Czech captain Tomas Ujfalusi admitted his thoughts will be with crocked team-mate Tomas Rosicky as his side kick-off Euro 2008 in the tournament opener against Switzerland on Saturday.
Ujfalusi, 30, was promoted to the captaincy after Arsenal midfielder Rosicky, the fulcrum of a side that edged out Germany for top spot in their qualifying group, was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury which required surgery last month.
“Of course we are all sad Tomas cannot take part in the tournament but he has been one of the biggest supporters of the team,” said Ujfalusi, who is leaving Serie A side Fiorentina despite a terrific season where he was integral to their reaching the UEFA Cup semi-finals and taking the last Champions League place edging out AC Milan.
“I've talked to him several times. He is keeping his fingers crossed for us and we'll do everything we can to make him happy by going as far as we can in the tournament.”
Ujfalusi, who played down concerns over his own fitness following a muscle strain earlier this week, is a veteran of the Czech side that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2004. He believes that run can be repeated even in the absence of the influential Rosicky.
“In 2004 we were unlucky not to make it to the final,” he said.
“Some players ended their international careers after that tournament and it was difficult for the coach to find adequate replacements.
“But we coped well in the qualifying tournament and finished first in our group so I think we can do well here as well.”
“I'm feeling fine. I trained with the rest of my team-mates yesterday so I will be ready to start.”
The Czechs have lost defender Zdenek Pospech for Saturday's match as a result of a virus but that should not overly disrupt the plans of their veteran coach Karel Bruckner, who was typically keeping his cards close to his chest.
“Tactically, it's no secret that we have three options and I will use one of them but that is not something I want to discuss any further.
“It is an opening match, against one of the hosts, so we will perhaps need to do a bit of work on handling the emotion of the occasion but I'm confident we are well prepared and ready to start.
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