Euro 2020 is creeping ever closer and Czech Republic head into the tournament 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 and at least get out of their group, something they failed to do in Euro 2016 when they exited the tournament without a win.
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 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. Now Coufal will want to bring those skills back to his national side.
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 this 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 has 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 hasn’t played for his country since 2019, but the striker is undoubtedly the best forward available to Czech Republic. Tall but mobile and possessing real skill, Schick has been a consistent goalscoring force wherever he’s been, even at inconsistent Leverkusen this season
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 Ales Mateju get forward at will and the Czechs use the half-space to create crossing opportunities.
Tomas Soucek and Alex Kral 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 could be the more rudimentary Zdenek Ondrasek or more likely, if he’s fit, the dynamic Patrik Schick. Both men have the size and stature to attack crosses but can also pose a threat on the deck where the Czechs are sharper than expected.
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 did lose three games of their own, however, albeit one was on the final day after they had already secured qualification.
Recent fixtures: WWLLWWLW
Despite Covid hitting their camp hard, the Czech Republic have done well in their recent games. They were ‘doubled’ by Scotland 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.
Chances of winning:
Czech Republic are ranked outsiders at Euro 2020. They are currently 150/1 to win the tournament with Sky Bet which reflects their status. They aren’t among the truest outsiders (North Macedonia are ranked 750/1) but there isn’t much faith in them going all the way, understandably.