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Czech Republic squad overview for Euro 2024: Look forward to pure football without the thrills

The Czech Republic has a new coach and Euro 2020 star Patrik Schick – but otherwise the firepower is poor. Expect extreme pragmatism…


The Managing Director

“The pressure was enormous. Sometimes I didn’t understand it myself.”

These were the words of Jaroslav Silhavy, who resigned as head coach of the Czech Republic in November following their successful qualification for the 2024 European Championship. He was replaced by the experienced 60-year-old Ivan Hasek, a former midfielder who captained Czechoslovakia to the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup.

At that tournament, Czechoslovakia beat the United States 5-1 in a match in which the American team was so humiliated that Hasek apparently deliberately missed a penalty in the 89th minute. “We regret the result,” he said after the final whistle.

Hasek has spent most of his coaching career outside the Czech Republic in the Middle East – which frustrated some in the country after he resigned as chairman of the Czech Football Association in 2011 when the team was in dire straits. Nevertheless, Hasek was seen as the natural choice after Silhavy resigned, having already taken over as emergency manager of the national team for four matches in 2009.


Former Lebanese national coach Ivan Hasek took over as Czech Republic coach in January (Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images)

He is not considered the most tactically innovative coach, but the Czech public appreciates his people skills and leadership qualities, while he usually delegates many details to his assistants Jaroslav Vesely and Jaroslav Kostl. He is also a trained lawyer.

Hasek is more pragmatic than ideological – although he usually favours a 5-3-2 formation, he has frequently set up his team in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation. Lacking creative flair, they will play conservatively and hope that Schick, who was joint top scorer at the last European Championships alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, takes his chances.

The well-known name on hold

Goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek spent two and a half years as a trainee at Everton but never made a first-team appearance. He has been impressive in the Czech top flight with Slavia Prague and will likely have his work cut out for him in this tournament.

The real star, however, is the city rivals' captain: Ladislav Krejci. At 25, the left-footed centre-back has led Sparta Prague to back-to-back league titles and a cup double this season. He is a real goal threat for a centre-back – he scored 24 goals in 60 games over two seasons – and he reads the game superbly, preferring to win the ball back through interceptions rather than rushing into tackles. From the penalty spot, he has converted all 12 of his recent attempts.

He is expected to have played his last game for Sparta before a proposed summer move to Girona, who finished third in La Liga. Also keep an eye on his 21-year-old club-mate Martin Vitik, who has the potential to develop in the same way and excels at dribbling out of defence.


Sparta Prague defender Ladislav Krejci is expected to be a key player for the Czech Republic (Michal Cizek /AFP via Getty Images)

Strengthen

At their best, the Czech Republic play like an international version of Brentford – they press high, storm forward with aggressive full-backs and are particularly dangerous from set pieces.

Schick, Krejci and Tomas Soucek of West Ham United are the main targets, but the performance level of Antonin Barak of Fiorentina and Vaclav Cerny of Wolfsburg is their real secret.

In international tournaments, the percentage of goals scored from set pieces is usually higher than in domestic leagues. Their famous 2-0 knockout win over the Netherlands at the last European Championship was inspired by a set piece that Schick finished off.

weaknesses

Although the Czechs are defensively solid and have a natural goalscorer in Schick, they lack creativity.

“We have been fighting this since 2006 – when Pavel Nedved retired!” jokes one supporter.

They are uncomfortable when they have to dominate possession, preferring to burst forward in transition. This has proved problematic in the past when they have fallen behind – no player in their squad is known for breaking through a deep block – although recent games against Armenia and Norway produced two surprise comeback victories characterised by goals from set pieces.

What you didn't know

The Czech Republic has an excellent record at European Championships, having qualified for every tournament since splitting from Slovakia in December 1992. In those seven tournaments, the team has reached the knockout stages four times, finishing second and third in 1996 and 2004 respectively.

This record is in contrast to their performance at the World Cup. They have only qualified once – for the 2006 tournament in Germany, where they failed to progress past the group stage.

This time, nerves are particularly high when it comes to the match against Turkey. Memories of Euro 2008 are still fresh, when the last remnants of their “golden generation” led 2-0 after 75 minutes in the group stage decider before conceding three late goals.

Patrik Schick, Czech Republic


Patrik Schick, center, will lead the line for the Czech Republic (Annika Byrde/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

Expectations back home

It is hoped that the Czech Republic will get through their group, but that is not an expectation. The Czech teams are not particularly talented. In 2004, however, they beat Germany in the group stage with a team that was heavily rotated.

However, with Georgia's group opponents ranked 75th in the world, the lowest of all the teams in the competition, a win would likely mean that they would only need one point against Turkey or Portugal to advance.

Schick has had two turbulent seasons with groin injuries and will need to get back to the form he showed last tournament if they are to make it to the knockout stages.

Only now is the attention turning to football after the Czech Republic won the Ice Hockey World Championship on home soil with a 2-0 victory over Switzerland in the final. The football team will be looking to ride that wave of national pride.

The Czech Republic squad for the 2024 European Championship

Goalkeeper: Jindrich Stanek (Slavia Prague), Matej Kovar (Bayer Leverkusen), Vitezslav Jaros (Sturm Graz).

Defender: Ladislav Krejci (Sparta Prague), Martin Vitik (Sparta Prague), Robin Hranac (Victoria Plzen), Tomas Vlcek (Slavia Prague), Vladimir Coufal (West Ham), David Doudera (Slavia Prague), David Jurasek (Hoffenheim), Tomas Holes (Slavia Prague), David Zima (Slavia Prague).

Midfield player: Tomas Soucek (West Ham), Antonin Barak (Fiorentina), Michal Sadilek (Twente), Lukas Provod (Slavia Prague), Pavel Sulc (Victoria Plzen), Matej Jurasek (Slavia Prague), Vaclav Cerny (Wolfsburg), Lukas Cerv (Victoria Plzen), Ondrej Lingr (Feyenoord).

Forward: Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen), Adam Hlozek (Bayer Leverkusen), Mojmir Chytil (Slavia Prague), Tomas Chory (Victoria Plzen), Jan Kuchta (Sparta Prague).

(Top photos: Getty Images; Design: Eamonn Dalton)