In Sports News: Eleven days before the start of Euro 2012, football coach Bílek makes final change to national team roster; in related news, the coach will head the national squad at least until the summer of 2014; Czech swimmer Petra Chocová takes gold the European Swimming Championships in Hungary; cyclist Kreuziger finishes in disappointing 15th spot in Giro d’Italia; press suggests Leafs could pick-up hockey goalie Vokoun.
Eleven days before the start of the European Championship in Poland & Ukraine, Czech football squad coach Michal Bílek has finalised the 23-man roster. Although the list of players will only be officially announced on Tuesday, the coach has already revealed a last-minute change: after a friendly at the weekend in which the Czech Republic defeated Israel 2:1, he added the name of 21-year-old Viktoria Plzeň midfielder Vladimír Darida, replacing Daniel Pudil on the roster. Darida came on in the second half against Israel, playing just 25 minutes: but it was enough to convince Bílek, who had apparently already been considering the player for the team. In the game against Israel, the Czechs won on goals from Milan Baroš (who converted a spot kick in the 17th minute) and Lafata – who scored in added time. The Czechs will play one more pre-Euro friendly, taking on Hungary on June 1. When the actual tournament gets underway, the Czechs will first play Russia, then Greece, then co-hosts Poland.
In related news, football coach Michal Bílek has signed a new contract with the national team that see him retain the post until the summer of 2014. The 12-month contract extension also keeps open the possibility of staying on for an additional year after that – if the Czech squad qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The 47-year-old Bílek took over the national team in 2009 and steered it to a runner-up spot in qualifying Group I. In the ensuing playoff, the Czechs booked one of the final spots at Euro 2012 by beating Montenegro 3-0 on aggregate.
Czech swimmer Petra Chocová won the 50-meter race in the breaststroke at the European Swimming Championships in Debrecen, Hungary on Sunday. The Czech athlete set the country’s new record time of 31.25 seconds. At the ceremony, which included a playing of the Czech anthem, the swimmer found it difficult to keep her emotions under wraps.
“I tried to hold it in but I broke out in tears of happiness. I tried to keep cool but I couldn’t keep it all in... I guess it shows there is still room to move forward and maybe my best is still to come. I don’t belong on the junk pile yet!...”
Czech cyclist Roman Kreuziger, a past finisher in the top 10 in both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, had a less than successful Giro this year, finishing just 15th overall. The race wrapped up Sunday. The racer suffered what he called his worst day of his career on Stage 17, suffering severe cramps in his legs, arms and neck that saw him finish 11 minutes behind the stage winner. He was unable to recover from the loss but – with a lot to prove – rebounded two stages later in Stage 19 which features five gruelling climbs. On the day, he crossed the finish line at Val di Fieme on Alpe di Pampeago 19 seconds ahead of the Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (this year’s Giro Winner). The stage win marked Kreuziger’s first Grand Tour victory, helping erase at least some of the disappointment in his overall performance.
More than one month before the market on free agents opens in the NHL, speculation is growing about at least one Czech player, goalie Tomáš Vokoun, currently with the Washington Capitals. It is thought that the Toronto Maple Leafs could express an interest. The Leafs, who finished third-from-last in the Eastern Conference this year and failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs by a wide margin, are looking for an experienced goalkeeper who won’t command an exorbitant fee, the news website idnes says. The daily also writes that Vokoun considered Toronto when he was first leaving the Florida Panthers but that the club was not interested at the time. Years ago Vokoun was first drafted in the NHL entry draft by another Canadian team, the Montreal Canadiens.