Teams of the Decade, #20: Czech Republic 2004

Our (late) review of the noughties sees The Arsenal Column count down the top 20 teams of the decade (not definitive).
A slightly sentimental choice given the golden generation didn’t win a thing and the semi-final featuring a blonde weeping on the bench but each time the Czech’s played, they thoroughly entertained.

In Euro 2004, they were many’s dark horse for the tournament and encapsulated that belief with an extraordinary display of thrusting and counter-thrusting football against the exponents of “Total Football”, Holland. Czech Republic fell behind by two goals in the first 19 minutes as Wilfred Bouma then Ruud van Nistelrooy, toying around with the new offside law, surely put the game beyond doubt early on. Indeed they should have as their wing play caused havoc of the Czech’s diamond system with Arjen Robben in potent form. However Milan Baros added a career worth of depth to his CV by inspiring his team of troupers to a fantastic comeback, first by intercepting a tame pass by Philip Cocu to set up lumberjack Jan Koller before being returned the favour for the equaliser. A chest down from the tall striker found Baros, who first time, thundered a volley into the back of the net. And it was a perfectly timed tackle by Tomas Rosicky that set the motions to send a whole nation to ecstasy as Vladimir Smicer completed the turnaround.

The neutrals select for the championship couldn’t repeat the heroics however despite featuring an orgy of talented players. Karel Bruckner sorted his men into a diamond formation with Pavel Nedved and Rosicky in particular looking to interchange positions while a great feature of their system were their two bombing full-backs. Midfielder Lubo Lapsansky, now playing in Austrailia perhaps describes Czech football in the best possible service as displayed by the nation in the tournament; “[…] always about playing short balls, a lot of movement off the ball, trying to create the space for the players for the ball to be played into. It’s a fairly tactical game. Players are required in any position, and need to be technically smart in advance. You drag the players out, and open up the space behind and you start attacking. You learn your patterns, you don’t panic, you keep the ball till things open up. That’s pretty much what Czech football is all about.”

Czech Republic (4-4-2 diamond): Cech, Grygera,Ujfalusi, Jiranek, Jankulovski, Galasek, Poborsky, Rosicky, Nedved, Baros, Koller.

Subs: Blazek, Kinsky, Mares, Lokvenc, Rozenhal, Vachousek, Smicer, Hubschman, Tyce, Plasil, Heinz.


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