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World class goalkeepers are a rare commodity and the Czech Republic have one of the best in the business, if not, the best.
For over a decade Petr Cech has performed and continues to perform at the highest level for club and country. Goalkeepers of Petr’s ilk come around once in a lifetime and at the age of 29, his best years should be yet to come.
The Chelsea shot-stopper is one of the most decorated players in Czech history. Not one season passes where the star isn't donning a smart black suit to collect yet another accolade. Earlier this month, Cech picked up his seventh Czech golden ball in eight years - he lost out to Pavel Nedved in 2009 for his only blemish.
Ex-Chelsea boss, Carlo Ancelotti, said of his former goalkeeper: “I believe Petr Cech is one of the most important players for this team, one of the best goalkeepers in the world.”
Petr made his full international debut in February 2002, with his first title coming later that year with the U21 squad that won the European Championships. Cech was the hero who saved crucial penalties against France in the final, earning the Czechs their first trophy at youth level.
The summer of 2004 proved to be another milestone for the Czech keeper. Petr was one of the standout performers for his country during the 2004 European Championship in Portugal.
The Czechs lost out to eventual winners Greece in the semi finals but not before Cech had made his mark on the tournament. Needless to say he was voted the Best Goalkeeper in the All-Star XI for Euro 2004.
Claudio Ranieri was Chelsea manager at the time and signed Cech for £7 million from Rennes prior to being replaced by Jose Mourinho. It was arguably the best piece of business Ranieri has ever made.
Cech has continued to thrive on the international stage and has amassed 89 caps. Should he remain injury free, the 6ft 5in keeper looks sure to become the most capped Czech player in history, eclipsing Karel Poborsky's record of 118 appearances.
|“You have to approach every game with a plan in mind and know what the opposing players like to do. Your aim is to be surprised as little as possible”
- Petr Cech
Question marks have been raised over Cech’s form in recent years. Luiz Felipe Scolari had difficulty managing Chelsea in 2008-09 and Cech's form suffered as a consequence. Doubts also surfaced when Cech returned from a life threatening head injury sustained against Reading in 2006.
But the Czech international has shrugged off his detractors and has just enjoyed one of the best club seasons of his career to date. Cech was a massive protagonist as Chelsea shocked Europe by winning the Champions League, producing heroic displays in the semi final win over Barcelona and the final success on penalties versus hosts Bayern Munich.
In the shootout, Cech saved two penalties in addition to the one he stopped in extra time from Arjen Robben. The goalkeeper later revealed that on the plane on the way to Munich he studied every Bayern penalty since 2007, thus demonstrating his meticulous preparation before big games: “You have to approach every game with a plan in mind and know what the opposing players like to do. Your aim is to be surprised as little as possible.”Follow Mark Smith on