Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal knows how to triumph as the underdog in a national cup final – and believes his club have every chance to upset Celtic at Hampden Park.
The Parkhead side are overwhelming favourites for Saturday’s Scottish Cup final as they chase a Treble Treble, but Zlamal insists an upset is possible.
The Czech helped Sigma Olomouc beat his country’s most reputable club, Sparta Prague, in the 2012 Czech Cup final whilst on loan from Bari. He managed a clean sheet in the 1-0 win in Plzen and then earned a permanent move to Olomouc that summer.
The 33-year-old will start in goal for Hearts at Hampden as his first season in Scotland draws to a close.
He is eager to mark it with silverware and will draw confidence from his exploits back home seven years ago.
“I know what this is like. The cup in Czech Republic is important but in Scotland it is a bigger game. I have a little bit of experience of these big games,” he said.
“I played for Sigma Olomouc and the final was against Sparta Prague. It’s a little bit similar to a cup final between Celtic and Hearts. Sigma Olomouc is a good club but not like Sparta Prague or Slavia Prague.
“They had a bigger budget than us but we won 1-0. We were the outsiders in this final but we still won, so that’s why I say anything can happen in a one-off cup final.”
Zlamal admits Hearts aren’t totally free from pressure as they prepare for Hampden. The emotional build-up is intensifying and he and his colleagues know the stakes are high.
“There is maybe a little bit more pressure but I try to play like normal,” he explained.
“I prepare for every match in the same way but I did feel a little bit different leading up to that 2012 final.
“I remember when I went to warm-up, the stadium was already full and the fans were supporting us a lot. It was certainly different to league games.”