Featuring at the Euros for the fifth time in succession, Czech Republic is one of the dark horses at the 2012 UEFA European Championship. Gone are the days of the legendary Pavel Nedved, but the Czechs seem to have found what many call ‘the perfect replacement’ in Arsenal playmaker Tomas Rosicky. With a former player at the helm as manager and coach of the current team, the Nároďák will be looking to Michal Bilek to make amends for their poor showing at the previous edition of the prestigious competition.
The qualifying campaign was full of ups and downs for the Czechs, in a group that included the reigning European and World Champions – Spain and a fiery Scottish army, among others. Managing just 13 points out of a potential 24, the team finished a comprehensive nine points behind group leaders Spain. Going through the tedium of the play-offs, they successfully brushed aside Montenegro by a 3-0 margin on aggregate and cemented their spot in the tournament this summer.
Tomas Rosicky might be the main man, but Bilek’s men are not short of experience and quality. Wolfsburf-based duo Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar are known to run rings around defenders on the flanks, and the vastly experienced Jaroslav Plasil will offer solid protection to the back four, while accomplishing his attacking duties from midfield. Rosicky will have to step up his game and display the creative genius that once attracted attention from Europe’s elite clubs.
Fresh from his Champions League triumph with Chelsea, Petr Cech will offer a safe pair of hands in goal, despite concerns of a rather shaky defence. While they possess a decent midfield, the Czechs will look to the veteran Turkish-based Galatasaray striker Milan Baros for goals, with Tomas Necid providing an extra option, should Bilek choose to field two out and out strikers. If the players deliver, the Czechs can surely make it past the group stages, but further progress in the competition seems to be highly unlikely due to the vast array of talents that other nations boast at the Championship.
Whether one of Czechoslovakia’s favourite sons will rekindle the romance of the cup or not, only time will tell.