Czech Republic have qualified for the continental tournament for the seventh straight time, advanced to the top tier of the Nations League and started well in their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-1 draw against top-ranked FIFA team Belgium. (More football News)
With the memory of last time's early exit far behind, the Czech Republic is bringing a rebuilt team to this year's European Championship.
GROUP AND FIXTURES
Czech Republic start their campaign against Scotland at Glasgow on June 14, followed by Croatia on June 18 and final match wk be against England on June 22.
Among the three teams, Czech will be eying success against Scotland, and Croatia. If they finish second , which is the most likely scenario if England are not surprised then Czech face runners-up from Group E, which comprises Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovakia.
The future didn’t look bright for Czechs five years ago. The team finished last in its Euro 2016 group with only one point. They drew against Croatia and lost toSpain and Turkey. Following a dismal outing stars like goalkeeper Petr Cech and midfielder Tomas Rosicky and several other mainstay players retired. The team subsequently failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
In September 2018 Czech suffered a humiliating 5-1 loss to Russia in an international friendly and in an urgent remedial measure Jaroslav Silhavy was put in charge of the team.
A former player, Silhavy had been an assistant to coach Karel Bruckner from 2002-08 at a time when the Czechs were known for their free-flowing attacking soccer, helping the team reach the semifinals at Euro 2004.
Unlike Bruckner, Silhavy doesn’t have the stars of the past like Rosicky, Pavel Nedved or Karel Poborsky, but he still has players who can make a difference.
WHO TO WATCH
The core of his team is formed by former and current players from Slavia Prague, a team that just clinched its third straight Czech league title and has reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League twice in the last three years.
Two of them, midfielder Tomas Soucek and defender Vladimir Coufal — now teammates at West Ham in the Premier League — are key names on Silhavy’s squad along with another former Slavia midfielder, Alex Kral from Spartak Moscow.
But two other Slavia players, normally regular starters on the national team will miss the tournament for different reasons.
Midfielder Lukas Provod, who scored a goal to help Slavia Prague knock Leicester out of the Europa League at the King Power Stadium on Feb. 26 and scored another goal against Belgium on March 27, has a serious right knee injury.
Ondrej Kudela, meanwhile, is appealing against a 10-match ban for racially abusing a Black opponent in a Europa League match.
The Czechs begin their Euro 2020 campaign on June 14 against Scotland in Glasgow. It was in the same city that Kudela was found to have racially abused Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara on March 18.
Kudela acknowledged swearing at Kamara but denied using racist language.
The Czechs will also face Croatia in Glasgow in Group D before playing England at Wembley Stadium in London. They beat the English 2-1 in October 2019, the first loss for England in European or World Cup qualifying in 10 years.
Another Czech player to watch will be Adam Hlozek. The 18-year-old Sparta Prague forward became the youngest player to score a hat trick in the Czech league. In only 19 league games this season, Hlozek scored 15 goals and added seven assists. In the last match of the season, Hlozek scored four goals in the first half in a 6-1 rout of Brno before being substituted at halftime.
In 2016, then-Czech Republic coach Pavel Vrba didn’t take striker Patrik Schick to France because, at 20, he seemed to be too young and inexperienced. Silhavy is unlikely to make the same mistake in the case of Hlozek, who has drawn interest Liverpool, Leipzig, Dortmund and AC Milan. (With inputs from AP)
Goalkeepers: Ales Mandous, Jiri Pavlenka Tomas Vaclik
Defenders: Jan Boril, Jakub Brabec, Ondrej Celustka, Vladimir Coufal, Pavel Kaderabek, Tomas Kalas, Tomas Holes, Ales Mateju, David Zima
Midfielders: Antonin Barak Vladimir Darida, Jakub Jankto, Alex Kral, Lukas Masopust, Jakub Pesek, Michal Sadilek, Petr Sevcik, Tomas Soucek
Forwards: Adam Hlozek, Michael Krmencik, Tomas Pekhart, Patrik Schick, Matej Vydra.