“Radical change” needed after World Cup failure

Defeat in Belfast Monday eliminated the Czechs from World Cup qualifying. Journalist Michal Petrák says only wholesale change can revive Czech soccer.

Northern Ireland's players celebrate after Chris Brunt scored a goal against Czech Republic, photo: CTKNorthern Ireland's players celebrate after Chris Brunt scored a goal against Czech Republic, photo: CTK A 2:0 away defeat to Northern Ireland on Monday means the Czech Republic cannot now reach next year’s football World Cup in Russia. But where did it all go wrong for coach Karel Jarolím and his squad? Soccer journalist Michal Petrák suggests it was even before the country’s first qualifier, when then manager Pavel Vrba suddenly quit soon after Euro 2016.

“He, perhaps logically, used what he thought was the best at the time to succeed at the Euros. But he didn’t prepare the team for the future.

“And after the Euros, when several players retired from the international game, the team needed to be built from scratch.

“So when Karel Jarolím came he had to build a team with only one friendly match before the start of the qualifying campaign.

“Then there were some bad results from the start, draws which cost the team points, which cost the team confidence.

“And in the atmosphere that the team got into, I would say it was pretty difficult to build a confident, stable team that would manage to get the points in the rest of the qualifying campaign.”

Northern Ireland's Lee Hodson, left, and Czech Republic's Marek Suchý vie for the ball during the World Cup Group C qualifying soccer match between Northern Ireland and Czech Republic, photo: CTKNorthern Ireland's Lee Hodson, left, and Czech Republic's Marek Suchý vie for the ball during the World Cup Group C qualifying soccer match between Northern Ireland and Czech Republic, photo: CTK Since the foundation of the Czech independent state, the Czechs have only been to one World Cup, in Germany in 2006. So is not qualifying for the World Cup kind of the norm for the Czech Republic – and fans perhaps just have to accept that?

“I would never say we have to accept failure. It’s not right to accept failure.

“I think when teams like Wales or Northern Ireland have a good chance of qualifying, then we should have a good chance of qualifying too.

“I just think that Czech football is going downwards. Because we are lacking very much in youth development and we have been for many years.

“And unless we start doing something with that, like for example the Germans did after 1998, then it will only be a dream to qualify for the World Cup.

“We have traditionally qualified for the Euros, but I think last time it was very much due to an increase in the number of participants that we qualified.”

The Czech manager Karel Jarolím has said that the failure to qualify has “pissed him off” but that he’s not thinking about his own future. How likely is it that he will go? And does it really matter so much?

“It doesn’t matter [laughs]. Because he is certainly one of the group of top coaches in the Czech Republic. You can’t take that away from him.

Karel Jarolím, photo: CTKKarel Jarolím, photo: CTK “So if he goes, he will be replaced by someone who is comparable in quality to him.

“But that other manager will have to pick from the same group of players or a very similar group of players.

“So I think it doesn’t matter very much whether Jarolím stays or goes, but if I was to bet, I would say that he stays.

“And, as I said, in my opinion it doesn’t matter.

“Czech football needs a change of attitude, some wholesale changes in youth development, in organising pretty much everything.

“We lack in that and we have been lacking in that for many years. And this has to be changed very radically.”