Focus on the Czech Republic – Scotland’s opening opponents at Euro 2020

Ryan Fraser fired the winner the last time Scotland faced the Czech Republic (PA Archive)
10:00am, Sun 13 Jun 2021
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Scotland host the Czech Republic at Hampden as they kick-off their Euro 2020 campaign.

Steve Clarke will be hoping to start Group D with a win as he looks to become the first manager to lead the Scots past the group stages at a major finals.

Here is the lowdown on Monday’s visitors:

Form

Scotland’s Ryan Christie fires home a penalty to kill off the covid-hit Czechs make-shift second string (PA Archive)

The Czechs booked their slot at Euro 2020 after finishing runners-up to England in their qualifying group. But that was more than 18 months ago and since then their form has been rather patchy with seven wins from 13 games. They lost home and away to the Scots in last year’s Nations League clashes but had the coronavirus to blame for the 2-1 defeat in Olomouc after their entire first-choice squad was forced to quarantine, forcing the Czech FA to scramble together a new team at just 48 hours’ notice. There was an encouraging draw at home to Belgium – FIFA’s number one ranked side – in March’s World Cup qualifier but a 4-0 hammering from Italy last week has sent alarm bells ringing in Prague. Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Albania means they have recovered some momentum ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Glasgow.

Manager

Czech Republic manager Jaroslav Silhavy (PA Archive)

Jaroslav Silhavy was given the task of getting the team back on track after their failure to reach the 2018 World Cup. Before being appointed to coach the national team, the former Czechoslovakia defender was twice a winner of the Czech title as a boss with Slovan Liberec and Slavia Prague. This will be his first meeting with Steve Clarke having had to sit out both of last year’s clashes with the Scots as the Czechs were rocked by a double dose of coronavirus chaos.

Key Players

There are plenty of familiar faces to Scotland fans in the Czech ranks, with the West Ham pair Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek plus Burnley’s Matej Vydra all key figures. Bayern Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick is one to watch having scored six goals in his last 10 games for his country. Those who witnessed Rangers’ recent Europa League showdown with Slavia Prague will recall Tomas Holes, David Zima, Jan Boril, Lukas Masopust and Petr Sevcik but there is no place for centre-back Ondrej Kudela – who misses the tournament after being handed a 10-game ban for racially abusing Glen Kamara at Ibrox.

History

Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic have now reached seven successive European Championships, starting with the 1996 tournament in England, where they lost to Germany in the final. However, they have not had so much luck when it comes to World Cups – with their sole appearance coming in 2006, when they failed to make it past the group stages.

Previous meetings

The Czechs have every right to be sick of the sight of Scotland after seeing preparations for both of last year’s meetings disrupted by coronavirus. First an outbreak forced Silhavy and his entire squad to quarantine when Clarke’s team visited in September, with goals from Lyndon Dykes and Ryan Christie sealing victory over the hosts’ makeshift line-up. There were further positive cases a month later as the Czechs travelled to Glasgow, with an early Ryan Fraser strike this time doing the damage. The teams first met in 1999 as Craig Brown’s team were twice beaten, missing out on reaching Euro 2000. A Scott Brown goal in Craig Levein’s first match in charge of the national team handed Scotland their first win over the Czechs in 2010. However, the new manager’s decision to start without a recognised striker when the teams met again in qualifying for Euro 2012 seven months later did not go down well with the Tartan Army, especially as they lost 1-0 to a side not exactly brimming with attacking threat. The overall record stands at four wins apiece, with one draw.

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