Republic are held in Czech by criticism from own supporters


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The Independent Online

Win, lose or draw at Euro 2012, the one thing the Czech Republic can count on is jeers and whistles from a section of fans who never seem satisfied with the players' performance.

Although the unhappy supporters are currently targeting the goal-shy striker Milan Baros and coach Michal Bilek, the players say the cat-calls affect them all. The whistles and shouts came through loud and clear both in the Czech's opening 4-1 loss to Russia and in their subsequent 2-1 win over Greece.

"It is not a good feeling and we are hoping the situation gets better," said the defender Theodor Gebre Selassie. "It is not a good feeling because we are all part of one team."

During the defeat by Russia, fans chanted "Bilek out" and whistled loudly when Baros had the ball, despite the striker's relatively decent display in a game in which the entire team played poorly.

Baros, who was the top scorer at Euro 2004, has not found the net in a competitive international match since March 2011 – and even that was against lowly Liechtenstein. His popularity sank further when local tabloids printed unflattering pictures of him at a party.

Czech fans are not enthusiastic about Bilek and have long questioned his tactics and line-up choices. The coach, who took over in 2009, said many of the thousands who have made the short trip to Wroclaw are backing the team.

"I know I am not popular in the Czech Republic as a coach," Bilek said. "There is nothing I can do about it but I am more disappointed when they shout and whistle at the players."

The coach took one step toward winning over fans with his decision to bring on Tomas Hubschman as a defensive midfielder against Greece and move Petr Jiracek to the wing. The two combined to score the first Czech goal.

Michal Petrak, who covers Czech football for the daily Sport newspaper, said what he called the nation's typically pessimistic outlook might also explain why the fans were the only supporters at Euro 2012 to be found jeering their own side.

"It is a bit unfair but that is the way the fans are," Petrak said. "If Baros starts scoring two goals a game he will be a hero."

The Czechs will take on Poland on Saturday while Russia face Greece in the other match as Group A comes to its conclusion.

The Czechs' problems have not been limited to their relationship with their own supporters. However, injury worries concerning key players appear to be disappearing. The captain, Tomas Rosicky, said he could barely stand on his injured foot but was still hoping to play. The Arsenal player went to hospital for a scan yesterday along with the Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has a sore shoulder, a day after the victory over Greece.

Rosicky said he had taken a knock in the same spot where he had experienced pain at the end of his club season but he added that he was happy that the scan had not detected damage to the tendon.

"I played three matches with this at the end of the season but it has not been as painful as it is now," Rosicky said. "I can barely stand on the foot but I am not giving up. If it is at least a little possible, I will play."

Both Rosicky and Cech have a 75 per cent chance of playing against Poland, according to the team doctor Petr Krejci.

"There is a good chance that with the help of intensive treatment we would get them both ready to play," Krejci said.