“There’s only two Czech Republics” could easily have been the chant were fans allowed into stadiums last year.
Of course, on the first occasion the Czechs were robbed of their regular squad due to a coronavirus outbreak.
Covid also snatched manager Jaroslav Silhavy from them for the second meeting, although the 40th-ranked Czech team itself was much more similar to what Steve Clarke’s men will face in June.
Here, we take a closer look at Scotland’s opening Euro 2020 Group D opponents.
When do Scotland play Czech Republic and where can I watch?
It’s a Monday afternoon start to the tournament for the Scots, with kick-off for this one scheduled for 2pm on June 14. It will be broadcast live on BBC One.
The group’s other game — England v Croatia at Wembley — takes place the day before. That one also kicks off at 2pm on BBC One.
What’s the Czech Republic’s squad like?
Czech Republic having some of the biggest names in world football may be a thing of the past but what they do have is a squad full of players who’ve enjoyed good seasons around Europe.
Between the sticks, 2019-20 Europa League winner Tomas Vaclik has still been starting regularly for the national team despite being restricted to just seven appearances in all competitions at Sevilla this season.
Ondrej Celustka seems nailed on as one half of a centre-back pairing, with the other slot a toss-up between Bristol City’s Tomas Kalas and Sparta Praha’s Jakub Brabec.
Slavia’s Ondrej Kudela could very well have made the starting line-up — indeed Silhavy left a spot in the squad open for him — but Uefa rejected his appeal against a 10-game ban for racially abusing Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara.
Jan Boril seems to have the left-back berth tied down while, at right-back, what Vladimir Coufal lacks in international experience (he has 14 caps at 28 years old) he more than makes up for in form following a standout Premier League season as West Ham qualified for Europe.
In midfield, Coufal’s fellow Irons player Tomas Soucek presents an intriguing challenge for Clarke to deal with.
Despite playing central midfield in a more defence-minded side, the 26-year-old loves getting forward from deep. Indeed, all 10 of his Premier League goals this season came inside the box (three headers, six with his right foot, one with his left).
Next to him will be his former Slavia team-mate Alex Kral with Vladimir Darida in a more attacking midfield role.
Jaroslav Šilhavý during the press conference on Tuesday as he included Jakub Pešek in the #EURO2020 squad:
"We apologize to the bride-to-be." 👰🏻
When you have your wedding planned between seasons but the national team coach decides there is a different thing "to do"… 🇨🇿 pic.twitter.com/uFAS8gyDtY
— Czech Football Team (@ceskarepre_eng) May 25, 2021
Darida, with 71 caps, is by far the most experienced player Silhavy has at his disposal and takes the captain’s armband after Borek Dockal’s omission from the squad.
On the wings, Lukas Provod’s absence through injury will come as a boost to Scotland’s hopes. The highly-rated 24-year-old, who scored in a creditable 1-1 draw with Belgium earlier this year, is likely to be replaced on the right by Slavia team-mate Lukas Masopust.
Jakub Jankto will likely take up the left wing berth, having produced consistently enough in his international tenure so far in supplying 10 assists to go with his four goals after 34 caps.
Up top, Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick is back after injury problems. With 10 goals from 25 international appearances, the 6ft 1in striker is the side’s most likely source of goals in the tournament.
Elsewhere in the squad, the Slavia connection returns with Tomas Holes capable of sliding into a deep midfield role if Silhavy decides to unleash Soucek further forward from the get-go, while Burnley forward Matej Vydra provides a decent option off the bench if required.
How did they get here?
A topsy-turvy qualifying campaign will be remembered mostly for a celebrated late win over England in Prague.
The Three Lions had thrashed Silhavy’s men 5-0 early in his tenure but, as well as showing Gareth Southgate and co. they had learned from that, the 2-1 win tells another story: the Czechs don’t really do draws.
They could have settled for a point against England but instead continued to press high, eventually breaking through with Zdenek Ondrasek’s 85th-minute winner.
Indeed, from the date Silhavy took over the reins (September 18 2018) Czech Republic went 23 matches without registering a draw.
That streak ended when they held Belgium, ranked the world’s number one international side, to a 1-1 draw in March this year.
As it was, their win-or-bust nature earned them 15 points in the qualifiers, enough to earn an automatic spot at this summer’s finals.
Of course, that same total was not enough for Scotland, who had to do it the hard way via a play-off.
Serbia… SAVED BY MARSHALL!
WE'RE GOING TO THE EUROS! pic.twitter.com/VXjjImizbv
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 12, 2020
Since then, the Czechs have lost twice to Clarke’s men in the Nations League but still managed to emerge as group winners by winning their other four matches.
Czech Republic were steamrolled 4-0 in their first pre-tournament friendly against Italy on Friday June 4. They have a home game with Albania on Tuesday June 8.
After the opening match with Scotland, the Czechs play Croatia at Hampden on Friday June 18 (5pm) before rounding off the group against England at Wembley on Tuesday June 22 (8pm).
“Silhavy has built a reputation of a coach who, when he sees his team go up by one goal early, it’s all good.
“Of all 14 games we’ve won under him, Kosovo at home remains the only one in which we either didn’t score first or at least didn’t score within 20 minutes.
“The football Silhavy demands is high-octane, starting to press from high up. But he’s a manager who hates to experiment, has his rigid 4-2-3-1 and a set of players he trusts. So once he’s drawn out of his comfort zone, it’s pretty ugly and pedestrian.
“(We will be) looking for Jankto and Schick to connect. They are our most productive partnership by far, otherwise we rely heavily on set-pieces.
“Our weakness would be the centre-back positions, where pretty much all players have regressed in the past year or so.
“Celustka and Brabec especially have been pretty bad this spring in the Czech league, and they are still likely starters.
“But it’s worth remembering that they both starred in the famous England victory, so hopefully they can turn back time and deliver on the big stage.”
Goalkeepers: Tomas Vaclik (Sevilla), Jiri Pavlenka (Werder Bremen), Ales Mandous (Olomouc)
Defenders: Vladimir Coufal (West Ham), Pavel Kaderabek (Hoffenheim), Ondrej Celustka (Sparta Praha), Tomas Kalas (Bristol City), David Zima (Slavia Praha), Jan Boril (Slavia Praha), Ales Mateju (Brescia), Jakub Brabec (Viktoria Plzen), Tomas Holes (Slavia Praha)
Midfielders: Antonin Barak (Verona), Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin), Jakub Jankto (Sampdoria), Alex Kral (Spartak Moskva), Lukas Masopust (Slavia Praha), Jakub Pesek (Sparta Praha), Michal Sadilek (Liberec), Petr Sevcik (Slavia Praha), Tomas Soucek (West Ham)
Forwards: Adam Hlozek (Sparta Praha), Michael Krmencik (PAOK), Tomas Pekhart (Legia), Patrik Schick (Leverkusen), Matej Vydra (Burnley)
Statistics referenced in this article are from Opta, Transfermarkt and Soccerway.