 100th cap, it will be a great reward to him for his career and his high levels of motivation," said his friend and fellow-midfielder Vladimir Smicer, at 31 a veteran of the Czechs' run to the Euro 96 final but now among the many high-quality substitutes on coach Karel Brueckner's bench.

"It is also a reflection of how good the team is, too, if he wins 100 and we reach the final but we really want to win it, if we can beat Greece first."

Baros, 22, the tournament's top scorer with five goals in four matches and an impressive international return of 21 goals in 29 appearances, knows more than most how valuable the former long-haired winger's contribution as a short-haired and hard-working creator is to the team.

It was a pass from Poborsky that set up his first goal against Denmark in Sunday's quarter-final and it was from Poborsky's right-wing corner that Jan Koller headed in the important opening goal.

Poborsky also contributed generously to the goals scored against Latvia and the Netherlands in the group games and his performances in Portugal have proved that, while he was not a huge individual success at Manchester United, he remains a high-quality international-class player.

"Players like him make my job easier," said Baros. "It's that simple. He makes goals and I score them."

Poborsky fan

Goalkeeper Petr Cech, 22, is another Poborsky fan.

He believes the midfielder will carve his place in Czech soccer history, alongside 1976 great Antonin Panenka, if he reaches the final and ends it on the winning side before retiring from the international game.

"If he gets to 100 caps for the Czech Republic, I don't know what will happen for him," Cech said.

"You have 'Sir' (knighthoods) in England but I don't know what he will get because we don't have a queen. Maybe we will make a statue of him instead."

Poborsky himself has kept a relatively low profile throughout the tournament, rarely making himself available to the media after matches or at the team's training ground.

But he is working harder than ever to help deliver success and a perfect conclusion to a career that saw him give service to Dynamo Ceske Budejovice, SK Ceske Budejovice, Viktoria Zizkov, Slavia Prague, Manchester United, Benfica and Lazio before, sick of life as a professional at a top west European club, he returned to Sparta Prague in 2002.

Although he won a championship medal with Manchester United - the only Czech player to achieve this in England - he struggled to learn the language and hold his place against the challenge of an emerging David Beckham.

"I don't like to think of anything other than winning, whether it's a game, training or anything," he said. Czech fans and his team mates hope he has another major triumph to come.

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