Czechs aim to defy underdog status vs Portugal

Associated Press Modified: June 18, 2012 at 9:19 am •  Published: June 18, 2012
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The two Czech teams have more in common than just being underdogs.

In 1996, the majority of squad members were still based in the domestic league and their performances at the Euros triggered the first mass exodus of Czechs to major European leagues after the collapse of communism.

Among them, Poborsky's career took off after a brilliant "falling leaf" goal against Portugal, with the speedy winger joining then-English champion Manchester United.

The current squad also has unusually high number of Czech-based players — seven — compared with previous major events and they came to the tournament eager to impress. Some have succeeded.

Defender Theodor Gebre Selassie is being linked with a move to Werder Bremen and attacking midfielder Vaclav Pilar, who has scored two goals at the Euros, is set to join another Bundesliga club, Wolfsburg.

And there's still the team spirit, a common denominator for Czech squads for decades.

"Our current team is mentally even stronger and more stress-proof," said Czech team manager Vladimir Smicer, who played against Portugal in 1996.

With the defense a main focus against a Portuguese attack that features Ronaldo and his former Manchester United teammate Nani, the Czechs still have to find a scorer able to emulate Poborsky.

"Someone has to do it, no matter who," Cech said.

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