EURO 2016 Draw: The Czech Republic and what they can expect.

2016 UEFA European Championship, France June 10, 2016 – July 10, 2016

The Czech Republic traditionally eat carp at Christmas but they were served up a huge portion of Turkey in the draw for the UEFA European Championships. Although the main course that will give Pavel Vrba something to chew on will be the prospect of meeting current European Champions Spain in Group D, while they were also given a side order of Croatia to deal with too.

But that’s enough of the food analogies, let’s get down to business and look at the chances of success for the Czech Republic next summer.

THE OPPOSITION:

Spain: The former world champions and current European champions need no introduction. They could become the first side to win the tournament for a third time and breezed through qualifying with nine wins out of ten. Although that solitary qualifying defeat was against the plucky Slovaks so maybe it’s a sign the Czechs can also gate crash the Spanish party?

The Spanish have a wealth of midfield talent with David Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta set to bamboozle their Czech counterparts but there is a question mark at both ends of the pitch. Will David De Gea be trusted with the no 1 shirt from Iker Casillas, meanwhile Diego Costa is doing his best impression of a non-league player when pulling on the red of La Roja.

The Czech Republic could also benefit by playing the notorious slow starters in the opening game in Group D. Spain haven’t won an opening match in major tournaments since 2008 and were humbled 5-1 against the Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup.

It’s an extremely difficult opening fixture but the Czechs have a fighting chance of a positive result.

Croatia: It’s a popular destination for Czech tourists and could become even more so if they manage to take three points from this match. But Croatia are no pushovers and boost two of la liga’s finest midfield players in the shape of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. Meanwhile, they can call upon the services of the man mountain Mario Manzdukic upfront to deliver the goals.

But it’s never plain sailing for the Croatian national team and the fans did their best to sabotage the qualifying campaign. Their match against Italy was suspended due to crowd trouble while the return visit to Croatia ended in controversy that saw the Croats docked a point after their fans cut a swastika into the grass.

Meanwhile, they struggled to a 0-0 draw with Azerbaijan and lost against Norway. So they do have tendencies to perform well below their best; however, on the flip side they have the talent to cause some real damage in this group and the Czech Republic need to avoid defeat as a bare minimum when they met with Croatia.

Turkey: Not again. It would have been nice if the Czechs would have avoided the Turks at next summer’s European Championships. Having qualified in the same group together (and met at Euro 2008) Pavel Vrba must be worried that the Turkish coach is going to turn up at his favourite restaurant!

And this matchup could prove decisive for both sides chances of making the knockout stages. Generally, the head to head record has been kind to the Czech Republic with a 5-1-3 record. And not much should be read into the fact that Turkey won on their last visit to the Czech capital as Vrba’s side had already qualified for France.

Perhaps what’s more concerning for the Czechs is the momentum and confidence the Turkish side has heading into next summer’s finals. They qualified with three consecutive wins against Netherlands, Czech Republic and Iceland without conceding and their talisman Arda Turan and Hakan Calhanoglu are arguably better players than any of this current Czech squad.


CZECH REPUBLIC STRENGTHS:

Quite simply it’s their coach Pavel Vrba and goalkeeper Petr Cech. Vrba has very little in terms of star quality to call upon, especially when benchmarked against the likes of Spain, Croatia and perhaps even Turkey. So all credit must be given to Vrba for giving the side the belief and resilience to not only qualify for the tournament but to win the group.

Their 3-2 victory in Amsterdam was a master class in tactics from Vrba as his side played the game with 10 men for over 45 minutes against a Holland side in desperate need of points. He had the Midas touch with Viktoria Plzen and he is earning the same reputation with the national team.

Meanwhile, Petr Cech is enjoying one of his best seasons in recent years in an Arsenal shirt. The 33 year-old Czech stopper has looked revitalised by his move to North London and his experience will prove vital next summer.


CZECH REPUBLIC WEAKNESSES:

Despite having one of the world’s best goal keepers, the Czech Republic have failed to keep a clean sheet in over two years. And that was against Canada! So while Petr Cech remains one of their biggest assets, it’s the defence that sits in front of him that’s a worry.

The only shining light is Pavel Kaderabek; but his best work is going forward and his marauding runs from right back highlights the inefficiencies of his defensive partners. Vaclav Prochazka and Marek Suchy look unsure at the heart of the defence and that will have the likes of Mandzukic, Costa and Turan rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of terrorizing them next summer.

Meanwhile, the lack of a real out and out goal scorer at the top level is a worry. Milan Skoda, David Lafata and Tomas Necid are fine players on their day bit lack any real pedigree at the top level. Vrba will really need to earn his money if the Czechs are to make an impact in France.

Group D Schedule:
13 June 2016 3pm – Czech Republic v Spain
17 June 2016 6pm – Czech Republic v Croatia
21 June 2016 9pm – Czech Republic v Turkey

UEFA EURO 2016 - France

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