Euro 2016: A guide to the Czech Republic’s chances of success
European Championship kicks off this coming weekend in France
Czech fans, however, will have to wait until Monday 13 June until their campaign begins against the current double European champions Spain. It’s a mouth watering yet daunting proposition for Pavel Vrba and the Czech Republic side but it could yet prove to be the perfect opening match.
The team lacks the star quality of the famous sides from the late nineties when they were a golden goal away from lifting the trophy against Germany at Wembley in 1996 but this current crop of Czech players has it’s own strengths to harness.
The coach, Pavel Vrba, has a strong reputation for producing results when it matters. He lifted Viktoria Plzen from the lower reaches of the Czech league to champions and playing Champions League football against Barcelona and AC Milan. Meanwhile, with the national side, he won the qualification group containing Holland, Turkey and Iceland.
So Vrba is no stranger to success and will be quietly confident of advancing to the knockout stages of this summer’s tournament despite being drawn alongside Spain, Croatia and Turkey in Group D.
The Czech Republic have blooded plenty of youth over the last few years but nevertheless they will still be relying on the experienced heads of Tomas Rosicky and Petr Cech to steer them through choppy waters of the group stages. And, if recent friendly matches are an indicator, we could be set for a roller coaster ride during the next few weeks.
Tomas Rosicky showed his class in the recent 2-1 win over Russia with a wonderful first time half volley to draw his side level but he followed that up with an horrific back pass that contributed to the defeat against South Korea in their final preparation game.
There is a feeling of Jekyll and Hyde tendencies with this current Czech Republic side – they could blow the opposition away on any given day and likewise they could get stage fright and serve up a horror show. Their lack of consistency is only matched by ability to shock their opponent when they least expect it.
No body expected the Czech Republic to beat Holland during qualification but they collected six points from the Dutch. However, on the other side of the coin, they failed to beat Latvia, slumped to a limp home defeat to Turkey and have only kept one clean sheet under since Pavel Vrba took the reins two and a half years ago.
But they seem to have a plan. And playing the role of the underdog suits this side better than trying to unpick the defence of a side who are willing to sit back defend for 90 minutes. That’s why the Czech fans should be approaching their Group D opener against Spain with cautious optimism.
Euro 2016: Who are the Favourites for Glory?
Hosts France will be looking to justify their favourites tag when the action gets underway on Friday and they have plenty in their favour. Not only can they rely on a vociferous home support, but their path to knockout stages looks assured after drawing Romania, Switzerland and Albania in a very winnable Group A.
They can also count upon one of the most talented squads in international football with Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Hugo Lloris set to have big tournaments. Les Bleus can also afford the luxury of leaving Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema out of the squad although Didier Deschamps could be left to rue the decision if Olivier Giroud fails to bring his scoring boots.
Elsewhere, the usual suspects of Germany and Spain will be there or thereabouts at the business end of the tournaments. But both sides have their problems.
Germany have lost an aura about them since winning the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. They have been beaten in four of their last seven matches; which included defeats against Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland. But only a fool would write off the Germans; few things are certain in life but Germany winning a penalty shootout in an international tournament is one of them.
Spain are looking to win their THIRD consecutive European Championships but the laws of averages must surely be against that? They have the experience and know how to get the job done but Vincent Del Bosque knows his side is in somewhat of a transition stage and they lack a true world-class striker.
Belgium, England, Portugal, and Italy can all stake a claim for success in France this summer but they all have their obvious flaws. Belgium flatter to deceive despite being ranked the world’s best team according to official FIFA rankings.
Portugal are reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo dragging them to victory while England have the usual problem of not being very good when it comes to the crunch and Italy, well, their coach Antonio Conte has underplayed their chances of success and looks more concerned with his new job at Chelsea starting next season.
Dark Horses Plotting European Success
Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004 proved that outsiders CAN win this tournament and this will give hope to the likes of Austria, Poland, Slovakia and even Northern Ireland.
Austria, though, look the best of the outsiders in the tournament with a strong qualification campaign behind them when they finished eight points clear of second placed Russia conceding just five goals in 900 minutes of football. They’ve also avoided any of the European elite in Group F with Portugal their toughest test on paper.
Slovakia are also in with a shout of upsetting the apple cart this summer. They have a strong team ethic and shocked the likes of Spain and Germany over the last 18 months – although, much like their Czech neighbours, they also prone to lapses in concentration and could find themselves eliminated at the first hurdle – which is a strong possibility considering they have England, Wales and Russia in their group.
Euro 2016 Games to Watch
The kick-off times for the group stage matches are staggered throughout the day with the first match kicking off at 15:00 – which could mean some unproductive time in the office of a late lunch break! But the second and third games of the game kick off at a more reasonable time of 18:00 and 21:00 CET respectively.
Below are the dates and times of the Czech Republic and Slovakia matches. You can visit www.uefa.com/uefaeuro for the full schedule of matches and kick off times.
Czech Republic Group D Schedule
Monday 13 June 15:00 CET: Czech Republic v Spain
Friday 17 June 18:00 CET: Czech Republic v Croatia
Tuesday 21 June 21:00 CET: Czech Republic v Turkey
Slovakia Group B Schedule
Saturday 11 June 18:00 CET: Slovakia v Wales
Wednesday 15 June 15:00 CET: Slovakia v Russia
Monday 20 June 21:00 CET: Slovakia v England
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