City striker out to beat world's best
JONATHAN REDHEAD Norwich City hotshot Robert Earnshaw has his sights firmly set on one of the world's best goalkeepers after returning to the international fold. Chelsea and Czech Republic stopper Petr Cech awaits Earnshaw after the Canaries front man was recalled to John Toshack's Wales squad following his recovery from a groin injury which has wrecked the first half of his 2007.
Norwich City hotshot Robert Earnshaw has his sights firmly set on one of the world's best goalkeepers after returning to the international fold.
Chelsea and Czech Republic stopper Petr Cech awaits Earnshaw after the Canaries front man was recalled to John Toshack's Wales squad following his recovery from a groin injury which has wrecked the first half of his 2007.
With at least a cameo appearance expected for his club in the final Coca-Cola Championship league game of the season at Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, the 26-year-old will then join up with his international colleagues ahead of a warm-up clash with New Zealand on May 26 followed by their crunch Euro 2008 qualifier against the Czechs on June 2 at the Millennium Stadium.
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It is a game the Welsh must win if they are to have any chance of making the tournament, in Austria and Switzerland next summer, and Earnshaw believes the team are capable of causing an upset - provided they can find a way past 6ft 5ins Cech.
“He has got everything, he's agile, he's big and he reaches things so well,” Earnshaw said. “When a striker goes through he becomes such a big presence - it's no surprise he's playing for a team like Chelsea.”
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The Welsh suffered a last gasp 2-1 defeat to the Czech's in Prague earlier in the qualifying campaign thanks to a David Lafata goal in the final minute, but Earnshaw, who has bagged 18 goals in the league this season, fancies turning the result on its head in the re-match.
“They are a top side, but I think we have a massive chance,” he said. “We lost 2-1 away from home where we had a few chances and we could have won the game the way we played on the day.
“Petr Cech made some great saves that day - I remember Bellers (Craig Bellamy) went through one on one with him and he stopped him. If that had gone in it would have put is 1-0 up and it would have been a different game then.
“I think we have definitely got a chance this time around and I know it will be a good game for us. When the sun shines at the Millennium Stadium in front of a big crowd it will be difficult for the Czechs. We will be waiting for them.
“It's a game we have to win otherwise we are out.”
To face the Czechs next month, Earnshaw has to see off some competition in the Welsh squad after Toshack called up a couple of uncapped strikers in Barnsley's Daniel Nardiello and Southend's Freddy Eastwood.
But he is unconcerned by their presence.
“The manager wants to get in as many players who can play for Wales as possible to make sure he has plenty of options,” he said. “It's not a concern to me - obviously whoever is playing the best football gets in and will play.
“It's great to be back in the squad. I just enjoy playing football and after the injury and that it's just good to get back to it. The trouble is I don't want my season to end now.”
Former Canaries midfielder Carl Robinson, now playing in Canada for Toronto FC has also been called into the squad by Toshack, although ex-Norwich goalkeeper Darren Ward has decided to quit international football and concentrate on playing for Sunderland in the Premiership next season.
“Darren has told me he would prefer now not to be considered for international football, it is his decision and I will abide by it,” Toshack said. “Darren called me recently to say he felt the time was right for him not to be involved now. He has had a fine season with Sunderland and he can look forward to playing in the Premier League.
“He would have been in contention, considering that Danny Coyne is not in the side at the moment at Burnley. But he explained his reasons and I respect them and will now look elsewhere.”