Finalists in 1996, semi-finalists in 2004 and quarter-finalists last time around in 2012. The Czech Republic have made a habit of reaching the latter stages of the European Championships since their sporting creation in the early 1990s.
Chris Boothroyd profiles the twenty-three names that make up the 2016 vintage:
Petr Cech (Arsenal) | The long-standing Czech number one heads into Euro 2016 after a mixed Premier League season. A hugely important figure, both on-and-off the pitch. Believed to be considering his international future, so Euro 2016 could well be his final hurrah.
Tomas Koubek (Slovan Liberec) | One of the very best goalkeepers in the Czech league and will likely be Sparta Prague’s first-choice next season.
Tomas Vaclik (Basel) | A very capable understudy who, so far, has seen limited action for the national team. Has won back-to-back league titles with Basel.
Theo Gebre Selassie (Werder Bremen) | The Bundesliga regular is likely to play backup, which showcases just how strong the Czech Republic is at right-back.
Roman Hubnik (Viktoria Plzen) | A rather strange season culminates with a welcome and overdue return to the national team, four years after his last appearance. Will act as cover.
Pavel Kaderabek (Hoffenheim) | The bombastic right-back burst onto the scene during last year’s U21 Championships. Energetic, pacy and a viable threat going forwards – everything a modern full-back should be.
Michal Kadlec (Fenerbahce) | Formerly a left-back but now very much a left-sided centre-back. Will probably start against Spain but is unlikely to remain in the first eleven when Suchy returns from suspension. Set to return to Sparta next season after falling out of favour at the Turkish champions over the past couple of seasons.
Daniel Pudil (Sheffield Wednesday) | Missed out on a place at Euro 2012 thanks to the questionable fitness of Tomas Rosicky and will hope he isn’t the sacrificial lamb for a second successive tournament. He has had a very impressive season at promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday, though.
Tomas Sivok (Bursaspor) | A near ever-present figure in the heart of a rather leaky Bursaspor defence. At thirty-two he’s the elder statesman of the group and will – you would imagine – have to lead by example this summer.
Marek Suchy (Basel) | After an up-and-down spell at Spartak Moscow, Suchy has found his feet at Basel and has grown into his country’s top centre-back. Still liable to an error of judgement, though. Thanks to a rather needlessly acquired red card in the final game of qualification against the Netherlands, he’ll miss the Czech’s opening tie against Spain
Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin) | Rose through the ranks at Plzen in double-quick time to work his way into the Euro 2012 squad as a fresh-faced twenty-one year-old, Darida, now twenty-five, has three years of Bundesliga experience under his belt and is a ridiculously important figure for both club and country. He’s the lungs of this side.
Borek Dockal (Sparta Prague) | The current Synot Liga Player of the Season scored thirteen goals for Sparta in all competitions and registered sixteen assists and has been Pavel Vrba’s creator-in-chief throughout qualifying, yet everything seems to rest on the form and fitness of Tomas Rosicky. If the Arsenal man is given the all clear, Dockal, originally a right-winger, might find be stationed out wide.
Daniel Kolar (Viktoria Plzen) | A reliable fixture for the national team for the past four years, Kolar, while very good domestically, has failed to really make the grade at international level. Undoubtedly a technically proficient and clever footballer and a favourite of Vrba, he’s likely to act as cover for Rosicky and Dockal.
Ladislav Krejci (Sparta Prague) | Krejci enters the Euros on the back of a brilliant, almost coming-of-age campaign at Sparta. Back to his best after a disappointing 2014-15, the wiry Sparta winger will likely draw interest from scouts, pundits and opposing fullbacks over the next few months. Is he finally going to do enough to earn that big money move?
David Pavelka (Kasimpasa) | Six months ago he was guaranteed to start alongside Vladimir Darida, now we’re not so sure. Only recently returned from injury and has endured a tricky spell in Istanbul since swapping Liberec for Kasimpasa over the winter. A gutsy and slightly cynical player who is also capable of moments of magic (as Sevilla fans might well remember).
Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux) | A very experienced head in what is otherwise a relatively inexperienced midfield. The Bordeaux man is seemingly getting better with age too and has reinvented himself within the national team under Pavel Vrba and could be the man for the big games. Has made twenty-seven appearances for Bordeaux in Ligue 1 this season.
Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal) | Hasn’t played a single minute for Arsenal in the Premier League and yet here he is. Is the Little Mozart still there or has his body rendered the magician tone deaf?
Jiri Skalak (Brighton) | Depending on what Czech newspaper you subscribe to, Skalak was the highest rated player in the Czech Republic last season, which is a considerable feat considering he that he left Mlada Boleslav for Brighton in January. He has been eased into life on the south coast carefully by Chris Houghton, but six assists and two goals since his move suggest that he’s going to be a roaring success. Can play anywhere in attacking midfield and may be used as an impact sub if Rosicky is fit.
Josef Sural (Sparta Prague) | Capable of playing on either wing or up front, Sural has made a habit of producing big moments at crucial times. However, he did miss the final weeks of the season after picking up an ankle injury against Bohemians 1905.
David Lafata (Sparta Prague) | The all-time top scorer in the Czech top flight and the Synot Liga’s Golden Boot winner for five of the past six years, Lafata is an amazing talent at club level but has failed to transfer his predatory performances to the international stage. Did score all of Sparta’s goal in their final game of the season, a 5-0 hammering of Jihlava. He is the one in form…
Tomas Necid (Bursaspor) | The most complete forward of the five named by Vrba, Necid finished the season as Bursapspor’s leading scorer with eleven goals. However, he also ended the season second choice to Deniz Yilmaz and has failed to score in the league since February. That said, he is the most complete Czech forward around and he is the sensible choice to start up top.
Milan Skoda (Slavia Prague) | Originally, Skoda was a very mediocre forward before being converted into a mediocre centre-back. Then something happened and he started scoring for fun. A bruising, battering ram of a forward who has been performing miracles for the past two years, he bailed Pavel Vrba out with a game-winning brace against Kazakhstan in the qualifiers. An imposing, if slightly route one, Plan B.
Staying at home
Jan Kovarik (Viktoria Plzen) | One of two uncapped players in the preliminary squad. The underrated Plzen winger has enjoyed an excellent season but will will sit at home on standby, should Ladislav Krejci pull up injured prior to the start of the tournament.
Lukas Marecek (Sparta Prague) | Sparta’s Mr Reliable. Like Hubnik, Marecek has made a welcome return to the national team after years in the wilderness. He’s unlikely to win the hearts of those obsessed with six-second loops but he’s exactly the kind of hard-working and tactically intelligent player a squad needs. Should be disappointed to be on the standby list.
Patrik Schick (Bohemians 1905) | A previously uncapped youngster fast-tracked into the senior international side ahead of a major tournament. Sound familiar? Sadly Schick, unlike Rashford, hasn’t been given the go-ahead to travel to France, but his inclusion in the wider Czech squad is a just reward for a pretty phenomenal twelve months. A favourite of this website and (according to the press) a favourite of Roma’s scouting team.
Matej Vydra (Reading) | After tearing the Championship up for Watford, his three-goal haul for Reading this year must surely go down as a disappointment and is likely to have played a part in his almost immediate exclusion from the original 28-man long list.
Ondrej Zahustel (Sparta Prague) | Pavel Kaderabek’s long-term replacement at Sparta scored on his international debut against Serbia last year and has recently been converted from being a right-winger to a right-back.
Any glaring omissions?
The all-action Martin Frydek evidently hasn’t been cleared yet after suffering a concussion at the start of the month. If he had been given the thumbs up, he would be in the squad and a good bet to partner Vladimir Darida against Spain.
After being a mainstay of the qualification process Lukas Vacha will likely feel he has been wrongly overlooked, though it is worth pointing out his form has been erratic since returning from injury earlier this year. Kamil Vacek can too feel hard-pressed to miss out, something which Pavel Vrba referenced in his press conference.
Also, there is a strong argument to be made that one of Jakub Brabec or Jan Baranek would be better fit being the fourth choice centre-back than Roman Hubnik, given that they look to be the future.
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 20th May 2016