Czech Republic Euro 2024 squad guide: Expect unadulterated no-thrills football (2024)

Czech Republic have a new manager and Euro 2020 star Patrik Schick — but otherwise, firepower is in short supply. Expect pragmatism in the extreme…

The manager

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

Those were the words of Jaroslav Silhavy, who stepped down as Czech Republic head coach in November after successfully qualifying for Euro 2024. In his place came the experienced Ivan Hasek, 60, a former midfielder who captained Czechoslovakia to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990.

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During that tournament, Czechoslovakia thrashed the United States 5-1 in a game where the American team were so humiliated that Hasek appeared to intentionally miss an 89th-minute penalty. “We are sorry for the score,” he said after full time.

Hasek has spent most of his coaching career outside the Czech Republic in the Middle East — frustrating some in the country after quitting his role as Czech FA chairman in 2011, with the team in a difficult position. Nevertheless, after Silhavy quit, Hasek was seen as the natural choice, having previously taken emergency charge of the national team for four games in 2009.

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Former Lebanon boss Ivan Hasek took charge of the Czech Republic in January (Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images)

He is not considered the most tactically innovative coach but the Czech public appreciate his man-management and leadership skills, while he typically delegates much of the detail to assistants Jaroslav Vesely and Jaroslav Kostl. He is also trained as a lawyer.

Hasek is more pragmatic than ideological — though he typically favours a 5-3-2 formation, he has frequently set up his team in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. Lacking creative flair, they will play conservatively and hope Schick, joint top-scorer with Cristiano Ronaldo at the last Euros, will take his chances.

The household name in waiting

Goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek spent two and a half years at Everton as a trainee but never made a senior appearance. He is impressing in the Czech top flight at Slavia Prague and is expected to be busy this tournament.

The real emerging star, however, is the club captain at their city rivals: Ladislav Krejci. At 25 years old, the left-footed centre-back has led Sparta Prague to consecutive league titles and a cup double this season. For a centre-back, he is a real goal threat — scoring 24 times in 60 games across two seasons — and is an excellent reader of the game, preferring to regain possession through interceptions rather than diving into tackles. From the penalty spot, he has converted all 12 of his most recent efforts.

The expectation is that he has played his last game for Sparta before a proposed summer move to Girona, who finished third in La Liga. Also keep an eye out for his club team-mate Martin Vitik, 21, who has the raw materials to develop in the same way, and excels in dribbling out of defence.

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

Strengths

At their best, the Czech Republic play like an international version of Brentford — they press high, bomb on through aggressive full-backs, and are especially dangerous through set pieces.

Schick, Krejci and West Ham United’s Tomas Soucek are the main targets, but the standard of delivery from Fiorentina’s Antonin Barak and Wolfsburg’s Vaclav Cerny is their real secret.

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International tournaments typically have a higher percentage of goals scored from set pieces than domestic leagues. Their famous 2-0 knockout win over the Netherlands at the last Euros was inspired by a set-piece routine finished by Schick.

Weaknesses

Though they are defensively solid and have a natural goalscorer in Schick, the Czech Republic lack creativity.

“We’ve struggled with this since 2006 — when Pavel Nedved retired!” jokes one supporter.

They are uncomfortable when asked to dominate possession, preferring to spring out in transition. This has historically proved problematic if they fall behind — no player in their squad is renowned for breaking down a low block — though recent games against Armenia and Norway have brought two surprise comeback victories, punctuated by set-piece goals.

Thing you didn’t know

The Czech Republic have an excellent record at European Championships, having qualified for every tournament since splitting from Slovakia in December 1992. They have reached the knockout stages four times in those seven tournaments, including second- and third-place finishes in 1996 and 2004.

That record contrasts with their World Cup efforts. They have only qualified once — for the 2006 tournament in Germany, where they failed to escape the group stage.

This time around, there are particular nerves about their game against Turkey. Memories remain of Euro 2008, when the final remnants of their ‘golden generation’ were 2-0 up after 75 minutes in a group-stage decider, before conceding three late goals.

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

Expectations back home

The hope is that the Czech Republic will get out of their group, though that is not an expectation. This is not one of their most talented squads. In 2004, by contrast, they beat Germany in the group stages with a heavily rotated team.

However, with group opponents Georgia ranked 75th in the world, the lowest of any team in the competition, a win would mean they would probably just need a point against either Turkey or Portugal to progress.

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Schick has gone through a torrid two seasons with groin injuries. They will need him to return to the last tournament’s form if they are to go deep in the knockouts.

Attention is only just turning towards football after the Czech Republic’s triumph in the Ice Hockey World Championships, won on home soil after a 2-0 victory over Switzerland in the final. The football team will aim to ride that wave of national pride.

Czech Republic’s squad for Euro 2024

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

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

Midfielders: Tomas Soucek (West Ham), Antonin Barak (Fiorentina), Lukas Provod (Slavia Prague), Pavel Sulc (Viktoria Plzen), Matej Jurasek (Slavia Prague), Vaclav Cerny (Wolfsburg), Lukas Cerv (Viktoria Plzen), Ondrej Lingr (Feyenoord)

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

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

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Jacob Whitehead is a reporter for The Athletic, who covers a range of topics including investigations and Newcastle United. He previously worked on the news desk. Prior to joining, he wrote for Rugby World Magazine and was named David Welch Student Sportswriter of the Year at the SJA Awards. Follow Jacob on Twitter @jwhitey98

Czech Republic Euro 2024 squad guide: Expect unadulterated no-thrills football (2024)
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