Czech Republic

Population: 10,200,000
Area: 78,866 km²
Capital: Prague
Language: Czech

The Czech Republic came second after the Netherlands in UEFA group 1 which forced them into the play-off pot. They beat Norway over two legs and qualified for Germany.
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Mar 01 Turkey v Czech Rep 2-2
May 26 Czech Rep v Saudi Arabia 2-0
May 30 Czech Rep v Costa Rica 1-0
Jun 03 Czech Rep v Trinidad & T. 3-0

Participations (as Czechoslovakia): (8) 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1970, 1982 and 1990
Best placing: Beaten finalist 1934 and 1962
Topscorer: Oldrich Nejedly, 7 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 12 - CZE v USA  in Gelsenkirchen
Jun 17 - CZE v GHA  in Cologne
Jun 22 - CZE v ITA  in Hamburg

- Czech Republic in Group E -
Jan Alsos: 3rd place
Pierre Boisrond: 2nd place
Ruud Doevendans: 2nd place
Mike Gibbons: 1st place
Peter Goldstein: 4th place
Paul Marcuccitti: 1st place
Felipe Santos: 1st place


by Ruud Doevendans

    Pavel Nedved, one of Europe's most versatile and best players of the last decade, will finally enter the biggest stage this summer when he plays in his first World Cup. He had already left the national team, disappointed as he was after Euro 2004, but came back when it mattered most, just before the play-offs against Norway. Czech coach Brückner was happy and so was the team.

    Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the best Czech days are already over, or not. With Nedved, Galasek and Poborsky ageing in midfield and colossus Koller only now coming back from injury, the backbone of the team may not be as strong as it was a few years ago when they should have won the European championship but slipped against Greece. And their group is a tough as anyone's. Italy may be one of the great favourites to win the tournament, the United States are capable of rising to the occasion and Ghana are strong in midfield and in their central defence. No easy nuts to crack for Nedved and his nephews!

    But still they have a fine team. Petr Cech was named best goalkeeper in the world last year and he may well be on his way to do the same again. Finally the Czechs have a worthy successor to the great Ivo Viktor who won them the European Championship back in 1976. And they may need a huge goalkeeper to survive since the Czech back four is not among the strongest of the tournament. Central defenders like Tomas Ujfalusi, René Bolf, Tomas Hübschmann and David Rozehnal may find it difficult to control men like Toni and Gilardino and usually have a hard time against strikers who are quick and agile, like the Ghanian and American men up front. At left back Marek Jankulovski did not get many minutes at AC Milan this season, haunted by injuries as he was. Sometimes however that may prove to be an advantage when you enter a competition like the World Cup, when most players have 60-70 games behind them and are tired to the bone. Jankulovski likes getting forward a lot and can do damage to any team with his thunderous shots and precise crosses. He is the best man in defence. At right back Ajax manmarker Zdenek Grygera may be the first choice, but he needs to hold off the challenge of Martin Jiranek. Grygera is better getting forward and has learned what it takes to control a strong opponent.

    Though getting older, Czech midfielders are still impressive from time to time. Karel Poborsky - the recordholder of his country when it comes to the most caps - is still running up and down the right wing, providing his strikers with neat crosses and helping out in defence when it is needed. Though he fell out of favour with his coach at Sparta Prague this year, he is the ideal teamplayer, also capable of adding a magical touch every now and then. Nedved will be the man to watch, he must feel himself to be on a mission. Aged 33 now, it is certainly his last change to escape from the shadows of people like Van Basten, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ryan Giggs, great players who faded away in World Cups or didn't even make it to the tournament at all.

    Tomas Galasek, recently mostly on the bench at Ajax Amsterdam, will be the player to fill the gaps and he will happily do so as he is a player who knows very well what his strong points are. Tomas Rosicky is a man to look out for. He can outrun the opponent and still keep a clear eye for the situation. His understanding with Milan Baros is mostly very good and he can score himself as well. Still pretty young but already more than 50 caps to his belt and many years in the German Bundesliga make him a complete player. He will join Atletico Madrid after the summer. Possible replacements in midfield are Jaroslav Plasil and Jan Polak.

    Up front almost everything will depend on whether Jan Koller is capable of playing at full strength, or not. It's not only his goals and presence in the box Brückner's men can not miss out on, but he is also the one to make sure that quick Milan Baros will get the space that he needs. Most opponents need 2 players to control Koller enabling Baros to run from left to right to find the openings. Baros relies very heavily on Koller, without him he has never been able to do much on the national team as well as in clubfootball where he struggled to get minutes at Liverpool and even found himself in trouble making a starting place at Aston Villa. He is surely a fantastic player with great potential, but simply needs the big man around to cover him. Replacements here are Marek Heinz, a Brückner favourite, Vladimir Smicer and Vratislav Lokvenc, almost as tall as Koller but not as good.

    One of the strongest points the Czechs have, is their coach. Karel Brückner has proved to be a great tactician, who always seems to find the weakest spot in the opponent's ranks. The Czechs are a team very attack-minded, but maybe not as strong as before. In the groupstages they were the best team, unlucky to lose twice to Holland, but they seemed to be easier to control than in 2004. Still, when they reach their best form, the Czech Republic should be able to reach the second round but it will be a close finish.




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