Czech Republic know it's boom or bust in Scotland Euro 2020 clash, says former Hearts striker Michal Pospisil
Scotland remain unbeaten at Hampden Park against Czech Republic and the former Czechoslovakia. It is a record they must defend fiercely today in the biggest international match ever staged at the famous stadium.
The national team’s opening Euro 2020 tie involves a familiar foe in the shape of Jaroslav Šilhavý’s side. In both their current and former guise, the Czechs have visted Hampden seven times since 1937 and suffered six losses. A 2-2 draw in a 2011 European Championship qualifier is their best result. Their only victory on Scottish soil came in a friendly at Celtic Park back in 1999.
Scotland can therefore enter today’s fixture with a degree of confidence as the atmosphere in Glasgow approaches fever-pitch. Across in Prague, it is slightly more sombre. Many Czechs view Scotland as their weakest opponent in Group D and feel this could be the fixture which ultimately determines whether they reach the knockout phase.
England and Croatia have still to come for both nations, but the quiet Prague streets indicate a population feeling slightly nervous. A 4-0 trouncing by Italy in a warm-up friendly didn’t help, although the Czechs did beat Albania 3-1 in their final pre-tournament outing.
Score to settle
“We played Scotland twice last year and lost both times so I think our team wants to finally beat Scotland,” said Michal Pospíšil, the former Hearts forward who represented his country at under-21 level. “Nations League games are not as important as the European Championship. I have watched the Scottish team and they are getting better.
“People here are expecting our team to win if they want to go through to the next stage. Everybody feels this is the game that can decide our next step. England is the big favourite in the group. We beat them at home but I’m not sure we have a team who can beat England again and again.
“England are at a high level, Croatia is quite similar to us although they probably have some bigger starts. Everybody thinks we should be the better team against Scotland if we play to our best standard. But I guess Scotland feel the same about us.”
Similar to many capital cities across Europe right now, there are thousands of Czech fans restricted to television viewing when they would otherwise be cheering on their country in person.
Lack of atmosphere
“When we reached the European Championship before, it used to be great,” explained Pospíšil. “Now it is more calm than before because of the Covid restrictions. Pubs just opened, you can’t have lots of people at one table, so maybe there will be more outside areas. The atmosphere is not as good as before.
“Lots of people would travel to Scotland to go to Hampden but they would maybe need to quarantine. There will probably only be a few big Czech supporters who will travel and that is a shame. Normally we would be there all week.
“People here will watch on TV. If we go through and restrictions are less, then I believe the atmosphere will grow.”
Pospíšil contracted the virus himself and wound up bedridden for eight days. He now has sufficient antibodies not to need a vaccine at this stage and has thankfully made a full recovery. His health is fine, but he is slightly concerned about the wellbeing of his nation.
“The Czech team does not seem in top shape after the last few games,” he said. “Our team did well in Euro qualification and the Nations League, apart from the Scotland games. We have a solid defensive team but no big stars.
“All the players need to be at their best on the same day, then we can compete against big teams. It’s such a big opportunity so I hope we get some bounce to shine at this tournament.”
Two to watch
The Czechs present a physical danger to Scotland with hulking brutes like West Ham United midfielder Tomáš Souček an obvious threat from set-pieces. Their technical ability should not be overlooked, however.
Patrik Schick is a highly-rated Bundesliga striker with Bayer Leverkusen, Matěj Vydra is an intelligent forward who plies his trade in England with Burnley, while captain Vladimír Darida is another mainstay of the German league with Hertha Berlin.
“I like Schick, the striker. He is able to decide a game,” said Pospíšil. “He is probably a better striker than the Scottish guys but he needs the support. I would say Soucek, who has been very good for West Ham, is also a big player for us.”
What Pospíšil is up to now
Pospíšil fully intends watching the Euros matches if he can find time. Now 42, he runs his own coaching business in Prague and works with many youngsters attending the Prague British International School. He also has a growing family with wife Gabriela.
They welcomed a third son during last year’s Covid lockdown and now have David, Daniel and Nick to keep them busy. “Unfortunately, I can’t make a girl. We wanted a girl but we will not be trying for any more,” laughed Pospíšil.
“I am coaching young players now and I really enjoy it. I coach mostly young people from the British school in Prague. They come to me after school and I do lots of individual training with them.
“A lot of the boys could not have team training in the last year because of Covid so I was pretty busy with that stuff. It’s a nice job because you see boys improving and taking steps forward.
“I am the boss so I can do what I want. If I have time then I do it but I also get time to spend with my family. I had some offers to work with the Slavia junior teams but I rejected them. Maybe later.”