Prague – Czech Republic coach Michal Bilek on Tuesday named a 23-man squad for the Euro 2012 championships, including Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky who is still recovering from a calf injury.
“Tomas Rosicky's condition made things harder for us but he's been improving,” said Bilek, who is taking eight players from the Czech league to the tournament co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
Rosicky, the Czech Republic captain and the biggest star alongside Chelsea keeper Petr Cech, still has not fully recovered from a pulled muscle – an injury he suffered in his last game for Arsenal.
“It's getting better. I joined the guys for some phases of training today. It's on a good path,” Rosicky told reporters on Tuesday.
The injury forced Bilek to name 21-year-old midfielder Vladimir Darida from Czech 2011 champions Viktoria Plzen as a back-up in case Rosicky does not recover fast enough.
Darida spent most of last autumn – including Plzen's Champions League games – on the bench, before stepping in at Plzen as a substitute for midfielder Petr Jiracek, who left for Bundesliga side Wolfsburg.
Darida, joining five of his Plzen teammates on the national team, made a widely praised debut for the Czech Republic in a warm-up against Israel in Austria on May 20, which the Czechs won 2-1.
His call-up meant an early holiday for the unfortunate defender Daniel Pudil, on loan at Italy's Cesena from Spain's Granada last season, who was ruled out of the Czech team for the last Euros four years ago due to a last-minute injury.
The Czech Republic, in their fifth straight European championships, will play all three Group A games in the southern Polish city of Wroclaw, which is near the Czech border.
The Czechs, who were runners-up in 1996 and third in 2004, are due to start their campaign against Russia on June 8.
That will be followed by a June 12 clash with Euro 2004
champions Greece, who eliminated them in the 2004 semi-finals, before they round off their group fixtures against co-hosts Poland on June 16.
Before leaving for Poland by train on June 3, they will face Hungary in Prague on June 1, although likely without the recovering Rosicky.
“It will depend on how he'll feel. The main thing for us is to have him healthy and in shape against Russia,” said Bilek.
Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (Chelsea/ENG), Jan Lastuvka (Dnepropetrovsk/UKR), Jaroslav Drobny (Hamburg/GER)
Defenders: Frantisek Rajtoral (Plzen), Roman Hubnik (Hertha/GER), Tomas Sivok (Besiktas/TUR), Michal Kadlec (Leverkusen/GER), Theodor Gebre Selassie (Liberec), David Limbersky (Plzen), Marek Suchy (Spartak Moscow/RUS)
Midfielders: Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal/ENG), Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux/FRA), Jan Rezek (Famagusta/CYP), Daniel Kolar (Plzen), Vladimir Darida (Plzen), Petr Jiracek (Wolfsburg/GER), Milan Petrzela (Plzen), Vaclav Pilar (Plzen), Tomas Hubschman (Donetsk/UKR)
Forwards: Milan Baros (Galatasaray/TUR), David Lafata (Jablonec), Tomas Pekhart (Nuremberg/GER), Tomas Necid (CSKA Moscow/RUS) – Sapa-AFP