The Czech Republic are gearing up for another European Championship appearance. This time around, they find themselves with another solid squad, and plenty of reasons to be excited about the upcoming tournament. If all goes well they should find themselves in the knockout rounds.
Czech Republic Euro 2016 Preview
How They Qualified
It was a very impressive qualifying campaign for the Czech’s. Winning Group A over the Netherlands, Turkey, and Iceland. The win of the group showed that the team is capable of winning matches, and playing consistently when it counts.
During qualification they started out very well, winning their first four matches. In the remaining six matches they won three games, drew two and lost one, including a win over the Netherlands that secured their spot atop the group on the final day.
Borek Dockal of Sparta Praha was the leading goal scorer for the Czech’s in qualifying, with four goals in nine appearances. Behind him were Milan Skoda, Vaclav Pilar, and Pavel Kaderabek who each found the net twice.
The one big negative of the qualifying campaign was the number of goals let in. With a total of 14 goals conceded, the Czechs had the worst goal difference of all the group winners.
Undoubtedly the most well known Czech player is Petr Cech. The Arsenal goalkeeper will be a key player especially if the team qualifies for the next round. He will most likely be tested in the opening match as well, when the team faces Spain. The back up goalkeeper will be Tomas Vaclik.
Defensively, the Czechs have a well-drilled unit. The two centre-backs Michal Kadlec and Tomas Sivok should see plenty of playing time throughout the tournament. Right-back Pavel Kaderabek will offer an attacking option from his defensive position; the 24-year-old had two goals and two assists in qualifying.
In the midfield the key player will be Dockal. He proved to be an instrumental part of the squad after leading the team in goals in qualifying. Veteran Tomas Rosicky is a big question mark for this tournament. He saw very little playing time at Arsenal this season, and some think this will continue into the tournament. However, he could very well still produce some quality for the Czechs, if given the chance.
Up top, it has been up in the air on who will start. There are three strikers from whom manager Pavel Vrba can choose from.
The first player who may get the start is Skoda. He made an impression in qualifying, and also netted 14 goals for his club Slavia Prague this season. The next option is David Lafata. The veteran had a fantastic season in the Czech domestic league scoring 20 goals. Finally there is Tomas Necid. He was the go-to man in the final games in qualifying, and he recently scored the winner against Russia in a friendly match. So, it would appear he is the best bet to start.
Cech; Kaderabek, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky; Plasil, Pavelka; Dockal, Rosicky, Krejci; Necid
Recent Friendly Matches
The Czechs had three friendly matches in preparation for the Euros. In the first match, they comfortably defeated Malta, by a final score of 6-0 thanks to goals from six different players. It was also a special night for Cech who became the most capped Czech player.
In the next match they faced tougher opposition in the game against Russia. The Russians took the lead early on thanks to Aleksander Kokorin, and they held their lead till the end of the 1st half. The equalizer was found by Rosicky just a few minutes into the 2nd half, set up by Necid. The provider would turn into the hero in the 90th minute, when he grabbed a last minute winner.
In their most recent match they fell to a 2-1 defeat against South Korea. The first half was dismal defensively as they allowed two goals in the span of 15 minutes. Marek Suchy scored the lone Czech goal after coming off the bench. It was definitely not the performance the side wanted heading into a major competition.
The round of 16 is a realistic finish for the Czech Republic. They should be able to get out of the group, but it won’t be easy. With Spain and Croatia both in the group, it should be closely contested between these three teams. Turkey should not be overlooked either: the Czech Republic fell to Turkey in the last meeting between the two in the qualifiers.
The two key matches are Croatia and Turkey, which are likely to decide the fate of the Czechs. If they can take four points from those two matches, they should advance. A surprise result against Spain in the opening match would be a huge step toward the knockout stages.
Monday, June 13th
Spain vs. Czech Republic 3:00 (CET)
Friday, June 17th
Czech Republic vs. Croatia 6:00 (CET)
Tuesday, June 21st
Czech Republic vs. Turkey 9:00 (CET)
Games are in Central European Time (CET)