The match between the Czech Republic and England must have brought back some memories to the nostalgic. Those of the great epic of 1996, when the golden generation led by Pavel Nedved, Patrik Berger and Karel Poborsky went to the final of the Euro, simply beaten at Wembley by Germany (2-1 beo) of this devil d ‘Oliver Bierhoff. This cursed stadium which has nevertheless been the scene of the greatest football hours of the young nation. 25 years later, the Czech Republic is once again qualified for the knockout phase and will face XX this evening in the round of 16. A small surprise because this team was not really expected at this stage of the competition after a complicated preparation; a defeat in March against Wales (1-0) then in June against Italy (4-0), barely caught by a complicated success against Albania (3-1).
A last meeting during which Patrik Schick had opened the scoring, already. The striker perfectly embodies this unexpected return to the forefront of the European scene of his national team. A magnificent double scorer against Scotland (2-0), including an exceptional lob of 45 meters, he once again found the net against Croatia, on a penalty this time, despite a bloody nose. With three goals since the start of the competition, or all the goals scored by the Czech Republic, he is the co-top scorer of the Euro alongside Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo. Excuse the little. In the middle of these two stars of the round ball, the 25-year-old striker holds an unexpected presence, even if in the national team, his excellent ratio of 28 caps for 14 goals could have put the chip in the ear.
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“Schick is an exceptional player, better in some ways than Ronaldo”
“We know Patrik is a great goalscorer and he confirmed it. I think we will go further in this tournament and Patrik will guide us with his goals. I hope that was not his last word. If he can do the same as Baros, that would be great ”, commented the Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavy after the match against Croatia, referring to the excellent Euro of Milan Baros, 5 goals in 2004, and crowned best gunner of the competition. “He’s a hungry goalscorer and it’s very good for us”, outbid Vladimir Darida, the captain of the Narodni tym. “He’s an exceptional player, better in some ways than Ronaldo”, blasted Jaroslav Hrebik, the sporting director of Sparta Prague, Schick’s first club, in the columns of the Guardian.
However, the career of the native of the Czech capital has been sluggish for several years. Revealed to Europe of football at Sampdoria during the 2016/2017 season, the striker goes to Roma, rather than to Juventus where his medical visit is not satisfactory. His transfer for around € 42 million, a record for La Louve, was a failure. Barred by Edin Dzeko, he is mainly the victim of repeated injuries. After 8 small pawns in 58 appearances, he was loaned with an option to buy to RB Leipzig in the summer of 2019. In Germany, he raised the bar (10 achievements in 28 appearances in all competitions) but not enough for the option is lifted and it is finally Bayer Leverkusen which recovers it against 25 M €.
Shine in selection to bounce back
His 13 goals in 36 games this season still don’t make him a formidable goleador, nor has he ever been. Nonetheless, Schick manages to maintain a certain level of performance since injuries left him alone. With its selection, however, it is much more efficient. In a team that shines more with its pressing work, recovery and duels, than in ball-kicking technique, he manages to pull out of the game to be the offensive benchmark. Shine in a major international tournament like his elder Milan Baros 17 years ago in Portugal, this could well finally lead Patrik Schick into another category of players, he who was announced as a great hope in the making there is yet not that long.