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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Bruckner tracks Czech path to glory
By Paul Fletcher
Our man in Portugal

Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner is known in his homeland as "Kleki Petra".

His nickname is taken from a character in a novel that deals with the plight of North American Indians - their leader was Kleki Petra.

And with his craggy features, long sweep of grey hair and deep-set beady eyes, it is a nickname that seems to suit Bruckner.

The 64-year-old has guided his side through to a semi-final against Greece in some style, with the Czechs winning all of their games and, in the process, inheriting the mantle of favourites.

His tactical mastery has enabled a talented group of attacking players to flourish.

Perhaps the best example came against Holland.

With his team trailing 2-0, Bruckner withdrew defender Zdenek Grygera and brought on attacker Vladimir Smicer.

Later in the match he introduced another forward, Marek Heinz, and ensured that his team preyed on Holland's fallible defence.

After the Czechs completed a famous 3-2 win, Holland boss Dick Advocaat admitted he had been outwitted.

Creative thinker

Bruckner's coaching career began in 1973 at his beloved Sigma Olomouc, with whom he has had four spells in charge.

All but one of his 26 seasons as a player had been spent there and he still has a summer house in the region, where he loves nothing more than to play with his grandchildren.

In his early days as a coach Bruckner obsessed over tactics and formations, drawing different systems on pieces of paper late into the night.

Bruckner, a keen chess player, is regarded in the Czech Republic as a master at set-pieces and a creative thinker.

In one match back in the 1980s two players went to take the same free-kick, collided and fell over.

While the opposition looked on in mirth, a third player picked out a by-then unmarked forward, who duly scored.

Yet for all his deep analysis of the game, his only trophy as a club coach remains the Slovakia Cup in 1985 with Inter Bratislava.

In 1997, the same year Bruckner finally kicked his habit as a heavy smoker, he was appointed Under-21 coach.

Pavel Nedved
Nedved leads the chorus of approval for Bruckner

He guided a group of talented players, which included Petr Cech, Tomas Ujfalusi and Milan Baros, to second place at the 2000 European Under-21 Championship in Slovakia.

Two years ago, the Czech Republic won the European Under-21 championship in Switzerland and eight of the players who finished the game against Holland were from the Under-21s.

Bruckner took over the full international side in 2001, but his experience with the Under-21 team guaranteed he had the respect of his players.

When the Czechs trailed 1-0 at half-time in their opening game against Latvia, it was Bruckner who calmed the players down and ensured they kept their discipline and shape after the break.

He has allowed a team, who are bursting with attacking football, to push forward and score goals.

Bruckner has not been intimidated when meeting supposedly bigger international opponents or become obsessed with positional issues.

In theory Pavel Nedved plays on the left of midfield but in reality he has a free role to hurt the opposition, with defender Marek Jankulovski plugging the gaps.

And Bruckner has done all this on an annual salary of around 70,000 per year, a fraction of the 3.7m reportedly earned by Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Perhaps when Euro 2004 is over, Bruckner - an intensely private man revered in the Czech Republic - should be awarded a pay rise.





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