West Ham’s star full-back Vladimir Coufal spoke with Betway about following in the footsteps of previous great Czech generations and the challenge of beating England at Wembley.
As Vladimir Coufal steps out on the Wembley turf this evening, he and his teammates will be the first Czech Republicans to do so at a major tournament since the 1996 Euros final.
The Czech’s trips to Wembley haven’t been so memorable since then, but Coufal believes that lending on the Premier League experience he and his regular teammate Tomas Soucek have harnessed in the last 18 months will be invaluable on June 22.
“Since I’ve been in in the Premier League, I feel the guys in the national team look for help from me even more,” he says. “I feel more responsibility for the team and for my players.
“Playing in the Premier League with the best players in the world has helped me a lot. The experience has turned me into a better and more important player.”
A meeting with West Ham teammate and England regular Declan Rice is one that Coufal is particularly relishing.
“I remember when we were sitting together during the home game against Doncaster,” Coufal says. “Declan reminded me of his first game for England, when we lost 5-0 at Wembley.
“Then we spoke about the return game, when we beat England 2-1. I have to admit I am hoping we repeat this game.
“Of course when we are team-mates we are fighting for one goal, but when we have different jerseys on the body we are opponents. I want to beat him and England.”
The Czech Republic have already confirmed qualification and a win at Wembley will really raised eyebrows across the continent. Perhaps by July 11, Coufal’s side will be held in the same regard as the Czech heroes of ’96.
“I was young,” he says, “so I didn’t realise then how successful our national team was.
“But of course I now know lots of the players who were involved in that squad. A few of them went on to play in Euro 2004, which I remember well.”
“The Czechs had really good players in that time,” says Coufal. “To be honest, while I know all the names, the two that stick in my mind are Poborsky and Vladimir Smicer.
“Particularly Smicer, because he is a former Slavia Prague (Coufal’s old club) player. He is a legend of the club and I remember loving him during that tournament.”
There is a lot less expectation on this crop of Czech talent, but with the start they’ve had after matches against Scotland and World Cup finalists Croatia, that’s without mentioning the inspiring finishing we’ve seen from Patrik Schick, there can be reason to be hopeful if a Czech Republican fan.