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An introductory guide to... Czech Republic

Here’s all you need to know about Ireland’s opponents for tomorrow night’s friendly at the Aviva Stadium.

The Czech starting XI before their play-off win over Montenegro.
The Czech starting XI before their play-off win over Montenegro.
Image: Radek Petrasek/Czech News Agency/Press Association Images

Who?

The 29th best team in the world according to Fifa’s latest rankings. They have been competing at Uefa and Fifa competitions in their current state since 1993, when Czechoslovakia split in two.

It didn’t take them long to make an impact on the international stage as a team featuring the likes of Patrick Berger, Karel Poborsky and Pavel Nedved (who was bizarrely presented with an International Personality of the Year award by the FAI last weekend) lost out to a 95th-minute Oliver Bierhoff golden goal in the final of Euro ’96 at Wembley.

They have never failed to qualify and made it to the semi-final of Euro 2004. They went out at the group stage last time out however, finishing third in their group behind Portugal and Turkey.

How did they get on in the qualifiers?

Michal Bilek’s side came runner-up to world champions Spain, who walked away with Group I. Four wins, one draw and three defeats were enough to edge out third-placed Scotland for a play-off spot and they overcame Montenegro with a 3-0 scoreline over two legs thanks to goals from Vaclav Pilar, Tomas Sivok and Petr Jiracek to qualify for this summer’s European Championships. Drawn in Group A, the Czechs will face Greece, Russia and co-hosts Poland.

So, are they any good?

The current team may not have as many household names as in days gone by but they will definitely give Ireland a test at Lansdowne Road tomorrow night. Bilek has named an experienced side for the trip to Dublin with only one previously uncapped player in Viktoria Plzen defender Frantisek Rajtoral. They have won their last three games and won’t be intimidated by the prospect of going up against Giovanni Trapattoni’s men.

That said, they are the calibre of side that Ireland should be looking to beat ahead of massive meetings with Croatia, Spain and Italy.

Have they got any familiar faces?

A couple. Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is the national team captain while another London-based player, Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky, is one of their stars. The midfielder has been forced out of tomorrow’s match after suffering a back strain during Arsenal’s 5-2 win in the North London derby, however.

Many will remember striker Milan Baros from his time in the Premier League with Liverpool, Aston Villa, and Portsmouth. The Galatasaray frontman is, incredibly, still only 30-years-old and has scored 39 goals for his country but only one of them came in the last qualifying campaign.

Bayer Leverkusen full-back will look to cause a threat down the left flank and as well as providing a decent delivery, the 27-year-old was their top scorer in qualifying with four goals. He was also on target against Barcelona in the Champions League recently.

Bayer Leverkusen defender Michal Kadlec. Credit: Andrew Matthews/EMPICS Sport

Czech Republic squad v Ireland: Petr Cech (Chelsea FC), Jaroslav Drobny (Hamburger SV), Jan Rajnoch (Sivasspor), Tomas Sivok (Besiktas JK), Theodor Gebreselassie (FC Slovan Liberec), David Limbersky (FC Viktoria Plzen), Jiri Stajner (FC Slovan Liberec), Daniel Pudil (AC Cesena), Michal Kadlec (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Frantisek Rajtoral (FC Viktoria Plzen), Petr Jiracek (VfL Wolfsburg), Tomas Hubschman (FC Shakhtar Donetsk), Daniel Kolar (FC Viktoria Plzen), Jaroslav Plasil (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Jan Rezek (Anorthosis Famagusta FC), Vaclav Pilar (FC Viktoria Plzen), Milan Petrzela (FC Viktoria Plzen), Milan Baros (Galatasaray AS), David Lafata (FK Jablonec), Tomas Pekhart (FC Nürnberg).

Here is Jiracek’s goal in the 1-0 second leg play-off win over Montenegro in November:


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Ben Blake

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