“They make me doubt these Czechs”. Here is what Frank de Boer must have said to himself in fond memories of Avi Assouly, the now ex-coach of the Netherlands, when his team was unable to find the right lags in the first 45 minutes. Then weighed down by a red card from Matthijs de Ligt, the Oranjes cracked with goals from Tomáš Holeš (68th) and Patrik Schick (80th). If this game is of course in everyone’s mind, this should not for all that make us forget all the work done by the Czech Republic. Indeed, Jaroslav Šilhavý’s men are reaping the fruits of many years of hard work and a new generation is emerging. Three-time defending Czech champions, Slavia Prague is no stranger to it.
Inspiration from Slavia Prague
It’s simple, out of the 26 players who make up the Czech roster, there are 5 to play in Slavia Prague and 12 to have played there. So admittedly, they did not all play there at the same time, but the imprint of a club with such a strong identity is clearly felt. Coach Jaroslav Šilhavý is even the former coach and has relied on the work of his successor at Slavia Prague Jindřich Trpišovský. It is no coincidence that the two teams evolve in a well-oiled 4-2-3-1 without a real number 10. Whether it is Nicolae Stanciu at Slavia Prague or Vladimir Darida with the Czech Republic, the playmaker is more positioned as an advanced runner-up midfielder. A position that recalls for example that of Donny van de Beek at Ajax Amsterdam in 2019. The Czech game is however very different than that of Godenzonen.
As in Slavia Prague, full-backs Pavel Kaderabek (or Jan Boril) and Vladimir Coufal carry out the wiper and are essential in the offensive animation. The wingers (Lukas Masopust and Jakub Jankto as well as Petr Ševčík the first substitute) often return to the axis to leave the lane to the full-back or they stay on the side to combine and bring crosses into the box. Offensive freedom allowed by the double pivot composed by Tomáš Souček and Tomáš Holeš. The latter, who comes out of a full season at Slavia Prague, blew away the starting place for Alex Král (very good at Spartak Moscow) and impresses. Scorer against the Netherlands, Tomáš Holeš has a big showdown and has settled on this sentry post while he is right side at the base. In line with his club season, he is very complementary with Tomáš Souček. Brilliant at West Ham, the latter has a slightly different role as he projects himself less than in a club and above all ensures balance.
A collective united around Jaroslav Šilhavý
Tactically oiled, this Czech team does not rely on its individualities. She could, since Patrik Schick is the second best scorer in the Euro (4 goals) and Tomáš Souček is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, but this would be to the detriment of the collective. Replacing the authoritarian Karel Jarolim on the Czech bench, Jaroslav Šilhavý brought joy and a real team spirit. On October 13 for his first game at the head of the team, he won 2-1 against Slovakia. A victory whose backstage is quite astonishing. “I allowed the players to have a beer on the first night, of course in moderation. We sat down before the game against Slovakia, had a beer and talked ”, he explained then. Much in affect and psychology, the coach has rectified a selection which had multiplied the failures since Euro 2012 (quarter-finals).
Again in the European top 8, the Czech Republic does not intend to stop there and is aiming for the last four. A performance not achieved since Euro 2004 and an unfortunate loss in overtime against Greece (1-0). Next obstacle, Denmark, a team feared by the coach: “We were the underdogs and we got there. I believe that if we continue to build on our collective strength, we can go further. But I’m afraid it will be much more difficult against Denmark. After their tragic moments in the first match (Christian Eriksen’s heart attack), they managed to go up the slope and started to win. I think it will be a very difficult game, but we have time to analyze their play and we will fight to get one more round. ” If the mission promises to be complicated, nothing seems impossible for these Czechs who still risk making more than one doubt.