European U21 Championship 2015: Czech Republic Team Guide

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 8, 2015

European U21 Championship 2015: Czech Republic Team Guide

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    The European U21 Championship kicks off on June 17 in Prague, giving us football fans a welcome reprieve from tedious summer transfer links and a lack of competitive domestic football.

    This exciting tournament is where some of tomorrow's stars announce themselves, and the squads selected for it ooze class and quality. In 2013, Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Asier Illarramendi and more all shone as Spain decimated all before them, but who will catch the eye this year?

    B/R is previewing each of the eight nations competing, and we're starting with the host nation: Czech Republic.

    All statistics, fixture details and results via UEFA.com unless noted otherwise.

Road to the Finals

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    Czech Republic earned their place at the 2015 European U21 Championship automatically because of their status as hosts, so they did not take part in the qualification process.

    While the other sides have battled it out for the right to appear in the tournament, the Czechs have been limited to seven friendly encounters against a variety of sides.

    Results

    Slovkia 3-1 Czech Republic

    Czech Republic 0-1 Austria

    Ukraine 0-1 Czech Republic 

    Czech Republic 2-2 Denmark

    Czech Republic 1-1 Germany

    Czech Republic 0-1 England

    Czech Republic 1-0 Portugal

    With just two wins under their belts, it's easy to see why the Czechs are a little concerned about being shown up on their own patch. That's why they summoned a smattering of senior figures to bolster the squad. Even that last victory over Portugal was a little fortuitous; the Portuguese hit the woodwork four times during the game.

    They've already played two of their three group opponents for the tournament proper, failing to notch a victory against either.

    *Friendly details courtesy of Soccerway. Includes all official friendlies from 2014 onward.

Squad

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    UEFA.com's Ondrej Zlamal broke the news of the Czech Republic squad on Twitter on May 25, confirming the selections made by manager Jakub Dovalil.

    Here is the squad:

    Goalkeepers: Tomas Koubek (Hradec Kralove), Jiri Pavlenka (Ostrava) and Michal Reichl (Olomouc).

    Defenders: Jan Baranek (Plzen), Jakub Brabec (Sparta), Tomas Holes (Hradec Kralove), Jakub Jugas (Brno), Roman Polom (Dukla Praha), Matej Hanousek (Dukla Praha), Matej Hybs (Jihlava), Tomas Kalas (Chelsea) and Pavel Kaderabek (Sparta Praha).

    Midfielders: Martin Frydek (Liberec), David Houska (Olomouc), Ladislav Takacs (Teplice), Lukas Masopust (Jablonec), Robert Hruby (Slavia), Ondrej Petrak (Norimberk), Tomas Prikryl (Dukla), Michal Travnik (Slovacko), Jaromir Zmrhal (Slavia Praha), Jan Kliment (Jihlava), Ladislav Krejci (Sparta Praha) and Adam Janos (Jihlava).

    Forwards: Vaclav Kadlec (Sparta), Jiri Skalak (Mlada Boleslav) and Matej Vydra (Watford).

Manager Profile: Jakub Dovalil

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    Jakub Dovalil has been in charge of the Czech U21 squad since 2008 and has spent the last 13 years in various capacities inside the national youth system.

    He groomed a strong generation at the European U17 Championship in 2006, placing second after losing the final to Russia on penalties. That squad boasted the likes of Tomas Pekhart and Tomas Necid, beating a Bojan-inspired Spain in the semi-finals, and they went on to place third in the under-19 category two years later.

    But the Czech Republic are a long way from that vintage, and Dovalil has failed to produce another crop anywhere close to that level. There are concerns that a fairly negative game plan, based around a rigid 4-1-4-1 formation, could dominate the manager's thinking at this tournament.

    A lack of competitive fixtures have made it difficult for the team to establish a rhythm, and most of the key players brought in for this tournament—Pavel Kaderabek, Vaclav Kadlec, Ladislav Krejci, Matej Vydra—are senior internationals who have never mixed with the existing mainstays.

    It all places a giant question mark over the Czechs this summer, and Dovalil's future within the youth setup is also up in the air once this tournament is done.

Star Man: Pavel Kaderabek, RB, Sparta Praha

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Pavel Kaderabek has risen quickly through the youth ranks and into the Czech Republic senior setup courtesy of consistent first-team football in the Czech Liga. He has seven caps and one goal for the senior side and represents a wise head among this selection by Jakub Dovalil.

    He's seen as the best right-back in his domestic division by a clear margin, having dropped back into the defensive line two years ago after initially beginning his career as a winger. It's allowed him to nail down a starting spot for Sparta Praha and progress as a player.

    He's a technically able, hard-working full-back who enjoys bombing forward, timing his runs and assisting his fair share of goals. He's quick, possesses a fantastic engine and can instigate attacks from the right side when the Czech midfield fails to produce anything of note.

    Czech football aficionados believe him to be the best right-back their country has produced since Zdenek Grygera—a former Ajax and Juventus star.

One to Watch: Vaclav Kadlec

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    Czech Republic have lacked a quality, reliable No. 10 for years now, and while Vaclav Kadlec is not in the archetypal mould for that position, he is the most dynamic and creative threat the U21 squad possesses.

    He comes into the tournament in stupendous form, scoring five goals in just four appearances in May for Sparta Praha, per Soccerway. Eintracht Frankfurt, the player's parent club, will be eager to get him back for a summer assessment after an impressive loan spell in his homeland.

    Our star man, Pavel Kaderabek, has become used to linking with him on the right for Sparta, and that chemistry could be an X-factor in the finals, as Kadlec is expected to take up a free role behind Matej Vydra and drift around to find space.

    Can he make the difference in an otherwise uninspiring midfield selection?

European U21 Championship Record

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    The Czech Republic's history in this competition is split into two sections, with the history books showing their previous fates both as Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic (the formal dissolution of Czechoslovakia occurred in January 1993).

    They've been crowned winners once, beating France in 2002. That team boasted a remarkable array of talent, including Zdenek Grygera, Milan Baros, Petr Cech and Tomas Hubschmann. They finished fourth in 2011, losing to Belarus in the third-place playoff, and they failed to make the 2013 edition in Israel, where Spain dazzled.

    Team Record at the Euro U21 Championship (as Czech Republic)

    Wins: 1

    Runners-up: 1

    Semi-finals: 1

    Quarter-finals: 1

    Group-stage finishes: 1

    Failed to qualify: 4

    Team Record at the Euro U21 Championship (as Czechoslovakia)

    Quarter-finals: 3

Group Fixtures

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    Match 1: Czech Republic vs. Denmark

    Venue: Stadion Eden, Prague

    Date: June 17, 2015

    Time: 6 p.m. BST

    Match 2: Serbia vs. Czech Republic

    Venue: Stadion Letna, Prague

    Date: June 20, 2015

    Time: 6 p.m. BST

    Match 3: Czech Republic vs. Germany

    Venue: Stadion Eden, Prague

    Date: June 23, 2015

    Time: 8:45 p.m. BST

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