Tomas Danicek’s Netherlands v Czech Republic preview: Czechs need to raise their game to go through
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering the Czech Republic throughout Euro 2020
Based on the results, the Czech Republic have just experienced one of their more successful Euro group stages ever. Based on the actual performances, however, most people are still waiting for the team to find their groove and another gear.
There’s no doubt a tight 0-1 loss to England, while outshooting their opponents at Wembley, would normally get a round of applause, but this wasn’t a normal game played under normal circumstances, and so “mild disappointment” or even “frustration” seemed to be the prevalent state of mind among Czech fans. No rotation, same mistakes repeated again.
Neither side had anything of note to play for, with some even suggesting that claiming the top spot may not be advisable given the potential last 16 opponents, and so while keeping England to zero shot attempts in the second half looks great on paper, in reality they didn’t really do much to generate any shot attempts in the first place. And when they did try, it didn’t seem like our chaotic defence – combining zonal defence with man marking – could particularly cope.
That said, the Czechs can start all over again in the knock-out stages. The group stages were a grind and, ultimately, a mission accomplished, but this team should not be satisfied with just getting out of the group.
One significant complication is the suspension of Jan Bořil, the starting left back who has, somewhat inexplicably, played all 450 minutes since the team met up in May. Could this force the manager to apply a thus far not used three-at-the-back formation, especially since Frank De Boer will employ a 3-5-2 system with both forwards stretching the defence?
The Czechs have a curiously positive record with the Netherlands. They have shared three Euro qualifying groups with them and never lost to them on the way to 1996, 2004 and 2016 editions. Then there’s the famous five-goal comeback thriller at 2004 Euro itself, of course.
But this is a very different team; De Boer has the Dutch playing in a fluid, exciting manner and since fixing the defence with De Ligt slotting in, they look like one of the legitimate tournament favourites.