Czech Republic head into the Euros this summer as a team with one of the best records in European competition anywhere on the continent – although you might not know that. Statistically, this is Czech Republic’s seventh straight Euros tournament and they have reached the final (1996) and the semi-final (2004). But if you take into account Czech Republic’s record as part of Czechoslovakia before 1992, the country boasts an enviable record of three semi-finals, a runner-up finish and being crowned champions in 1976.
But those days of past glories are far behind the Czech Republic now. The team has failed to escape the group stage in two of their last three Euros campaigns and haven’t reached the World Cup since 2006. Five years ago, in France the Czech Republic earned just one draw as they limped out at the group stage.
This summer head coach Jaroslav Silhavy is tasked with guiding his side through a group that involves England, Scotland and Croatia. The Czechs are arguably the least fancied team in Group D and start their campaign against Scotland at Hampden Park on 14 June.
Silhavy’s troops actually faced England, meanwhile, during their qualifying campaign. The Czech’s road to the Euros included a 2-1 victory over England in which Zdenek Ondrasek scored a late winner. Crucially Czech Republic beat Kosovo and Bulgaria to finish second in the group, behind England, and earn their spot at the Euros.
Patrik Schick (4) was the only Czech player to score more than once during qualifying, and this season the Bayer Leverkusen man netted in a 6-2 win over Estonia in World Cup qualifying. He usually starts up front on his own, but Silhavy has Michael Krmencik and Matej Vydra to call on too. The boss likes to play a 4-1-4-1 system against tougher opposition but will switch to 4-2-3-1 for games he believes they can and should win.
Czech Republic’s key man is West Ham’s Thomas Soucek, who can play either alongside Thomas Holes as a holding midfield pair, or further forward. Their weakness comes in defence, where veteran Ondrej Kudela has been used lately alongside Ondrej Celustka – a pairing that boasts less than 35 international caps.
Silhavy knows Czech Republic’s best chance of escaping Group D is likely to finish as one of the four best third-placed finishers. That could result in a last-16 clash with Belgium, which is where the Czech adventure at this Euros will likely finish.
West Ham United
West Ham United
Vladimír Darida (c)