Opposition Analysis - Czech Republic
What a whirlwind few days. The disappointment of our draw at home to Israel hadn’t quite sunk in by the time the Tartan Army were shocked by an update from the Czech Republic FA’s Twitter account stating tonight’s game with them was OFF.
After a Covid-19 breakout in their camp had disrupted their preparation for their match with Slovakia (which they won 3-1), the Czech FA took it upon themselves to call off the game and send the squad their separate ways to quarantine.
This news reached the Scotland camp just as they were preparing to tuck themselves into bed, and Clarke must have been fairly confused about what to expect when he woke up the next day. UEFA of course stepped in and after discussions behind closed doors it was communicated to the Scottish FA the game would still go ahead.
With the Czech team still in quarantine however, the question then became: who would we be lining up against?
Back to the Drawing Board
There was talk the Czech under 20’s game was cancelled not long after the news broke and it was assumed that many of them would then be at the disposal of temporary coach David Holoubek. Over the days leading up to the match the more Czech cogs started to turn into motion as they made more moves to ensure they had a strong a team as possible, calling up a complete new squad of players who played domestically within the Czech league.
Before the dissection of this ‘patchwork quilt’ Czech squad which Scotland will face off against tonight however, a quick look at our previous meetings with our opponents.
Our last competitive meeting with the Czech Republic is still a bit of a sensitive topic for the Tartan Army. These games live long in the memory, with Levein’s adoption of the 4-6-0 formation in Prague and Rezek’s blatant dive at Hampden to deny us qualification to the EURO 2012 finals leaving a very sour taste in the mouth. Since then our only meeting was in 2016, a friendly where Anya was on target to help us to a 1-0 win.
This article has been through the same treatment as Steve Clarke’s planned preparation for tonight’s game, with the original draft cast aside returning to square one to analyse the new squad.
The new squad we are all having to familiarise ourselves with consists of players from across 10 teams in the Czech First League. The Czech season is only two games in so it’s hard to pass judgement on what teams are performing best in the league but the table below shows what teams have contributed the most players to this new squad and where they finished last season as well as their current league position:
Olomouc is where the game is taking place, and Sigma Olomouc as well as Slavia Prague make up nearly half of the squad with 5 players from each. This is quite impressive for the Prague side as eight players from their team had made the original squad, although as last season’s league champions it’s not surprising they have the best players to pick from. Slavia competed in last seasons Champions League but were drawn in a tough group with giants Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, and finished bottom with 2pts for their efforts. These were respectable points however, as they were gained by drawing with Inter and Barça on their own turf. Only one of the five from this team registered any minutes in the six group games.
The average age of the squad has dropped from 26.7 to 25.6 years old, and there is a large spread as the oldest player in the squad is 36 years of age while there are four players who are under 20. The chart of the ages within the squad below dismisses any notion that we will be up against a team of youngsters or professionals potentially past their sell by date however, with the majority of players in their late twenties.
Only two players in this entire squad have been capped as full internationals for the Czech Republic before. One is 30yr old striker Stanislav Tecl of Slavia Prague who has mustered 5 caps throughout his career, the last of which came in 2018 in their UEFA Nations League defeat to Ukraine, his only competitive appearance for the national team.
Since the 2017-2018 season he has played 57 times for Slavia Prague scoring 14 times, something which he has so far failed to do for his national team. Tecl was the only player from the Slavia Prague five who clocked some Champions League minutes, starting at home against Barcelona as well as coming on as a substitute in their impressive goalless draw at the Camp Nou. With limited options and only two forwards in the squad, one can be reasonably sure that Tecl will be leading the line for the Czech’s tonight.
The only other player to have been capped is Roman Hubník, and you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking you recognised his name. He has 29 appearances for the Czech Republic side (the last of which was during the group stage of the EURO 2016 finals) and 3 goals, which is the reason you may find his name familiar. Hubník was the only goal scorer in the 1-0 victory to ensure the Czech’s took all 3pts against Scotland back in 2010 on that dreaded night Levein played the 4-6-0 formation.
Having started his career at Olomouc, Hubník played in Russia and Germany before returning to the Czech Republic and after a period at Viktoria Plzeň he permanently returned to Olomouc this summer. With a senior career spanning 18 years Hubník is a veteran at 36 years old (the oldest in the squad by five years) and along with is significant number of caps he will be crucial to the Czech’s game plan if they want to get anything from this game. Because of this he is another you can be confident in assuming will be lining up against Clarke’s men.
Squad as a whole
Now although this is a second-string Czech side Scotland cannot afford to let their guard down. What they will be up against is a side full of players who played at a respectable level in the Czech top flight, and will be giving their all to impress and not let their country down on what might be their last or only appearance for their national team.
They will be a gritty ensemble which many have noted will put up a similar fight to what we would expect from a nation such as Georgia, North Macedonia or Belarus. If supporting Scotland has taught us one thing thought it’s that these are not the sort of games you can take for granted and if this is not approached with the same preparation as if we were playing the full strength Czech squad the boys could be in hot water quick. Scotland are no strangers to these sorts of demoralising defeats against ‘lower quality’ eastern European opponents, and due to the perception of this new Czech B team anything other than a win tonight would be even worse in the eyes of many.
Tonight is a lose-lose situation for Scotland. Should we win it will be dismissed as tainted victory against a weakened Czech side, while a defeat… well, we won’t dwell on that. Clarke and the boys will know what is at stake tonight and a win is the only acceptable outcome. The Czech’s will make it hard for us no doubt, but our quality is more than a match for them and with that in mind you’d like to think as long as we don’t lineup 4-6-0 then we should be home and dry by the full-time whistle.