Česká Republika / Česko / Czechia / Czech Republic
- Capital: Prague / Praha
- Official Languages: Czech
- Nicknames: n/a
- Association: Fotbalová asociace České republiky (FAČR)
- FIFA Code: CZE
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (2006)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Finalists (1996)
- Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 2nd (Various)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 19th (September 2006)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 67th (March 1994)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 36th (March-June 2017)
- Most Capped Player: Petr Čech – 124 caps
- Top Scorer: Jan Koller – 55 goals
The Czech Republic or Czechia is a country situation in the middle of the European continent and arrived on the international football scene in 1993 when it became an independent country. However the footballing history is lengthy within the country, as it streches back to 1901 when the Bohemian Football Union was created to organise football in the Austro-Hungarian constituency Kingdom of Bohemia, where they subsequently joined FIFA in 1907. However the majority of the country’s football history has been as part of the Czechoslovakia guise, when they were combined with neighbours Slovakia. As Czechoslovakia, they were considered one of the best teams in international football having reached two World Cup finals in both 1934 and 1962. They also finished in third place on two occasions in the European Championships in both 1960 and 1980. However the former country’s finest achievement was winning the 1976 European Championships by beating West Germany on a penalty shootout after drawing 2-2 at Belgrade. Antonín Panenka’s iconic penalty being the winner for the Czechoslovaks, as well as adding a new word into the football lexicon.
When Czechoslovakia peacefully separated into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the latter appeared in international football in 1994 and soon qualified for their debut tournament, the 1996 European Championships held in England. Inspired by an excellent generation of Czech players (which included players like Pavel Nedvěd, Patrik Berger, Vladimír Šmicer and the mercurial Karel Poborský) they surprisingly reached the final of their debut tournament before agonisingly losing to Germany to a Oliver Bierhoff golden goal in extra-time. Since their first Euros in 1996, the Czechs have qualified for every European Championships since, reaching the semi-finals in 2004 and the quarter-finals in 2012. Alas their fortunes in the World Cup have been less fortunate with their only appearance being the 2006 World Cup in neighbouring Germany (so far, their only appearance in the World Cup). With the fortunes of the Czechs looking increasingly healthy, and having just gained promotion to Division A of the UEFA Nations League, there are bright hopes that the Czechs will once again light-up future World Cups and continue to maintain their 100% qualification record for the European Championships.
Talking about an international side who have qualified for every European Championships since they became an independent nation in 1993, we interviewed Tomáš Daníček from the superb Czech Football account. It is a Twitter account which focuses on all things involving Czech football, where it is Czech players playing abroad, the Czech First League / Fortuna Liga, or the national team, it is all covered by Czech Football. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
On club achievements, it must be Pavel Nedvěd, a UEFA Champions League winner and the only Czech to win the Ballon d’Or in the modern era. But on pure talent, and perhaps even on national team contribution, it’s Tomáš Rosický. The football just came to him, and he made it fun. It’s also worth remembering and counting as positive his reinvention into the 30s when he was legitimately our most valuable player through the 2012 European Championships qualification when pretty much all generational talent disappeared around 2008. He more frequently got stuck in, played in a slightly withdrawn role, and was this gritty leader the team desperately needed. The fact we looked utterly lost offensively at the Euros itself, when the almost 32-year-old Rosický battled more injuries, speaks for itself. He had an aura, charisma.
As for the coach ,it’s an unanimous choice for me and just about any compatriot – Karel Brückner took Sigma Olomouc to 2nd place in 1996, separating it by 12 points (!) from a Nedvěd, Tomáš Řepka or Vratislav Lokvenc powered Sparta. Then he won the silver medals with U-21s and with the help of some stars on that team, he build a new core of the national team that became the neutral’s favourite at Euro 2004 and finally cracked the World Cup line-up in 2006, for the first time and – for at least a couple of more years, I suspect – the last time ever.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
When I think of the past cult hero, I think of Karel Poborský which is also reflected in my Twitter account’s bio and profile picture. He was just this uniquely cerebral player who loved to chip the ball, outsmart the opponent, and even when it seemed like he passed up a great opportunity to shoot or cross, he just followed up with an even better solution. Even in mid-30s, playing for Sparta or his hometown Č. Budějovice, Poborský was utter class. I mean, heck, he was already 32 in 2004, settled back home, and yet he dominated, because he just thought the game on another level.
For the current, it’s much tougher. Tomáš Souček is becoming a cult of sorts given how West Ham United fans are vouching for him, but he’ll always be a divisive person for half of the fanbase because of the Slavia-Sparta rivalry. Zdeněk Ondrášek was definitely becoming a cult hero through that early impact for the national team, mainly bagging a winner against England, but he’s at Viktoria Plzeň now, and that club is largely hated by anyone who lives outside of Plzeň. Generally, there are no strong personalities on this team, at least not at first glance, so really hard to pick.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from the Czech Republic currently?
If you were to build a Czech Hall of Fame, I don’t necessarily think any of these players are getting in (yet), but it’s one of the most balanced teams we’ve had in recent memory. There are a couple of very good players even on a larger scale, and Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal are proving it in the English Premier League, but until Adam Hložek comes into his own for the national team, there’s no truly mouth-watering talent. Patrik Schick might be the most complete striker we’ve had in the modern era but never stays fit for a long period. Souček is the best holding midfielder we’ve had since Tomáš Galásek, and Alex Král will become a decent English Premier League player, too, I believe. So it’s probably a three-way tie between these guys, with the quiet but steady Vladimír Darida languishing in the background.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
They are a predictable team, rigid in formation (stubborn in 4-2-3-1 even though we don’t have, and haven’t had since Rosický, a decent number 10), but based on similar principles Slavia adopt, which is a good thing. With Král, Darida and Souček, it’s always going to be a solid central midfield with lots of energy and running, and once Jankto and Schick get to combine, magic can happen. The team doesn’t have an identity per se, but the togetherness is there, and the results are there too – which is just fine for now, I’d say. The ceiling should still be higher, with another coach perhaps.
Q. Are there any Czech players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Alex Král is the next big move, I suppose. He’s been linked with an English Premier League move, and with his dynamic, box-to-box presence and great ball-carrying ability and underrated vision, he’s going to be a bargain in the mould of Coufal one day. Adam Hložek is obviously the generational talent here, albeit slowed down by a 3-month injury late in 2020. But he was a star in the league at 18 years-old before that, and will definitely earn a big paycheck in a ‘Top 5 league’ one day. His body frame, the way he uses it, and the way he navigates tight spaces and strikes the ball smoothly is just incredible for someone so young…
Q. Looking at the Czech Republic’s international history as an independent nation, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
That 3-2 comeback win versus Netherlands at the 2004 Euros automatically springs to mind with this kind of question, and it’s certainly the most legendary, the most epic game my generation remembers. However, it wasn’t a best game for sure, since the Dutch were much better early on and only some lucky breaks prevented the game from being definitely over in the first half. So I’d rather go with the Denmark quarter-final from the same tournament, or the famous 3-0 away win in Germany as part of the 2008 Euro qualification.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Obviously the Greece extra time heartbreak at 2004 Euros is the single worst memory. I don’t think anyone doubted our ability to be worthy finalists at that tournament, and Nedvěd’s crossbar and his follow-up injury makes the loss even more bitter. Again, though, it wasn’t the lowest point per se – in more than one way, it was actually the highest. Instead, I’d go with two depressing tenures – Petr Rada followed up on Brückner with a series of tepid performances, while Karel Jarolím will mostly be remembered for the 0-0 home (!) draw with Azerbaijan while fielding little-known Lukáš Droppa in midfield for some reason.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Czech national team?
I don’t actually know, because being an avid follower of the national team in the Czech Republic is not really a thing. Most people dread the international breaks and consider them an awful distraction from their Real Madrid’s and Manchester United’s. So the passion is not necessarily there, even Prague games are routinely not sold out, and so I guess that’s the worst thing… because not closely following obviously doesn’t prevent the same people from commenting on the “shameful” performances they barely saw and complaining about the general lack of talent in the country. That is the worst.
Best, though… no idea. I suppose any kind of big game where we step up to the plate and decidedly punch above our weight. The England game recently, the Germany debacle at 2004 Euros with a reserve team, the 3-0 World Cup debut versus the USA, the late lucky Pilař winner vs. Netherlands in the 2016 Euros qualification… those are the brave performances I do follow the national team for.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
I’m afraid not – see the point about the general lack of passion around the national team.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
Not really a collector, sorry.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Czech national team?
For the first time in forever, we have a genuine generational talent rising in Adam Hložek, so much hope is pinned on his back. If injuries further avoid him, he can go places, and we shall go with him. Quite freshly still, there’s also a countrywide scheme due to which there are regional youth academies popping up all over the country to groom young footballers with a specific focus on technique. Usually, the critique of our youth national teams is that they are too boring and too results-oriented which shouldn’t be the case on that level, and that’s not changing – but perhaps if we start with those academies from the very bottom, we will change the mentality one youngster at a time.
A massive děkuji mnohokrát to Tomáš from Czech Football for answering our questions on the Czech national team. Remember you can find their social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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