Czech Republic Profile

Major Honours 1976 European Champions (as Czechoslovakia)
Year Founded 1994

The Czech Republic have emerged as perennial dark horses since splitting with Slovakia in the early 90s, and they remain one of the most intriguing nations to watch in world soccer.

The Czech national team has had some world-renowned stars playing for them in recent years, most notably former Chelsea, Arsenal and Stade Rennais goalkeeper Petr Cech.

However, they have not quite fulfilled their promise and picked up major honours.

In the past, they played as Czechoslovakia, but after the nation split, the Czech Republic and Slovakia formed their own autonomous soccer teams in the 1990s.

On several occasions, the Czechs have risen as high as second place in the FIFA World Rankings. They came close to reflecting this in Euro 96 (when they were runners-up) and Euro 2004 (when they exited at the semi-final stage).

The Czech Republic have not fared as well in FIFA World Cups as they have in the European Championships, but they made the group stage of the tournament in 2006.

As Czechoslovakia, they had greater success, winning the 1976 European Championships and finishing in second place at both the 1934 and 1962 World Cups.

Playing as Czechoslovakia

When part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bohemia played their first international in 1903. However, after World War I, Czechoslovakia entered its own independent soccer team in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp.

At the 1934 World Cup in Italy, Czechoslovakia beat Romania, Switzerland and Germany to reach the final. There, they lost 2-1 to the host nation after extra time. Oldrich Nejedly won the Golden Shoe for the World Cup with five goals.

A 7-1 aggregate victory over Bulgaria saw Czechoslovakia qualify for the 1938 World Cup in France. Once there, they beat the Netherlands 3-0 in Le Havre to book themselves a place in the quarter-finals, but they lost 2-1 to Brazil after a replay in a notoriously fiercely fought encounter. The match was nicknamed 'The Battle of Bordeaux'.

Czechoslovakia were absent from qualifying for the 1950 World Cup and were eliminated from the group stage in the 1954 and 1958 tournaments.

However, they finished third at the 1960 European Championships in France, the inaugural edition of the event.

Czechoslovakia then qualified for the 1962 World Cup in Chile by beating Scotland 4-2 after extra time in a play-off in Brussels, Belgium. The two sides had finished level in their qualifying group.

Jozef Stibranyi scored the only goal of the match as Czechoslovakia beat Spain 1-0 in their opening group stage fixture at the World Cup finals. They then managed a goalless draw with the reigning world champions at the time, Brazil. Despite a 3-1 defeat to Mexico in their final group game, they advanced to the next round.

Czechoslovakia then beat Hungary in the quarter-finals thanks to Adolf Scherer's goal. He was the hero once again in the semi-finals as his brace saw his country into the final, where they came up against Brazil at the Estadio Nacional de Chile in Santiago.

The final started well for them when Josef Masopust opened the scoring early, but Brazil eventually fought back and won the game 3-2.

After a bleak period of around a decade-and-a-half, Czechoslovakia’s next major moment of pride was when they won the 1976 European Championships. They beat West Germany in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw following extra time.

Czechoslovakia created a lasting legacy in that match that is still seen in soccer today, with Antonin Panenka scoring the winning spot-kick with the penalty technique that still carries his name.

Although they finished third at the European Championships of 1980, Czechoslovakia never reached such dizzy heights again as a unified nation.

After Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Czech Republic national soccer team in its current form came into existence. They played their first international fixture against Turkey in February 1994, winning the match 4-1.

The Czech national team in the current era

The Czech Republic got off to an exceptionally bright start, finishing top of their qualifying group for Euro 96 ahead of the much-fancied Netherlands.

Czech Republic players celebrate during the Euro 96 tournament

They were able to recover from a 2-0 defeat to Germany in their opening group stage fixture to progress all the way to the final, where they lost 2-1 to the same German side at Wembley, only losing to a golden goal in extra time.

The Czech Republic finished in third place at the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup, but failed to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France.

After a group stage exit at Euro 2000, they once again failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2002, but then came the emergence of a new era of star players.

A team consisting of the likes of Pavel Nedved, Jan Koller, Tomas Rosicky, Milan Baros, Marek Jankulovski, Tomas Galasek and emerging goalkeeper Petr Cech went unbeaten in 2002 and 2003, scoring 53 goals and conceding only 19.

The Czech Republic progressed through Group D at Euro 2004, coming back from 2-0 down against the Netherlands to win their encounter 3-2. They beat Denmark in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final showdown with eventual winners Greece, but luck was not on their side as they lost in extra time.

At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Czech Republic arrived with high hopes, but were eliminated in the group stage.

The Czech Republic once again qualified convincingly for Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland only to disappoint at the tournament itself, crashing out in the group stage once again.

The team embarrassingly failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2010. They managed to reset impressively though, and reached Euro 2012 by topping their qualifying group. Their journey ended in the quarter-finals against Portugal, losing 1-0 due to a Cristiano Ronaldo header.

The Czech Republic failed to qualify for the 2014 or 2018 World Cups and were eliminated in the group stage of Euro 2016 in France.

Czech Republic players celebrate scoring against Poland

Czech Republic legends

Jan Koller, Pavel Nedved and Petr Cech are among the biggest legends in Czech soccer.

Koller starred for Borussia Dortmund and Monaco among others, while Petr Cech shone for Chelsea and later Arsenal, going on to become Chelsea's technical director following retirement from playing.

Nedved shone in midfield for Lazio and most notably Juventus.

Karel Poborsky and Patrick Berger, the two stand-out players of their brilliant Euro 96 campaign, went on to impress with Manchester United and Liverpool, respectively.

Milan Baros is also notable having been the top scorer at Euro 2004 and starting for Liverpool in their now famous 2005 Champions League final win over AC Milan in Istanbul.

Part of the Czech Republic team in 2004 prior to a friendly against Germany

Czech Republic rivalries

It is only natural that the Czech Republic have a rivalry with Slovakia, with whom they used to be united as Czechoslovakia. The match-up between the two sides is known as the 'Federal Derby' and is a relatively even affair.

The two sides met in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, with the Czechs losing 2-1 in Bratislava before winning 3-0 in Prague. Neither side went on to qualify for the competition.

The teams next met competitively in qualifying for Euro 2008, with the Czechs defeating the Slovaks both home and away. Ahead of the 2010 World Cup, Slovakia got their revenge though, drawing 2-2 in Bratislava after defeating the Czechs 2-1 in Prague.

The two sides have also met four times in the Nations League, with the Czechs winning every encounter.

Czech Republic fanbase

Soccer and ice hockey are the most popular sports in the Czech Republic, meaning that the national soccer team is well-supported. It is quite common to see their supporters in large numbers at major tournaments, kitted out in their famous red.

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