Difficult to see Czechs repeating heroics of ‘96
EURO 2020 GROUP D
TWENTY FIVE years have passed since the Czech Republic were finalists at Euro 96 and they are not considered among the main contenders this summer. The disappointment of missing out on the 2018 World Cup was soon followed by a 5-0 loss away to England at the start of Euro 2020 qualifying but the Czechs dusted themselves down and finished second to secure their place at the finals. The Czechs sealed qualification with a match to spare and showed how much they had improved when registering a deserved 2-1 success over England in Prague. And their strong finish to qualifying was backed up in the 2020 Nations League with first place in their group. Silhavy’s team won the section despite back-to-back losses to Scotland. However, the Czechs were forced to field an entirely second-string squad in the home fixture due to Covid withdrawals, and the away defeat was harsh after the Czechs had dominated possession and won the shot count 15 to five. They will hope for a better outcome when eading to Glasgow for heir Euro 2020 opener and would love to have a last-16 berth wrapped up before tackling England at Wembley on matchday three. If they are to excel it will have to be a team effort, although there could be moments of magic from Sampdoria’s enigmatic winger Jakub Jankto and Leverkusen centre-forward Patrik Schick, who top-scored for them in qualifying with four goals. The squad favours experience over youth but Sparta Prague teenager Adam Hlozek could add to his burgeoning reputation. The 18-year-old finished the domestic season with 11 goals – six of them in his last six appearances – and could be fast-tracked to the starting line up as a replacement for Lukas Provod, who misses the tournament through injury.