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The Czech Republic face England, Scotland and Croatia in Group D
The Czech Republic face England, Scotland and Croatia in Group D

The Czech Republic's only appearance in the final of an international tournament came at Wembley in 1996 — and they will be hoping for a repeat at Euro 2020 with the showpiece set for the same venue.

Having been placed in a tough Group D containing two of the final four at the 2018 World Cup in England and Croatia, along with improving Scotland, it would be some achievement if they could replicate that run.

Background

Although they only gained independence in the mid-90s, the Czech Republic have a respectable recent European Championship history.

They finished third in Portugal in 2004 and reached the quarter-finals in the 2012 edition hosted by Ukraine and Poland.

But the Czechs exited at the group stage in disappointing fashion back in 2016 — something they will be desperate to put right five years on.

Though the European know-how of former stars Milan Baros, Vladimir Smicer and Pavel Nedved perhaps is not as strong in the current crop, there is no doubt they are capable of ruffling a few feathers.

How they qualified

Although they had to settle for being second best in Group A behind England, qualification for the tournament was relatively straightforward for the Czechs.

In a group that also contained Bulgaria, Kosovo and Montenegro, they won five of their eight qualifiers — including a 2-1 success against England in Prague — and suffered just three defeats.

One of those came against Bulgaria in the final round of games after they had already qualified.

The line-up

Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick should lead the line
Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick should lead the line

Under coach Jaroslav Silhavy, the Czech Republic almost always line up in the same 4-2-3-1 formation.

Their playing style tends to fluctuate based on the strengths and ability of the opposition. In games where they expect to be the stronger side, they try to get the ball down and control play.

But against superior opposition, they take a much more pragmatic approach — dropping into a deeper block, restricting space inside their own half and looking to score on the counter.

Although the side lacks standout superstars, they boast a number of decent performers, including West Ham duo Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal.

It is also likely they will have impressive Bayer Leverkusen targetman Patrik Schick leading the line.

Predicted line-up: Vaclik; Coufal, Kaderabek, Kalas, Mateju; Holes, Soucek; Masopust, Darida, Jankto; Schick.

Star man: Tomas Soucek

Soucek impressed West Ham officials enough to turn his loan move into a permanent one last summer.

Yet even the Hammers would not have anticipated he would go on to be one of the Premier League’s most effective players in 2020-21, scoring 10 times in a campaign resulting in Europa League qualification.

The 26-year-old is an asset with and without the ball and his ability in the air gives him an extra edge.

Tomas Souckek netted 10 goals for West Ham in 2020-21
Tomas Souckek netted 10 goals for West Ham in 2020-21

Soucek contested more aerial duels (11.03 per 90 minutes) than any other midfielder across Europe’s top five leagues in 2020-21.

Only four players recorded more headed attempts in the Premier League than his 24 — and they were all strikers.

The Czech Republic have averaged a rather high 21.3 crosses per 90 minutes across the last 12 months in their fixtures.

But with players such as Soucek driving into the box to latch onto those crosses, it is understandable.

Up-and-comer: Michal Sadilek

It was a late call-up for Michal Sadilek, who was named in the squad after UEFA upheld a 10-game ban for defender Ondrej Kudela for racially abusing an opponent.

The midfielder, 22, also played in the Under-21 Euros earlier this year, making him the only Czech player set to participate in both major championships.

An energetic and multifaceted midfielder, Sadilek can seemingly do it all.

He boasted a defensive duel success rate of 63% in 2020-21 but also weighed in with six goals and three assists.

Capable of contributing both in and out of possession, it should come as no surprise that he was used as a box-to-box general, attacking midfielder and even centre forward on occasion for Slovan Liberec last season.

That versatility could prove extremely useful for his team at Euro 2020.

The boss: Jaroslav Silhavy

Having spent the bulk of his managerial career almost exclusively with different clubs across the Czech Republic, it was inevitable Silhavy would one day eventually go on to take over the national side.

He did so in September 2018 after they failed to qualify for the World Cup.

And although his CV boasts a league title success as Slavia Prague manager, taking this Czech side into the latter stages of Euro 2020 would likely prove to be his finest managerial achievement to date.

All information correct as of midday, June 3, 2021

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