The Euro 2020 group stage is over and Czech Republic are looking to make a name for themselves.
Well, re-make a name is perhaps better. After gaining independence in the mid-90s, Czech Republic made it all the way to the final of Euro 96 before losing to Germany with a star-studded squad featuring Pavel Nedved, Patrik Berger and Karel Poborsky. Then, in Euro 2004, having added the likes of Petr Cech, Jan Koller, Milan Baros and Tomas Rosicky they were beaten semi-finalists.
They’ve never got that close to a trophy again but will be hoping to make a great run at things in 2020, having at least got out of their group, something they failed to do in Euro 2016 when they exited the tournament without a win.
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The best players Czech Republic are bringing to Euro 2020:
Goalkeeper: Tomas Vaclik
Petr Cech has played more games for Czech Republic (124) than anyone else but retired internationally after the Euro 2016 embarrassment, and filling his gloves is one of the more daunting tasks imaginable. Tomas Vaclik is a solid shot-stopper with a decent command of his area who has won the Europa League with Sevilla and will hope to bring that same big game savvy to his first tournament with his nation.
Defence: Vladimir Coufal
Vladimir Coufal was a promising full-back playing for Slovan Liberec when a move to Slavia Prague saw him take off. He won two straight Czech titles and earned a move to the Premier League where he has torn it up with West Ham. No one expected the Hammers to be good but powered in part by Coufal’s raiding skills at right wing-back, the Hammers have been quite good indeed.
Midfield: Tomas Soucek
“The Czech Fellaini” is probably not a moniker you ever thought you’d hear but the gigantic (6’4) Tomas Soucek suits it perfectly. Recruited last summer after an impressive loan spell during the back half of last season, Soucek has been a revelation (even though he won Czech Player of the Year when winning the Czech title with Slavia Prague in 2018/19). The giant midfielder settled in straight away and has provided solid defending, as well as a startling amount of offensive potential with his abilities to win the ball in the air making him the ideal target man; hence “Czech Fellaini”.
Attack: Patrik Schick
Through a combination of Covid and injury, Patrik Schick went into the summer international period having played just once for his country since 2019, but the striker is undoubtedly the best forward available to Czech Republic and is the top-scoring player in their squad with 13 goals including three at Euro 2020. Tall but mobile and possessing real skill, Schick has been a consistent goalscoring force wherever he’s been, even at inconsistent Leverkusen this season. His power, pace and physical presence makes him a menace to any defence he could face, regardless of how well the Czechs are playing.
The head coach: Jaroslav Silhavy
Jaroslav Silhavy has had a journeyman career as a coach, touring different clubs across Czech Republic. His longest spell at a club was 119 games managing Slovan Liberec, where he won the Czech first division. He took over Slavia Prague in 2016 and won the title in his first season there (Slavia’s first title in 8 years), but things turned sour in his second season and he was sacked.
Silhavy was appointed as boss of the Czech Republic almost one year later in September 2018 after they had failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. He’s led his nation on a decent run of form where they didn’t draw a single one of his first 22 games in charge, winning 13 and losing nine. Heading into 2021, he will hope to guide them to significant success at Euro 2020.
Lacking the geniuses of days gone by, Czech Republic are an uncomplicated side. They play a standard 4-2-3-1 with an organised defensive block that can both sit deep and push up depending on the scenario. Tomas Kalas leads the back-line while the full-backs Vladimir Coufal and Jan Boril get forward at will and the Czechs use the half-space to create crossing opportunities.
Tomas Soucek and Tomas Holes hold midfield, both all-action types where Soucek’s aerial dominance makes him a genuine threat when he drives forward into the box to attack crosses. The Czech wingers (usually Luka Masopust and Jakub Jankto) have a trick or two and are comfortable both crossing but also getting in the box to finish chances off.
Vladimir Darida is the captain and maestro in the no. 10 role, always able to find space and thread clever balls through. But he can also move beyond the striker, who is likely to be the dynamic Patrik Schick. The Bayer Leverkusen man has the size and stature to attack crosses but can also pose a threat on the deck where the Czechs are sharper than expected.
There is a big change from the last Czech Republic XI in a major tournament, which is understandable considering five years have past. The likes of Petr Cech, Tomas Sivok and Jaroslav Plasil have all retired, while Daniel Pudil, Roman Hubnik, Tomas Necid and Borek Dokal are no longer in the squad. Pavel Kaderabek and Vladimir Darida remain though.
Strengths & Weaknesses
With a side full of giants, the Czechs are so strong in the air. Their ability to hurt teams from crosses and corners makes them a constant menace as any set-piece turns into a goalscoring chance thanks to Vladimir Coufal’s delivery. They are also a capably creative side on the ground with the movement of Schick and the superbly named Luka Masopust.
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In terms of weaknesses, the Czech defence is vulnerable to pace in behind. Specifically balls played in the half-space between centre-back and full-back. It’s not a glaring weakness but teams can get at them from here and it’s probably going to be what stops them from advancing deep into Euro 2020 despite their aerial assault in attack.
The form guide
Euro 2020 Qualifying: LWWWLWWL
The Czechs were comfortably the second-best team in their qualifying group, and although they finished six points behind leaders England they did beat the Three Lions in Prague. They lost three games of their own, however, albeit one was on the final day after they had already secured qualification.
Recent fixtures: LDWWWLLW
They were ‘doubled’ by Scotland towards the end of 2020 but won their other four Nations League games to finish top of their group and gain promotion to Group A for the next edition of the competition. However, their World Cup qualifiers did not go to plan. They picked up just four points from a possible nine in March as defeat to Wales put them on the back foot in their bid to reach the Qatar tournament. But four points from a possible nine was enough to secure third place in Euro 2020 Group D and send them into the last-16.
Chances of winning:
Czech Republic are ranked outsiders at Euro 2020, and are currently 50/1 to win the tournament with Sky Bet. That’s in part due to Czech’s Republic’s last-16 draw which sees them face Netherlands, who won their group with three victories (though the route is favourable if they were to pull off a shock result).