It took not one, but two moments of sublime quality to silence Hampden. In the void, standing on the halfway line, Patrik Schick held his arms aloft. After years of promise, was this the moment he finally arrived?
The Czech Republic forward’s brace earned his country a 2-0 win over Scotland, with his magnificent 50-yard stunner earning its place amongst some of the all-time great major tournament goals. It may have already ended the debate on the goal of these Euros.
The 25-year-old’s opener was more conventional, but it remained a moment of true attacking quality; a towering header across goal that was perfectly placed into the bottom corner.
Schick’s double means he has now scored eight goals for the Czech Republic in his last 11 international appearances - an impressive, and necessary, return for a country that has looked a little short of attacking quality in recent years.
He is the undisputed leader of the front line for Vladimir Petkovic’s side, a role he performed to perfection in the Czech Republic’s opening match of Group D, but, strangely, he has rarely been able to hold down such a position at club level so far in his career.
Indeed, Schick's journey has been a curious one. After breaking onto the scene with Sampdoria in 2016, Roma shelled out over £37 million to make Schick their record signing, eclipsing the fee the club paid for Gabriel Batistuta.
It was the sort of signing that suggested the Serie A side believed they had found their star striker for years to come - but just five league goals over the next two seasons ensured those plans were firmly shelved.
A loan spell at Red Bull Leipzig, in which he was deployed in a similar wide-forward role but managed to score 10 Bundesliga goals, convinced Bayer Leverkusen to make their move. He has been fielded more centrally there, but even a season of nine league goals hardly suggested that he would be a key goalscoring threat at the Euros.
A reason for those often disappointing returns has been Schick’s versatility. Some of the forward’s best qualities, such as his pace, mobility, and dribbling, have led to him being shunted out wide at club level. But on the international scene, it is a skillset that is valued highly by the Czechs.
Following Scotland’s fast start at Hampden, he helped Petkovic’s side grow into the game. He was able to hold the ball up and bring others into play, while also spinning into the channels for passes in behind.
In the first half, he tested Marshall with a smart first-time shot that the Scotland goalkeeper had to turn behind at his near post. It was a crisp strike with his left foot, another powerful tool at the striker’s disposal, but with his opening goal it was his aerial prowess that was on display.
His header across goal to open the scoring was perfectly placed into the bottom corner. At over six foot tall, the leap of his jump was too much for Scotland defender Grant Hanley, but it was also the power and direction of the header that Marshall could do nothing about.
Of course, it was simply a prelude for what was to come. It’s incredible what a shot of confidence can do for a striker, and when Schick looked up during the second half and saw Marshall off his line, there was only one thing on his mind.
He has all the skills and qualities of a complete, all-round, modern No 9 - and now he has his moment. Will he make it last?
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