Resilience is the key to Czech success, says Bilek
Czech coach Michal Bilek said Sunday the resilience that his team has displayed which has seen them finish top of their group to reach the Euro 2012 quarter-finals could take them even further.
The Czechs and their much-maligned young coach ended co-hosts Poland's dreams of Euro glory in Saturday's final Group A match as a Petr Jiracek goal sent the Czechs through and the Poles out.
It was all the more remarkable given that the Czechs - champions in 1976, finalists in 1996 and semi-finalists in 2004 - had started by being hammered 4-1 by Russia.
However, a 2-1 win over Greece - gaining some revenge for their defeat in the 2004 semi-final - got them back on track and they rounded off their recovery with an ultimately well-deserved and gritty win over the Poles.
"I can feel a healthy spirit and the desire to put up a good fight in the games we are facing," Bilek told reporters on Sunday.
"We want to win at least one more game. If we make it, we'll have a medal," he added.
"Many fans stopped believing in us after the first game. The happier I am to have advanced. The boys deserved this, they have played like a team," added the 47-year-old.
Since he took over at the helm in late 2009, Bilek has faced the wrath of disillusioned fans who had revelled in seeing the team advance to four successive European championships.
Under Bilek, the team lost to underdogs Azerbaijan and were crushed 3-0 by Norway in friendlies.
The Euro qualifiers turned into a nightmare when they lost to Lithuania at home before two tepid performances against defending champions Spain increased the antipathy of the fans to the coach.
However, he and they gained some breathing space when they rescued their campaign by a play-off victory over Montenegro - and Bilek believes that doing it the hard way actually strengthened the team.
"We've been under constant pressure. This may have been our advantage on Saturday," Bilek mused.
"In those two-and-a-half years, we have always managed to overcome the critical moments, and there have been quite a few.
"We found ourselves under huge pressure all the time, the players always fought and beat the crises, and in the hard games they showed huge moral strength," he added.
Bilek had a beer with the players on Saturday night, relishing the "feeling of joy and satisfaction," and went to bed at five in the morning.
On Sunday, he was looking ahead.
"The euphoria was for yesterday. Now we have a new goal -- to advance from the quarter-finals," he said.
Facing the Group B runners-up, the Czechs will learn the name later on Sunday after Denmark take on Germany and Portugal face the Netherlands, with all four being in contention.
"It's hard to choose one. But I'd rather avoid facing Germany, they look very relaxed here," said Bilek.
"I'm not going to tell you anything. You see, Denmark looks the most acceptable, but they are in an excellent shape too."
For once, he can reckon with support from the fans decked out in blue, red and white, who seemed more than happy after the Poland game, skipping their chants against Bilek for once.
"When your own fans whistle at you, it's unpleasant, but it has been going on for a long time so I've got used to it.
"Yesterday brought relief to everyone, we can feel the fans' discontent vanish. We showed the team can win tough battles, and I believe they're on our side now.
"I know we will achieve a change in attitude only with a sequence of good results. That is, if we advance again," he added.
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