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Spain v Czech Republic: Holders raring to go, says Pedro

Spain are determined to erase the memory of their World Cup 2014 nightmare with a fast start against Czech Republic at Euro 2016, says Pedro.

Vicente del Bosque’s side wilted under the pressure in Brazil two years ago, eliminated at the group stages after defeats to Netherlands and Chile.

They arrive in France as double defending champions and are hoping to put up a better showing in a group alongside Croatia and Turkey.

Czech Republic are first up in Toulouse, and Pedro is excited to get their tournament under way.

“We’re focused and eager to get going,” he told a news conference. “The sensations remind me of four years ago. We’ve come from Brazil, where we didn’t do well, and we want to reverse the situation. I think we’re in good shape.

“Winning the first game is very important, it’s what we want. From there, we’ll grow as a team and gain confidence.

“We’ve prepared for the many things that the Czechs can do, and one is that they retreat. It’ll be a very physical game.”

Del Bosque could use Cesc Fabregas in a false nine role, as he did throughout Euro 2012, although the emergence of striker Alvaro Morata, who is managing a hamstring problem, gives the Spanish coach further options up front.

Reports that David de Gea could become embroiled in a sex scandal have also overshadowed Spain’s preparation – although the goalkeeper has denied the allegations – while changes could be made after Spain suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Georgia in their last warm-up game, with Koke among the possible beneficiaries.

Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba is in charge of the national team for his major tournament and has to overturn a poor head-to-head record, with Spain unbeaten in four games against Czech Republic.

Despite recent history being against Czech Republic, who have lost three successive games against the defending champions, full-back David Limbersky believes his side can spring a shock in on Monday.

“Every team has weaknesses, some more, some less,” Limbersky told iSport.

“The Spanish are very, very strong up front, on the other hand, each team has its own weakness. That is what we will try to exploit.

“We know that Spain are the favourites. Certainly in our group, maybe even the whole European Championship. It will be a very tough match.”

Vrba will give playmaker Tomas Rosicky every chance to prove his fitness after an injury-affected season led to the veteran being released by Arsenal, while attacker Borek Dockal is also carrying an injury.

The coach also faces a big decision up front, with Tomas Necid and Milan Skoda vying for selection, along with the Czech top-flight’s all-time record goalscorer David Lafata.

Key Opta Stats: 

– Czech Republic have scored only one goal in their four games against Spain (Jaroslav Plasil in March 2011).
– Spain reached the final the last time the European Championship was held in France (1984). They were beaten by the hosts (0-2).
– Spain are unbeaten in their last 12 games at the European Championship (winning nine), the longest run in the history of the competition. Their last defeat in the tournament dates back to June 2004 against Portugal (0-1).
– Czech Republic are taking part in their ninth European Championship finals. They have won it once, as Czechoslovakia, in 1976.
– None of the Czech Republic’s last 16 games at the European Championships has ended in a draw (W8 L8). Their last draw was in the semi-finals in 1996 edition when they eventually beat France on penalties (0-0, 6-5 on pens).

Sat 11 Jun, 2016
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