Euro 2012 Preview: Czech Republic
The Nároďák have historically enjoyed relative success at the European Championships. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1992, the Czech’s first international tournament was Euro 96, and they took Europe by storm, only losing the final to Germany to a Oliver Bierhoff golden goal winner. They also reached the semis in Euro 2004 and finished in third place. They have qualified for every Euros since their inception, although in 2008 they went out in the group stages. This time, they certainly will be hoping to go one step further.
How Did They Qualify?
I may fail to remain professional here. The Czech finished Group I in second place just two points ahead of Scotland and several points behind Spain, who were always going to run away with top spot in the group. The campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a shocking loss at home to Lithuania. They got back in the running with a 1-0 home victory against Scotland when Craig Levein gave his infamous 4-6-0 formation its début. Tit. Their next three games went to plan, with two comforable victories over group whipping boys Liechtenstein sandwiching one of the expected losses to Spain.
Then, Hampden Park. Scotland were cheated when Jan Rezek dived in the box under pressure from Danny Wilson, and Michael Kadlec fired the resulting penalty home to grab an undeserved draw and insert the Czech Republic into pole position for the playoff spot. Spain then grabbed another three points and the next game’s 4-1 hammering of Lithuania sealed the spot.
The Czechs then went on to win home and away against Montenegro to go through to Group A in Polkraine.
Michal Bílek is a former internationalist (appearing 35 times, 32 for Czechoslovakia) and took charge of the team in 2009. The 47 year old played for Sparta Prague four times over a period of 18 years in between spells at RH Cheb, Real Betis, and Viktoria Žižkov before retiring in 2000 with FK Teplice.
He started his managerial career with Teplice and apart from a small spell with Club Sport Cartaginés Deportiva S.A. in Costa Rica, has spent his entire managerial career in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Euro 2012 qualification stages were Michal’s first full stint as the manager and has had some good results as manager. Bílek’s contract is up at the end of the tournament but will surely have earned an extension to it.
Petr Čech – 30 – Goalkeeper
The undoubted #1 for his country and one of the best goalkeepers in Europe if not THE best, and finally consistently hitting the form he used to regularly show before his horrific skull fracture in 2006 which almost cost Petr his life. Petr was one of the main reasons Chelsea won the Champions League and with his 89 caps, he is the most capped player in the squad.
With his undoubted talent and experience and now starting to hit his peak, the Czechs will be comfortable knowing their star man is between the sticks for the championships.
Tomáš Rosický - 31 – Midfielder
Tomáš has never quite lived up to the early promise he showed at Sparta Prague which caused Borussia Dortmund to splash out €14.5 million for his talents, a Bundesliga record at the time. “The Little Mozart” was linked to moves to the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea before moving to Arsenal in 2006. A string of injuries, particularly over a 18 month period from 2008 to September 2009, curtailed his form and he struggled to get a consistent run in the team until this season, keeping Aaron Ramsey out of the team.
Despite this, when Rosický is fit and on form, he can destroy any defence with his passing range and his mazy runs, and his opponents must keep an close eye on him or they’ll regret it.
Milan Baroš – 30 – Striker
It feels like he’s been around forever, but the Galatasaray striker still has plenty left in the tank! With a record of 41 goals in 88 games for his country as well as winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2004, he’s clearly a danger at international level.
He has scored goals wherever he has played but has really found his touch at the Turkish giants, with a record of just over one goal every two games. Milan only needs half a chance and he’ll bang the ball home.
I haven’t really got a clue if I’m being honest. I would imagine it will be something like:
Gebre Selassie Kadlec Sivok R.Hubnik
Rezek Hübschman Rosický Plasil
How Far Can They Go?
Not very. Despite a lot of people suggesting otherwise (including most of our writers) I think Group A is a cut and dried affair. I expect Russia to go through with Poland, who will ride through on a wave of sensational national support. The Poland vs Czech Republic match will determine who goes through with Russia in my opinion, and even if the Czechs do qualify, I can’t see them getting a result against any team in Group B.
Quarter finals at the very most, but I expect the Czechs to leave the tournament at the group stages.