Chechia’s Ivan Hašek says they are ready for Georgia’s Kvaratskhelia

June 21 – Czechia are eyeing their first points of their Euro 2024 campaign against Georgia on Saturday afternoon after their last-second loss to Portugal left a bitter taste in an otherwise encouraging opening performance.

Sat joint-botyom of the group on zero points, both teams will recognise the importance of this match if they are to progress into the next round of the competition.

“We did a detailed analysis of the Georgia game versus Türkiye. Both teams were very equal, Georgia were very dangerous and were unlucky. They play as a team,” said Czechia head coach Ivan Hašek (pictured).

“We really have to stop them from having free spaces. We have to be really focussed and concentrate. They cannot be allowed to counter attack as that is their biggest threat.”

Reflecting on his own team’s opening to the tournament – marked by a late 2-1 loss to Portugal – Hasek said: “In the first game we lacked courage. We had to defend all the time and didn’t have the strength to attack- that was the main problem.”

The coach still saw plenty of positives, particularly in the determination of captain Tomas Soucek playing through pain of an injury picked up at the end of the club season.

“Soucek is a true captain,” said Hasek. “He represents his team on and off the pitch and it’s important to have him.”

“I didn’t even notice Soucek was having health issues!” Added Czechia midfielder Antonín Barak.

“He really doesn’t show anything and he really doesn’t get any slack in training. Everybody has health issues at the end of a season, but everyone wants to be here at the euros to give everything.

“This is a tournament you don’t get to do often – if you get the chance you just take it. For Thomas it’s the same- if he can play, he will.”

Plying his trade for Serie A side Fiorentina, Barak is more than familiar with the attacking presence in the Georgia team, headlined by Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

Barak, who has 41 caps for his nation, said: “Kvaratskhelia is a very good player. Especially after last season when Napoli won the title and he was one of the greatest players in the league.

“On the other hand, in his national team his role is a little different. He doesn’t have the support of the others so much. Everybody speaks about him, and we’re ready to face him. He’s one of the biggest threats that Georgia have but we can’t forget about the other players Georgia have as well.

“They know how to create a lot of goal opportunities and counter attack. It’s not all about Kvicha but he is a superstar definitely.”

Without their own Kvaratskhelia up front, Barak admitted that long distance goals could be the answer to unlocking the stubborn Georgia defence.

The new Adidas tournament ball could be a valuable asset to the Czech side, as it has received praise from players who suggest it aids them in shooting from distance.

“Adidas balls are really great – the ball is very light,” Barak explained. “Thanks to this ball there are so many goals. The new characteristics allow us to score goals from outside the area – nothing but praise from me!”

Barak continued: “I am not here to just participate, I want to win. The coach knows it, and the whole team has the same mentality. Before and after the game against Portugal we had great energy. We need to be a team but also show up as individuals.

“I’m not nervous, because football has given me everything and the hard moments are something I enjoy.”

The teams will face off in Hamburg, which is helpfully placed right beside Czechia’s training complex. The Georgians, meanwhile, will have to travel over 240 miles from their base camp in Velbert to reach the Volksparkstadion for Saturday’s fixture.

Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1721245731labto1721245731ofdlr1721245731owedi1721245731sni@g1721245731niwe.1721245731yrrah1721245731