The Czech Republic will look to take inspiration from Slavia Prague’s run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League when they take on England, Scotland and Croatia in Group D.
Slavia defeated British opposition in Leicester and Rangers to reach the last-eight this season, where they were beaten by Arsenal, and the core of the Czech’s defensive unit is made up of those who represent the domestic champions - plus two of the Premier League’s most consistent performers from last term.
Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal played key roles in West Ham’s best-ever Premier League campaign, with the arrival of the pair from Slavia central to the side’s improvement under David Moyes.
Soucek will be given license to roam forward and arrive in goalscoring positions, just as he did so effectively for West Ham last season as he scored 10 goals in the Premier League, while Coufal reprises his role in a back four that will have to be tight if the Czechs are to advance. In front of them, Patrik Schick will be tasked with leading the line while captain Vladimir Darida provides the creative spark.
The Czech’s were in England’s Euro 2020 qualifying group and although they lost the away match at Wembley 5-0, they secured a 2-1 win over a full-strength England team in October 2019 to advance as runners up. They were also grouped with Scotland in the most recent Nations League campaign, in which they finished top of their group despite losing both games to Steve Clarke’s side.
Ondrej Kudela will miss the tournament after Uefa rejected the Slavia Prague defender’s appeal against a 10-match ban for racially abusing Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara in March. The Czech’s originally named 25 players in their Euros squad, leaving a place open for Kudela should his ban have been reduced, but Uefa upheld their original decision.
The Czech Republic have qualified for the last six European Championships, reaching the final of Euro 1996 and the semi-finals in 2004. They were eliminated from the group stage without a win in 2016.
Group D fixtures
All times BST
Sunday 13 June, 2pm: Scotland vs Czech Republic – Glasgow
Friday 18 June, 5pm: Croatia vs Czech Republic – Glasgow
Tuesday 22 June, 8pm: England vs Czech Republic – London
Goalkeepers: Aleš Mandous (Olomouc), Jiří Pavlenka (Werder Bremen), Tomáš Vaclík (Sevilla).
Defenders: Jan Bořil (Slavia Praha), Jakub Brabec (Viktoria Plzeň), Ondřej Čelůstka (Sparta Praha), Vladimír Coufal (West Ham), Pavel Kadeřábek (Hoffenheim), Tomáš Kalas (Bristol City), Tomáš Holeš (Slavia Praha), Aleš Matějů (Brescia), David Zima (Slavia Praha).
Midfielders: Antonín Barák (Verona), Vladimír Darida (Hertha Berlin), Jakub Jankto (Sampdoria), Alex Král (Spartak Moskva), Lukáš Masopust (Slavia Praha), Jakub Pešek (Sparta Praha), Michal Sadílek (Liberec), Petr Ševčík (Slavia Praha), Tomáš Souček (West Ham).
Forwards: Adam Hložek (Sparta Praha), Michael Krmenčík (PAOK), Tomáš Pekhart (Legia), Patrik Schick (Leverkusen), Matěj Vydra (Burnley).
Ones to watch
No Premier League midfielder had a higher non-penalty expected goal rate than Tomas Soucek last season, with the West Ham man ranking higher than Bruno Fernandes, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.
The 26-year-old’s goals from set-pieces and arriving late into the box were crucial to West Ham’s sixth-place finish in the Premier League, and the midfielder performs a similar role for his country, shielding the defence as part of a disciplined midfield pairing while also having the freedom to join in with attacks.
Soucek scored a hat-trick against Estonia earlier this season, and despite his deep positioning in the Czech Republic’s 4-2-3-1 formation, there is a case to say that no other player in the team will give his opponents as much concern as he does from open play.
Patrik Schick is a more traditional goal threat but the Bayer Leverkusen forward will be required to do a lot of work with his back to goal, as well as plenty of running into the channels for his side. The 25-year-old has scored 19 Bundesliga goals over the past two seasons but the opportunity to front the attack for his country at the Euros could lead to a breakthrough moment.
Odds to win tournament
The Czech Republic are 150/1 to win the Euros.
The Czech’s squad has improved considerably since the last European Championships in 2016, when they exited the tournament at the group stage without winning a match.
A lack of star power could be compensated by a strong and reliable defensive unit, and there should be plenty of chemistry and cohesion between those in the back four and the two sitting midfielders ahead of them.
This is a tough group, however, made harder by the fact that they must face Scotland at Hampden and England at Wembley over the group stage. While a draw in the opening match against Scotland wouldn’t be a bad result, it would leave them with plenty of work to do against Croatia and England to advance.
The Croatia match could be more open than their fixture against Scotland but a lack of firepower is set to cost them and defeat there would leave the Czechs at risk of an early elimination.
There’s a good chance England will have found their stride by the final matchday, and it should be a comfortable victory for Gareth Southgate’s side at Wembley.
Czech Republic to be eliminated from the group stage.
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