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Euro 2012: Players to watch – Petr Cech (Czech Rep)

A hero for newly crowned European champions Chelsea, Petr Cech is looking to add Euro 2012 to his growing list of honours.

World-class goalkeepers are a rare commodity and the Czech Republic have one of the best in the business. If not, the best.

For over a decade Petr Cech has performed and continues to perform at the highest level for club and country. Goalkeepers of Cech’s ilk come around once in a lifetime and at the age of 29, his best years should be yet to come.

The Chelsea stopper is one of the most decorated players in Czech history. Not one season passes where he isn’t donning a smart black suit to collect yet another accolade.

Earlier this month, Cech picked up his seventh Czech golden ball in eight years, he lost out to Pavel Nedved in 2009.

Cech made his full international debut in February 2002, with his first title coming later that year with the U21 squad that won the European Championships. Cech was the hero who saved crucial penalties against France in the final, earning the Czechs their first major trophy at youth level.

The summer of 2004 proved to be another milestone for the Czech keeper. Cech was one of the standout performers for his country during the European Championships in Portugal.

The Czechs lost out to eventual winners Greece in the semi-finals but not before Cech had made his mark on the tournament. He was voted the Best Goalkeeper in the All Star XI for Euro 2004.

Claudio Ranieri was Chelsea manager at the time and immediately signed Cech for 7 million pounds from Rennes. It was arguably the best piece of business the Italian has ever made.

Cech has continued to thrive on the international stage and has amassed 88 caps. Should he remain injury free, the 6ft 5in keeper looks sure to become the most capped Czech player in history, eclipsing Karel Poborsky’s record of 118 appearances.

Question marks have been raised over Cech’s form in recent years. Luis Felipe Scolari struggled as manager of Chelsea in 2008/09 and Cech’s form suffered as a consequence. Doubts also surfaced when Cech returned from a life-threatening head injury picked up in a match against Reading in 2006.

But the Czech international has shrugged off his detractors and is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career to date. Cech has kept 10 clean sheets in 34 Premier League appearances, making 84 saves in the process.

He was also instrumental in Chelsea’s Champions League triumph in Munich, his first European trophy at club level. He was heroic in the semi final clash against Barcelona, thwarting Lionel Messi on several occasions.

“You have to approach every game with a plan in mind and know what the opposing players like to do,” Cech said of his meticulous preparation. “Your aim is to be surprised as little as possible.”

Wed 23 May, 2012
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