- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TOULOUSE, France (AP) - Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba may well have had the old saying “age over beauty” in mind when selecting his squad for the European Championship, with many of his key players well over 30.

The team is certainly aging and it showed several times in its 1-0 loss to Spain in their opening match at the Stadium de Toulouse on Monday. The average age of the squad is 28.7, the third oldest team at Euro 2016 after Ireland and Russia.

At 35, captain Tomas Rosicky is the man anchoring Czech Republic’s midfield after a season blighted by injury. He set a record on Monday against Spain, becoming the oldest player to represent his country at a European Championship. He also holds the honor of being the youngest player to represent the Czech Republic at the tournament, playing in Euro 2000 at age 19.

Besides Rosicky, five other starters against Spain were over 30 - goalkeeper Petr Cech and midfielder Jaroslav Plasil (both 34), and defenders David Limbersky, Tomas Sivok and Roman Hubnik (all 32).

Sometimes the older players lacked sharpness and looked jaded at times. Hubnik, while having a decent overall outing against the defending European champion, nearly put the ball into his own net when put under pressure. Rosicky, who had a solid performance and played 88 minutes, also came dangerously close to hooking the ball in for an own goal.

But with age comes experience.

Cech, by far, was the Czech Republic’s best player, making a string of saves to keep his team in the match, including diving to push away a Hubnik back pass.

Vrba has tried to balance his squad a bit with youth, with 25-year-old Vladimir Darida an exciting and lively player in midfield, along with 24-year-old right back Pavel Kaderabek and 23-year-old winger Ladislav Krejci.

Krejci suggested that the younger players look up to the senior members of the team as the Czechs prepare to face their final two Group D opponents, first a tricky match against Croatia on Friday in Saint-Etienne and Turkey on June 21 in Lens.

“My roommate is Pavel Kaderabek, and he’s around the same age as me,” he said Tuesday. “But I have no problem with the older players because they have a lot of experience. It’s good to play with them.”


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