Czechs at home

LAURA CZEKAJ -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

There's something about Ottawa that makes the Czech Republic under-20 soccer team feel right at home.

Coach Miroslav Soukup explained through a translator yesterday that the capital's name is similar to a Czech name and makes the trip here all the more comforting for his young lads.

The team was the first of their group of teams to arrive in Ottawa for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. Frank Clair Stadium is one of six sites across the country being used during the tournament, which starts June 30.

As the Czech team filed off the escalator at the airport yesterday, they met with little fanfare, but it didn't seem to matter to the players who were eager to get back on the pitch after being rained out in their match against Canada in Edmonton on Monday.

The coach isn't intimidated by the strong teams his players will be pitted against in Ottawa, but added that it won't exactly be a cakewalk either against Argentina, North Korea and Panama.

"It won't be easy because it's a very tough group and in sport you never know," he said.

Tournament favourite Argentina is expected to arrive in Ottawa on Monday.

The Czech Republic's top offensive player, Marek Strestik, was confident in the team's ability to hold its own against the other teams.

"I know they are very strong, but we will play our own Czech game and see what happens," he said, also through a translator.

While there will be a lot of practising, the players are still hopeful there will be some time to be tourists.

"I would like to see Ottawa Senators, but I just came a few weeks late," said Strestik.

On his first trip to Canada, player Tomas Pekhart, 17, said he wants to learn everything he can about this "nice" country.

"Because we will stay three weeks and it's impossible to stay just in a hotel."

While Strestik didn't do much research in advance of his arrival in Ottawa, he does have an interesting insight into the Canadian culture.

"I know there are pretty girls here," he said.


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