Football Features

What happened next? The cult heroes of Czech Republic’s Euro 2004 semi-finalists

By Squawka News

Published: 13:53, 26 June 2021

Czech Republic may have relied on the third-place system to reach the knockout stages of Euro 2020, but the nation is dreaming big.

Euro 2020 is the seventh consecutive European Championship in which Czech Republic have participated following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and the fourth time they have reached the knockout stages.

At Euro ’96 they finished runners-up to Germany, losing the final 2-1 after half-time, with the likes of Patrick Berger, Pavel Nedved, Vladimir Smicer and Karel Poborsky in their squad. But for fans of a certain age, the real cult Czech Republic side came in Euro 2004, when they reached the semi-finals.

Euro 2004 is a tournament fondly remembered by Vladimir Coufal, the West Ham United full-back who will be looking to go far as part of their current squad.

“I was young (in 1996) so I didn’t realise then how successful our national team was,” Coufal told Betway Insider.

“But of course I now know lots of the players who were involved in that squad. A few of them went on to play in Euro 2004, which I remember well.

“The Czechs had really good players in that time. To be honest, while I know all the names, the two that stick in my mind are Karel Poborsky and Vladimir Smicer.

“Particularly Smicer, because he is a former Slavia Prague player. He is a legend of the club and I remember loving him during that tournament.”

But what happened to the biggest names from that cult Euro 2004 squad in the aftermath of the semi-final run, at both club and international level? We’ve taken a look…

Vladimir Smicer

  • Euro 2004 appearances: 3
  • Czech Republic caps: 80
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Liverpool > Bordeaux > Slavia Prague

One of the players Coufal name-checked, Vladimir Smicer was winding down his career at Euro 2004, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty still to come. Several months after Euro 2004’s conclusion, Smicer would be a major protagonist in one of the most incredible Champions League finals when he helped Liverpool overturn a 0-3 deficit against AC Milan. After leaving Anfield, he would enjoy a brief stay in Bordeaux before ending his career at boyhood club Slavia Prague.

Karel Poborsky

  • Euro 2004 appearances: 5
  • Czech Republic caps: 119
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Sparta Prague > Ceske Budejovice

Karel Poborsky is one of Czech Republic’s legends and will perhaps be remembered more for his role at Euro 96, but the midfielder was still ever-present eight years later, playing the full match on four occasions. Poborsky didn’t have too long left on his career post-Euro 2004, remaining at Sparta Prague for another two years before returning to his boyhood club Ceske Budejovice and retiring at 2007. For the Czech Republic, Poborsky called time after the 2006 World Cup, the only time they have reached the world stage.

Petr Cech

  • Euro 2004 appearances: 4
  • Czech Republic caps: 124
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Chelsea > Arsenal

Petr Cech was the Czech Republic’s number one goalkeeper for Euro 2004, playing four of their five matches and rested for their final group-stage match with qualification secured. Immediately after the tournament, Cech linked up with his new club Chelsea and was part of the record-breaking defence that conceded just 15 goals en route to the Premier League title. Cech remained at Chelsea until 2015, winning three more Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Champions League and Europa League. He then spent four years at Arsenal, winning another FA Cup before retiring. At international level, Cech was his nation’s first-choice goalkeeper until retiring in 2016, but he remains Czech Republic’s most-capped player.

Jan Koller

  • Euro 2004 appearances: 4
  • Czech Republic caps: 91
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Borussia Dortmund > Monaco > Nurnberg > Samara > Cannes

Ask someone to name a no-nonsense striker and there’s a big chance you’ll hear the name Jan Koller. The man was an absolute monster, deadly in the air thanks to his 6ft 8in frame, with a killer shot too. He was the leading man at Euro 2004, where he scored twice (allowing his strike partner to shine), and played until the age of 38 at club level, representing the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Monaco. Koller played his final Czech Republic game in 2009 and remains the nation’s all-time top goalscorer on 55.

Tomas Rosicky

  • Euro 2004 appearances: 4
  • Czech Republic caps: 105
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Borussia Dortmund > Arsenal > Sparta Prague

A story of what could have been. After impressing at the 2006 World Cup finals, Arsenal secured the services of Borussia Dortmund star Tomas Rosicky but injuries would plague his time in English football. The Little Mozart would ultimately leave a decade later for boyhood club Sparta Prague, but not before winning his 100th international cap, eventually calling time on his career in 2017.

Milan Baros

  • Euro 2004 appearances:
  • Czech Republic caps: 93
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Liverpool > Aston Villa > Lyon > Portsmouth (loan) > Galatasaray > Banik Ostrava > Antalyaspor > Mlada Boleslav > Slovan Liberec > Banik Ostrava > FK Vigantice

The Euro 2004 top scorer had an excellent 12 months, adding the 2005 Champions League to his trophy cabinet, but he would leave for Aston Villa shortly after. Milan Baros reunited with former Liverpool boss Gérard Houllier at Lyon and, following that spell, Baros embarked on a journeyman-like career which saw him turn out for nine different clubs including Portsmouth. He is still playing today, representing amateur side FK Vigantice nine years after retiring from international football.

Tomas Ujfalusi

  • Euro 2004 appearances: 4
  • Czech Republic caps: 78
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Fiorentina > Atletico Madrid > Galatasaray > Sparta Prague

One of the centre-backs at the heart of Czech Republic’s defence, Tomas Ujfalusi is definitely one people may forget until reminded and all the memories come flooding back. Immediately after Euro 2004, Ujfalusi joined Fiorentina and spent four years in Italy before moving to Atletico Madrid. Further spells at Galatasaray and Sparta Prague followed before Ujfalusi retired in 2013, four years on from his final international bow.

Pavel Nedved

  • Euro 2004 appearances: 4
  • Czech Republic caps: 91
  • Post-Euro 2004 club career: Juventus

The 2003 Ballon d’Or recipient remained at Juventus for the remainder of the decade, and was one of the players to stay loyal to the club following their demotion to Serie B following the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. Pavel Nedved, though, called time on international football after the 2006 World Cup finals and has since ended an illustrious 19-year playing career he’s moved upstairs, becoming Juve’s vice-chairman.