The Czech Republic at the European Championships’ is nothing new.
While the Czechs have shied away from recent World Cups, they have qualified for every single Euros in their 28-year history as an independent nation, and have actually made the knockout stage just as many times as they’ve been eliminated in the groups.
They will have their work cut out for them if they want to hit the heights they did in 1996 and 2004, however; they head into Euro 2020 as one of the lowest ranked nations, and with England, Scotland and Croatia in their group, they have it all to do to make the last 16.
But can they do it? We’ve got everything you need to know right here.
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England will be well familiar with the Czechs heading into this one. The two sides faced in qualifying for the Euros, and while England romped to a 5-0 win in the first clash at Wembley, they were turned over in Prague when Zdenek Ondrasek struck a late winner.
The Czech Republic eventually finished six points off England and qualified for the Euros automatically, though they were taken fairly close by a Kosovo team who defied all expectations with their performances over the eight games.
Their form since has been mixed however, and a recent defeat to Scotland doesn’t exactly bode well for their hopes, considering they face Steve Clarke’s side in the opening game on Monday. They will take great confidence from the rest of that Nations League campaign though – they won the group with four wins from six.
While Lukas Provod’s injury is a serious blow to the Czech Republic’s hopes, they still pack a pretty substantial punch in attack.
Jakub Jankto is a regular source of creativity having set up ten goals in 34 caps for his country while Lukas Masopust and Patrick Schik have each made their mark on the international stage.
There’s no getting away from the fact the Czechs are an exciting team to watch. Jaroslav Silhavy has installed a fearless streak to them that sees them go for games early on, and while they may have to beat Scotland to stand any chance of qualifying, they could also bloody the nose of one of the bigger boys – they’ve already done so with England recently.
But while their tendency to chase games from the off and go for the throat, game-management hasn’t been the Czechs’ strong point under Silhavy. They went 23 games without registering a draw under their current manager, and don’t really have a plan B if they fail to score early on.
They will realistically have to rein it in at the finals. They are facing up to two teams far higher up the world rankings and are likely to take a few beatings if their gung-ho approach perseveres.
There are also some concerns about the starting centre-back partnership of Ondrej Celustka and Jakub Brabec, neither of whom have particularly impressed in the Czech league this season.
West Ham duo Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal bring some real star quality to a Czech team who lack it in other areas, and they will each play central roles if they are to make their mark this summer. Soucek is the beating heart of Silhavy’s rigid 4-2-3-1, while Coufal’s energy and endeavour keeps them moving forward down the right.
The goals of Patrick Schik, who has ten strikes for his country already, will also be key, while keeper Tomas Vaclik is a consistent performer at the other end and should expect to be busy.
Manager Jaroslav Silhavy has named his final 26-player squad for the Euros.
Goalkeepers: Tomas Vaclik (Sevilla), Jiri Pavlenka (Werder Bremen), Ales Mandous (Olomouc)
Defenders: Vladimir Coufal (West Ham), Pavel Kaderabek (Hoffenheim), Ondrej Celustka (Sparta Praha), Tomas Kalas (Bristol City), David Zima (Slavia Praha), Jan Boril (Slavia Praha), Ales Mateju (Brescia), Jakub Brabec (Viktoria Plzen)
Midfielders: Lukas Masopust (Slavia Praha), Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin), Tomas Soucek (West Ham), Antonin Barak (Verona), Alex Kral (Spartak Moskva), Tomas Holes (Slavia Praha), Petr Sevcik (Slavia Praha), Jakub Jankto (Sampdoria), Adam Hlozek (Sparta Praha), Jakub Pesek (Liberec), Michal Sadilek (PSV)
Forwards: Patrik Schick (Leverkusen), Michael Krmencik (PAOK), Matej Vydra (Burnley), Tomas Pekhart (Legia)
Well, it’s going to be difficult. The Czech Republic are an exciting team going forward, but they don’t have the quality of England or Croatia, and their recent record against Scotland – who look in decent shape – isn’t exactly a source of encouragement.
They will be viewing that opening game against the Scots at Hampden as a winnable one and if they can get a positive result, then they are likely to at least finish third – which brings with it a 50/50 chance at qualification depending on how other teams fare.
Of the four teams in Group D, though, it’s fair to say the Czechs look like the weakest heading in, so it may be sayonara at the group stage for only the fourth time in their history.