The only Czech player left in the world's top club competition, the Champions League, is far from a household name: Jaroslav Plasil is 22 and has been at the French club Monaco since he left Hradec Kralove at the age of 17. Now, with Vladimir Smicer and Stepan Vachousek injured, the midfielder has received his first international call-up, for the Czech Republic's friendly against Ireland in Dublin next Wednesday. Plasil said he was looking forward to his first international experience.
"I am really pleased because it's the best thing that can happen in a player's career, to play for the national team. I'm really happy. Of course it's all about getting experience - it's my first call-up and I'm sure I will gain some experience."
On Wednesday night Jaroslav Plasil had another great experience when he appeared in front of 100,000 fans at one of the most famous stadiums in the world, Real Madrid's Bernabeu. His team Monaco were beaten 4:2 by the star-studded Real in the first leg of their quarter-final tie. However, the blonde-haired youngster did make an impact after coming on as a substitute, sending in a perfect cross for Morientes to head into the net. Though he enjoyed the game, Plasil rued the fact Monaco had let in so many goals.
"It's a pity we conceded four goals because it's going to be hard now. We'd have to win 2:0 at home to advance and it won't be easy. But we believe we can do it and we'll give it our all."
An established Czech international who can probably look forward to Champions League action in the future is Marek Jankulovski, who should be joining Czech captain Pavel Nedved at Italy's Juventus in the summer, after Juve this week signed a first-option deal to buy him from Udinese. Jankulovski, who started his career at Banik Ostrava, can play in midfield or as a full-back.
Kotrba in the Czech domestic league Sparta Prague continued their run of poor form at home to Liberec on Monday, when they were lucky to escape with a 0:0 draw after Liberec missed a host of chances; the reigning league champions have played three home games since the start of the second half of the season, all of them 0:0 draws. They are third in the league, seven points behind leaders Ostrava. Unsurprisingly perhaps, there has been a great deal of speculation about the future of Sparta manager, Jiri Kotrba.
Sparta ice hockey club, meanwhile, are leading city rivals Slavia 3:2 on games in the best-of-seven semi-finals of the Extraliga. On Wednesday Slavia, the reigning champions, beat Sparta 4:3 in overtime. In the other semi-final Hame Zlin beat Pilsen 4:2 to win the series 4:1 on games.
With a month to go now till the World Ice Hockey Championships, the competition's main arena in Prague's Vysocany district is being officially opened this Saturday, with President Vaclav Klaus due to cut the ceremonial ribbon. The multi-purpose arena is said to be the best of its kind in Europe.
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