Soccer Scene

Preview: Republic of Ireland - Czech Rep
31.03.2004 at 19:00 - Lansdowne Road

Ireland captain Kenny Cunningham yesterday suggested he and his new centre-back partner, Gary Doherty, would have to "box clever" if they were to cope with one of the most formidable strike forces in world football.The Czechs will have the 6'7" Jan Koller of Borussia Dortmund at centre-forward and playing just behind him will be Pavel Nedved (Juventus), who was voted the best player of 2003 by the international team managers.

Said Cunningham: "you're always excited at the prospect of pitting yourself against the best and Koller provides you with difficulties that other centre-forwards don't.

"He's a massive physical presence, so it would be foolish to allow ourselves get into a physical contest with him, so you have to be a little bit clever.

"I think he's a better all-round player than people give him credit for. Technically, he is good; he sets play up well, links play up which is important for them, so it will be an interesting test for myself and Gary."

Interestingly, this will be the first time that Cunningham will be partnered by Doherty. The Spurs defender has played in 22 matches for Ireland, but most of them have been as substitute centre-forward.

Cunningham smiled ruefully when he recalled the last time he ran up against the formidable Koller. It was on February 23 in 2000 when Ireland beat the Czechs 3-2, but Koller scored twice for the Czechs in the opening 35 minutes bringing the international career of his immediate opponent, Paul Butler (Wolves), to an abrupt end.

Said Cunningham: "Koller has an obvious advantage through the air, so if you allow easy crosses into the box, especially in the last third of the pitch, you are going to cause yourself problems.

"It is important to keep him out of the box and try and squeeze the pitch and keep a tight line and keep him as far away from our goal as possible" This will be a tall order for the Irish in every respect.

The Czech Republic were last beaten when they lost 0-1 to Belgium in November, 2001 in a World Cup play-off. They have scored in each of their last 16 internationals. Added Cunningham: "I don't think this game has quite the same magical appeal as the Brazil game but in some respects I think it will be a sterner test for us. They are a very strong side with a physical edge to them, very organised, they move the ball very well and they have proved over the last number of years they are a very difficult side to get through, they don't concede many goals.

"It will be a really big test and a bigger test than some people imagine but at the same time I'm looking forward to it."

Manager Brian Kerr confirmed that he will again tinker with Ireland's traditional 4-4-2 formation as he pursues his desire to see Ireland's players develop greater flexibility in their teamwork. "I would like us to be comfortable with more than one system, rather than using a rigid 4-4-2 and mentally being rigid in following 4-4-2 as if that's the only way we can play.

"Most other countries play with other systems and it's no big deal when they switch. It seems to be no big deal for them but sometimes here it seems to be a big deal."

He outlined his priorities: "the first one would be that I learn more about the players. The second one would be that we would play well and thirdly that we would get a good result."

He also admitted that it was his intention to introduce some new players such as Liam Miller (Celtic), John Thompson (Notts Forest) and Stephen Kelly (Spurs) as he prepares for the World Cup qualifiers in September. "I've pointed out already we've had a fair bit of change since the last World Cup because of retirements. Injuries this time forced us to make changes as well and we've had very few games since the European Championship where we could really experiment up until now.

"We've 21 players here and everyone is gunning to play. Against Brazil we didn't use too many but again it depends on the circumstances in the game. I would like to use more players against Czech Republic than I did against Brazil."


H / A / N Matches W D L Goals + / -
H 4 2 1 1 7 - 7 +0
A 3 1 0 2 2 - 4 -2
N 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 +0
Total 7 3 1 3 9 - 11 -2

Date&time Comp. H / A / N Final score
29.02.2012 at 19:45 Friendly H 1 - 1
12.09.2007 at 19:30 European Cup Qualifier A 1 - 0
31.03.2004 at 19:00 Friendly H 2 - 1
23.02.2000 at 00:00 Friendly H 3 - 2
25.03.1998 at 00:00 Friendly A 1 - 2
24.04.1996 at 00:00 Friendly A 0 - 2
05.06.1994 at 00:00 Friendly H 1 - 3
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