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Can the Czech Republic recreate the heroic acts of Euro 1996 at Euro 2020?

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Collective effort with a plan always beats outlandish unstructured individualism. It may sound like something out of the communist manifesto, but it also applies to the defeat of the Czech Republic over the Netherlands by Frank de Boer in the knockout stages of Euro 2020.

Many would blame De Boer’s pale tactics for the Dutch defeat, but it was the Czech Republic’s superb execution of Jaroslav Silhavy’s tactics that allowed them to win the match and a berth to the quarterfinals.

Now the real question remains whether they can recreate the heroics of Euro 1996 and reach the final once again, or maybe even do better.

A RECREATION OF THE EURO’96?

25 years ago, the rookies of the Czech Republic tournament were the authors of one of the European Championship fairy tales that their fans still cherish to this day. They made headlines by breaking into the tournament final, their brilliant squad attracting the attention of Europe’s best, with names like Pavel Nedved and Patrick Berger rising to fame.

Euro’96 was where the world became aware of Pavel Nedved (Courtesy: UEFA / Website)

However, Karel Poborsky was undoubtedly the talisman of this team. His hair only suggested that he may have been the fifth member of Led Zeppelin and got everyone excited about his moves, but on the soccer field with his creativity.

Czech Republic euro 2020

Karel Poborsky was the Czech Republic’s star man at Euro’96 (Courtesy: UEFA / Website)

The Czech Republic rallied from an opening match loss to Germany to advance to the knockout rounds with a win over Italy guaranteeing head-to-head rule advancement.

An enthusiastic and talented team improved as the tournament progressed and surpassed Portugal’s “Golden Generation” in the quarter-finals, with Poborsky showing his genius and emerging as the winner of the match with a flash of pure magic. The midfielder took possession of the ball in a central position with four Portuguese defenders circling him, twisting and turning his way through a flurry of tackles to find himself in the penalty area.

Poborsky, realizing that Vitor Baia was out of line, launched a scandalous failed attempt and edged past the confused goalkeeper to produce one of the tournament’s best goals and seal the Czech’s place in the semi-finals.

After defeating France on penalties in the semi-final, Germany halted their historic streak in the final. They were just 17 minutes away from victory until Oliver Bierhoff tied for Germany after Patrik Berger had given them the lead from the penalty spot. Bierhoff would break Czech hearts by scoring the first Euro Cup Golden Goal to secure the Euro championship for Germany.

They may not have managed to conquer the euros, but the number of hearts they conquered was unsurpassed. Coming back to Euro 2020, it seems that the Czech Republic is locked in and ready to embark on another dream race and maybe win it all this time. Beating a team as powerful as the Netherlands was no accident, as it seemed to have come to wreak havoc.

EMERGENCY OF A NEW GENERATION OF GOLD

After the heroic acts of 1996 and 2004, it seems that the emergence of a new Czech golden generation is not far off. Although this team may not be as talented on paper as past golden generations, the heart and tenacity of today’s players to do their best and not back down has been evident in their performances.

With players like Patrick Schick, Tomas Soucek, Tomas Holes, Vladimir Coufal and many others, it is fair to conclude that the squad is packed with players from all lines of the field, known for their toughness and determination.

Patrick Schick has been his killer up front, with four goals already, while Soucek and Holes are in charge of pulling the strings in the middle of the park. Coufal has been doing what he did all season for West Ham, offering defensive tenacity and refusing to back down from any challenge.

The Czech Republic may not be exceptionally talented, but it is trustworthy and is reaping the advantages of having a competitive side in its country and in Europe. Jindrich Trpisovsky’s Slavia Prague, who also reached the Europa League quarter-finals, has laid the foundation for the national team in terms of personnel and tactical concepts. It is displayed in the field.

A COLLECTIVE EFFORT

Talent alone is not enough. Tactics alone will not be enough. In order to execute solid tactical ideas, you need players who are suitable for those ideas and the level at which they compete.

While the coach of a national team has little influence on the amount of talent at his disposal, he does have power over tactics. And it’s those tactics, the relationships between footballers, that you can modify to improve your team’s chances of winning. Winning is never safe, no matter how good the players are, but the odds can be improved with the right tactics.

The Czech Republic has collectives that stand out above any individuality, and by no means do they have the plethora of talent from France, Portugal or any other top team. However, they have a more defined game identity and considerably more developed patterns throughout the field. Not only to defend, but also to pressure and attack in a variety of zones and arenas.

His strong belief in Jaroslav Silhavy’s methods is what has propelled the Czech Republic to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 and has the potential to take it much further.

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