Teenager Necid asked to fill Koller-sized gap
Filling the boots of Jan Koller is no small task, but Czech Republic coach Petr Rada may have found his man in SK Slavia Praha starlet Tomáš Necid. With Koller having retired from international football after UEFA EURO 2008™ – despite still scoring goals in Russia for FC Krylya Sovetov Samara – Necid could be auditioned in the centre-forward role against San Marino on 19 November.
The Czechs could certainly do with an attacking alternative, having found the target twice only in three World Cup Group 3 qualifiers this season. With Koller refusing a comeback, and Milan Baroš scoring just one national-team goal in his last 14 games, new coach Rada – who replaced Karel Brückner after the EURO – needs a helping hand. Necid could provide it after being fast-tracked from the Under-19 squad to the seniors for the San Marino match in Serravalle.
The 19-year-old has enjoyed a swift rise to prominence ever since being loaned to FK Jablonec 97 from Slavia last January, when he was considered surplus to requirements in the capital. He netted five times in seven starts for Jablonec, with his tally of 13 appearances almost equalling his then total for Slavia. Another springboard to success was the summer's UEFA European U19 Championship in the Czech Republic, in which Necid top-scored with four strikes in as many matches for the hosts, including a winning goal at Jablonec's ground. The Czechs were losing semi-finalists, a step down on the podium from the silver medals taken by Necid's U17 team at the corresponding European Championship of 2006, in which his five goals made him joint top scorer with, among others, Bojan Krkić.
Whichever scouts were watching his progress, it was PFC CSKA Moskva who made the first move, announcing in late August a deal to bring the teenager to Moscow from January 2009. This season, meanwhile, there has been no stopping the rampaging target man as he makes the most of his Prague swansong. Since returning to Slavia, he has registered nine goals in 12 outings, only one off the bench, to help the Czech titleholders to pole position in the 1. Liga. He has also shown that, for all his 191cm, he is no mere attacking totem: being able to score with either foot.
His former U17 and U19 coach Jakub Dovalil, who as the Czechs' new U21 boss had hoped to use Necid in a friendly game next week, said: "He has a nose for goal. He knows how to be in the right place at the right time." Those instincts will now be tested at full international level, however, after Rada decided the San Marino tie was a good opportunity to blood the Prague-born attacker. Necid may get the nod ahead of the more experienced Roman Bednář, who has four Premier League goals for West Bromwich Albion FC this autumn in addition to a single Czech cap from two years ago. "I will look at both players," said Rada. "Nothing is decided."
Necid himself is already visualing stepping into the limelight. "This is a boyhood dream," he said. "It doesn't matter who the opposition are, this is an international like any other and I will do my best to reward the coach's belief in me."