Expert: Czech Euros squad have similarities with ‘96 generation

Czech Republic - Albania

The continent’s biggest sporting event, the European Football Championships, kicks off on Friday night. Among the 24 nations taking part in the delayed Euro 2020 will of course be the Czech Republic. But what are the Czechs’ chances at the tournament? That’s something I discussed with top local football journalist Karel Häring.

The Czech Republic are in a group with England, Scotland and Croatia. How do you see their chances of advancing out of the group and into the knockout stages?

“The group of course is not easy, like all of the groups.

“What I find as a big disadvantage for the Czech national team is that they play two away games [England and Scotland will be performing at their national stadiums], which is not usual when you play at a major tournament.

“So that’s definitely a disadvantage for them.

“In general I have mixed feelings.

“I think the team has potential, because there are players whose careers are on the rise and there is good chemistry in the team.

“But the current shape of several important players is not promising.

“This is the reason why I have mixed feelings.”

Adam Hložek | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

And do you think the Czechs will get out of the group? Where do you think they will finish in Group D?

“With the system where not only the first two teams but also four third-placed teams will go through, there is a good chance.

“I still remain a little bit optimistic and I think the Czech team will gain three or four points and will go through.”

Is it crucial for them to win their first game against Scotland? Because you would imagine that Scotland are, at least on paper, easier opponents than England or Croatia.

“Yes, on paper, definitely.

“But again, a big advantage for Scotland is that they play at home.

“Even though Hampden Park won’t be full, it’s still an advantage for them.”

The European Championship was of course due to take place last summer but was delayed because of Covid. Some teams may have benefited from this wait – do you think the Czechs have benefitted, or has it been a disadvantage to have a year’s delay before the tournament?

“I would say that the Czech team could have a small profit from it.

Hampden Park,  Glasgow | Photo: Dan Kearney,  Panoramio,  CC BY-SA 3.0

“Because if you see the progress of Tomáš Souček or Vladimír Coufal… Matěj Vydra played more often for Burnley, and Adam Hložek is definitely a more mature player now than a year ago.

“So I would say the postponement could be a small advantage for the Czech team.”

One great thing about major soccer tournaments is that you get to see young players from different countries who you maybe hadn’t known before the tournament. For people planning to watch the Euros, who are the young Czechs who could make a splash?

“Of course I have to mention Adam Hložek, because he is only 18 and is already a key player for Sparta Prague.

“I think he is definitely one to watch at the tournament.”

Many people will remember Euro ’96, when the Czechs got to the final, and Euro 2004, when they reached the semi-finals. How does today’s squad compare to those previous groups of players?

Karel Häring | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

“I find some similarities with the team from 1996.

“I don’t say that the team will go so far in the tournament.

“But the similarity is that there is a mixture of players who play abroad at good but not top, top teams.

“If you remember the generation in 2004 – Pavel Nedvěd, Milan Baroš, Tomáš Rosický, Petr Čech – they played at really big clubs.

“But in 1996 the most experienced players played for good but not top, top teams.

“And there was also a mix of players playing abroad and very good players from the [domestic] league at a young age who can still improve.

“There is hunger and motivation in the team, so for me it’s more like 1996 than 2004.”