For the first time in thirty-six years the biggest event in the FIFA calendar heads to South America. But whilst thirty-two nations from across the globe would eventually compete in Brazil, the Czech Republic would instead be watching from home as they failed to progress past the qualification stage despite a positive run in Euro 2012. As they say, it’s the hope that gets you.
Iceland’s actions in Group E ensured that the Czechs (or anybody in Group B) would be unable to progress into the playoffs if they were to finish second, but whilst the island nation may have technically put the final nail in the coffin, the home defeats to Denmark and Armenia marked the death blows to their hopes.
The unsuccessful attempt brought about the end of Michal Bilek’s tenure as the boss of the Czech Republic national team. After successive defeats, first at home to Armenia and then to Italy, Bilek was shown the door.
But given that a dark cloud descended over the course of the qualifying campaign, back in September of last year there were hearty back-slaps all around as a trip to Copenhagen wielded a very solid point against the more fancied Denmark. The performance, admittedly, left a lot a lot to be desired but the failings were overlooked as a side that stood toe-to-toe with Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands during their run at Euro 2012 were held comfortably at arms length for ninety minutes. A few days later, the optimism washed away as a tepid display in Teplice saw the Czech Republic fall to defeat against Finland. The knives were out again.
The following qualifiers in October wielded four points. Malta were easily dispatched 3-1 in a game that saw Tomáš Pekhart and Theo Gebre Selassie net their maiden international goals and then, sixty miles down the road, there was a second 0-0 scoreline in three games as Bulgaria successfully avoided defeat.
By the time that March’s fixture with Denmark came around, things were looking up. Successive victories over Slovakia and Turkey showcased not only that strong results could be obtained, but that the next generation of talent were knocking at the door and were beginning to push more established names out of the starting eleven. Sadly though in Olomouc, the scene of the Czechs comprehensive demolition of neighbours Slovakia, Denmark ran riot. Face, to some degree, was saved as Matej Vydra stole the show in Armenia, but the failure to take at least a point of the Danes came as a serious blow that with the wondrous use of hindsight we can ascertain was the death blow to the Czechs chances at making to Brazil in 2014.
But there could have been a different story. With Italy the visitors, the Czech Republic came to life at Letna and should have defeated the Euro 2012 finalists if not for outstanding display by Gianluigi Buffon who kept the collective force of the nation at bay. Optimism began to return and that feeling was compounded as Armenia shocked the world as they put four past Denmark in qualification. Second place, and a playoff berth, was not out of the question.
That hope however was brutally smashed as Armenia and then, more predictably, Italy handed the Czech Republic successive defeats. Armenia’s victory in Prague was a surprise coming into the contest, but once the whistle had blown at Eden there was no denying that the Caucasus country fully deserved to leave with the three points. Rosicky appeared to have saved a point, but a point would not have been good enough and in stoppage time Gevorg Ghazaryan ensured that Armenia left Prague with (metaphorically) the head of Michal Bilek – and a rather more literal three points to add to their impressive 2012-13 tally.
The remaining two games in the qualifiers were effectively dead-rubbers as only a mathematical miracle could see the nation enter the second-placed play-offs. Miracles, failed to happen. But with dreams of Brazil, beaches and the big time dashed, the Czech Republic under interim coach Josef Pesice pulled off successive victories to end the campaign on a high. As expected, Malta were turned over in an effective manner but a few days removed from a 4-1 victory at the Ta’Qali National Stadium Borek Dočkal scored a long-range effort that sunk Bulgaria. But given the story of the campaign, as you can imagine, it was too little too late.
With qualification gone, the focus of the FACR moved onto the next full-time manager of the Czech national side. Predictably, Josef Pesice was never really considered a permanent option; only one man was – Pavel Vrba.
World Cup Qualifying Results
08/09/2012 – Denmark 0-0 Czech Republic (Parken, Copenhagen)
12/10/2012 – Czech Republic 3-1 Malta (Doosan Arena, Plzen)
16/10/2012 – Czech Republic 0-0 Bulgaria (Generali Arena, Prague)
22/03/2013 – Czech Republic 0-3 Denmark (Andruv stadion, Olomouc)
26/03/2013 – Armenia 0-3 Czech Republic (Republic Stadium, Yerevan)
07/06/2013 – Czech Republic 0-0 Italy (Generali Arena, Prague)
06/09/2013 – Czech Republic 1-2 Armenia (Eden, Prague)
10/09/2013 – Italy 2-1 Czech Republic (Juventus Stadium, Turin)
11/10/2013 – Malta 1-4 Czech Republic (Ta’Qali National Stadium, Ta’Qali)
15/10/2013 – Bulgaria 0-1 Czech Republic (National Stadium, Sofia)
15/08/2012 – Ukraine 0-0 Czech Republic (Arena Lviv, Lviv)
11/09/2012 – Czech Republic 0-1 Finland (Na Stinadlech, Teplice)
14/11/2012 – Czech Republic 3-0 Slovakia (Andruv stadion, Olomouc)
06/02/2013 – Turkey 0-2 Czech Republic (19 Mayis Stadium, Manisa)
14/08/2013 – Hungary 1-1 Czech Republic (Ferenc Puskas Stadium, Budapest)
15/11/2013 – Czech Republic 2-0 Canada (Andruv stadion, Olomouc)
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 27th July 2013