Czech star hails Nedved return
By Vasek Kadlec
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Tomas Ujfalusi says Pavel Nedved's return has galvanised Czech Republic.
Czech Republic stopper Tomas Ujfalusi says Pavel Nedved's return has galvanised the national side and could be the spur to World Cup glory in Germany.
The Juventus star and former European Footballer of the Year had retired from international duties in September 2004, but his countrymen struggled in qualifying and the returning hero helped guide them through a play-off against Norway.
With Italy, Ghana and USA awaiting in Group E the Czechs will certainly be tested, and Ujfalusi says Nedved's presence has sparked a new-found resilience within Karel Bruckner's side - as well as having an important psychological impact on their opponents.
"I have always been saying that Pavel fazes opponents," Ujfalusi told MF Dnes.
"He is a character. If you ask someone an association between football and Czech Republic the first thing people are saying is Pavel Nedved.
"Without him opponents pay less respect to us, now all of us feel that the strength has returned.
"If we were not successful, we missed a man who would give us hell.
"Pavel is a winning character, he has great volition which he can transform on the others.
"For example in the qualifier against Romania [without Nedved], they played very well and we surrendered.
"We need one or two players who show that we are not made of cotton, and this has returned with Pavel's comeback."
Ujfalusi is confident that the Czechs can break their World Cup duck in Germany after reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2004, as the Fiorentina stopper believes the side have improved in the intervening two years.
"I believe yes [a better side than at Euro 2004]," Ujfalusi added.
"We are very strong, especially in attack, even if we did not pass through the qualification fabulously.
"Everyone has experience from foreign leagues, we only have to time the form.
"For the lads who near the end of their career this is the last chance to prove something big, to win the World Cup."
However if Group E is not quite the 'group of death', it is certainly one of the more daunting propositions and in Italy striker and Viola team-mate Luca Toni, Ujfalusi will face one of Europe's most in-form strikers.
The towering former Palermo man has become one of the country's most recognisable stars after hitting a magnificent 31 goals in Serie A this season, and Ujfalusi has warned his team-mates they can not give the deadly striker any room to manoeuvre in Hamburg on June 22.
"Luca has had an unbelievable season, we must make him frustrated.
"To play physically, to not give him any space, to be tough.
"He is tall and quick and if he gets one metre of space he becomes a killer.
"Luca is a celebrity, the most popular sportsman in Italy.
"He means more than [MotoGP star] Valentino Rossi which is unbelievable."