Tom Danicek’s Czech Republic v Denmark preview: Will Czechs stick with a winning side or twist?
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering the Czech Republic throughout Euro 2020
It feels like a fabulous deja-vu. The Czech national team is, for once, talked about by everyone after a European Championship game against the Netherlands. Just like in 2004. They are about to face Denmark in the quarter-final. Just like in 2004. So, a semi-final beckons now – just like in 2004?
It’s important not to get carried away and get too far ahead of ourselves, of course, but it’s impossible to ignore the prospect of history seemingly repeating itself. It could’ve gone even further, with Germany – another country bowing at the feet of our strongest tournament side ever at the famous 2004 Euros – a possible semi-final opponent originally.
Moreover, with Cristiano Ronaldo knocked out already, could Patrik Schick feasibly top the scoring charts as he’s only one goal behind? It would be fitting, too, as we haven’t had anyone coming even close to it since Baroš took the Euro 2004 stage by storm and shockingly ran away with the crown.
However premature any of this is, the Czechs have already gone further than many expected, and they are right to feel optimistic for once. Denmark are a very strong, even a top five, opposition by both actual results and underlying numbers, but should Šilhavý’s players replicate their performance against the Dutch – their first truly well-rounded effort here – they can genuinely beat anyone at all.
The key to the Budapest upset was all the three changes in the starting line-up; the midfield felt stronger, more confident on the ball in the absence of the injured captain Darida, ironically, with both Barák and Ševčík bringing calmness in possession, and Kadeřábek looked a better fit at left back than Bořil ever before.
The question now is: with Darida and Bořil potentially available again, do you go back to them, or do you stick with a winning side that finally offered some balance in midfield? Especially with Barák’s history of scoring both against Denmark and in Baku, it would feel like a blasphemy to drop him now, but would you deliberately not play your captain? It will be interesting to see, either way, I expect a close match with so much at stake.