New Delhi: Petr Cech retired from international football on Friday after a record 124 appearances in the Czech Republic goal. The 34-year-old is his country's most capped player with 121 appearances, having made his debut in 2002.
He was part of the Czech side that reached the semi-final at Euro 2004, losing to eventual champions Greece. "When I was a kid, my ultimate dream was to play for the national team at least once," he told Arsenal's website. "Having done it so many times makes me really proud."
The 34-year-old Cech announced his decision after he was named the best Czech footballer of the last season for the 10th time in a poll of sports journalists. "It's final," Cech said. He added he wants to fully focus on his Arsenal club.
"I like to do things fully focused. And a time might come when I need a rest. It may not be now, but the World Cup qualifying takes two years, and it wouldn't be right to announce in the middle of it that I don't feel like playing. That's the reason for me to make the decision right now. A beautiful chapter is over."
From his Czech debut at age 19 in 2002, a 2-0 victory over Hungary, Cech became a mainstay in the team. His last match was a 2-0 loss to Turkey in the final group-stage game at the European Championship in France on June 21.
Cech denied the team's poor performance at the tournament influenced his decision to quit. "I made the decision before the European Championship," he said. "Of course, it would be better to say goodbye after a victory." The highlight of Cech's international career came at Euro 2004, when the Czechs reached the semifinals. He helped the team qualify for every continental championship since, and played in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Cech follows Sparta Prague striker David Lafata and Bordeaux midfielder Jaroslav Plasil, who announced their retirements immediately after the game against Turkey. Also, coach Pavel Vrba terminated his contract with the national team last week to manage Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League. Czech Football Association head Miroslav Pelta said on Friday he wanted Karel Jarolim to take over the national team as coach. Jarolim still has a contract with Czech club Mlada Boleslav.