Team Profile: Czechoslovakia won the tournament back in 1976, but since then the Czech Republic has only come close again on two occasions – at Euro 1996, when the team reached the final but fell at the last hurdle thanks to a golden goal strike from Germany’s Oliver Bierhoff, and in 2004, when they were beaten by unlikely winners Greece in the semis after impressive victories over Germany and the Netherlands. Since then, the likes of Pavel Nedved, Patrik Berger and Karel Poborsky have all retired, and the nation has struggled to find replacement stars. A few big names do spring to mind – goalkeeper Petr Cech and captain Tomáš Rosický – and the team did well to secure qualification in the play-offs, but you’d be brave to put your money on this lot winning.
Coach: Michal Bilek
At club level, midfielder Bilek was mainly associated with Sparta Prague, having both played for and managed the team, winning the Czech league in his first season in charge. He gained 35 international caps, first with Czechoslovakia and then briefly with the newly independent Czech Republic, scoring a total of 11 goals for his country. But Bilek’s managerial experience at international level is still relatively limited; he only took charge of the national side in late 2009. That said, he can draw on the experience of former Liverpool player Vladimír Šmicer, who joined his coaching staff at the same time. Getting the Czech supporters behind them has proved difficult though.
Player to watch: Petr Cech
The formidable Chelsea goalkeeper holds some of the most impressive accollades in football, including the Premier League record for the longest amount of time not to concede a goal and the fewest appearances required to reach 100 clean sheets – just 180 league appearances. His form may have wavered since the glory days under Jose Mourinho (remember Cech’s Euro 2008 howler against the Turks?), but he still takes some beating, as his instinctive saves at in this year’s FA Cup final at Wembley and a Champions League winner's medal prove.
FIFA World Ranking: 26
UEFA Euro Ranking: 19
Number of Euro appearances: 13
Previous best: Winners in 1976
Qualification: Runners-up in Group I – 15 goals scored, eight goals against, 47 attempts on target, 64 corners
Form (qualifying): LWWLWDLWWW
Fixtures: June 8 vs. Russia; June 12 vs. Greece; June 16 vs. Poland