The Czech Republic pipped Germany to top spot in Group D thanks largely to a stunning 3-0 victory in Munich. Having suffered a home defeat to the Germans earlier in the qualifying campaign, Karel Brückner’s side produced a sensational performance at the Allianz Arena with Libor Sionko, Marek Matejovsky and Jaroslav Plasil scoring the goals. That result was the highlight of a campaign which also included the 7-0 thrashing of San Marino, in addition to comfortable victories over neighbours Slovakia.
This European Championship is the country’s fourth consecutive tournament, while they regularly qualified and enjoyed success as Czechoslovakia. In 1976, Antonin Panenka fired home the winning penalty in a dramatic shoot-out as they defeated West Germany in the final after the match had ended in a 2-2 draw. But the Germans would have their revenge 20 years later as Oliver Bierhoff’s golden goal inflicted a painful 2-1 defeat on the Czechs at Wembley, allowing Germany to clinch Euro ’96 in dramatic fashion.
With an exciting and talented squad, the Czech Republic will be hoping to make a major impact at this summer’s finals, especially after losing out in the semi-finals four years ago. On that occasion, Greece prevailed thanks to a ‘silver goal’ which left Bruckner’s side with little time to respond. This time, the likes of Petr Cech and Jan Koller will be looking to build on their impressive qualification campaign. Cech is one of the world’s leading goalkeepers and was voted into the Euro 2004 all-star team after helping his country reach the semi-finals. He has again struggled with injuries this season, missing key games in Chelsea’s pursuit of the title and the Champions League, but he returned to action in April against Wigan and will be a key man for the Czechs this summer.
Ahead of him stands the giant figure of Koller, a nightmare for defenders and one of the most experienced target men in European football. With six goals in the qualification campaign, the Nürnberg forward will provide the main goal threat for his side and will be hoping to continue his promising partnership with Euro 2004 Golden Boot winner Milan BaroÅ¡.
Czech Republic Euro 08 Squad
Head coach: Karel Brückner
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