THE wait is nearly over for Scotland and the Tartan Army. For a generation of Scotland fans, the meeting with the Czech Republic on Monday will be the game that sticks in their mind forevermore as Steve Clarke’s side kick-off their campaign at Hampden.

The memories of the defeat to Brazil 23 years ago will still be vivid for those that cheered Scotland on at home or abroad and now Clarke’s side have a chance to write their name in the folklore of our game.

Victory over the Czechs would be momentous for Scotland and the national side have a real chance of getting their Group D campaign off to a successful start. Time will tell if the wait has been worth it.


A FIFA World Ranking spot of 40 – just four places higher than Steve Clarke’s side – gives an indication of the level of the Czech side that are managed by Jaroslav Šilhavý.

The meeting at Hampden could be definitive in terms of qualification from the section and the form book – with three wins and a draw - is on Scotland’s side as they look to get the section off to a perfect start next week.

Clarke will certainly respect the challenge posed by the Czechs but there is nothing to fear ahead of the opening fixture on Monday and a 4-0 defeat to Italy last week wasn’t exactly the result that Šilhavý was looking for to kick-start their preparations. On Tuesday evening, his side were 3-1 winners at home to Albania.

The Czechs have a proud record of competing at every European Championships since their famous side that reached the finals for the first time in 1996 following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. There is nobody with the quality of Pavel Nedvěd, Karel Poborský, Patrik Berger or Vladimír Šmicer within their ranks this time around, though, and little chance that they will match the achievement of reaching the final 25 years on.

The Czechs would finish behind England in the Nations League but they did inflict the only defeat of the campaign on Gareth Southgate’s side as they won 2-1 in October 2019.

Their form in the World Cup qualifiers has been erratic. A 6-2 victory away to Estonia was certainly impressive and a 1-1 draw with Belgium notable, but they would lose 1-0 to Wales in March in what was their last competitive fixture.


Tomáš Souček, the West Ham United midfielder, perhaps encapsulates everything that the Czech side are about and he will have as much influence for his country this summer as he had for his club during an impressive Premier League campaign.

His role is primarily to provide a defensive shield in the middle of the park but the 26-year-old has added goals to his game and he would finish the season tied with Michail Antonio after netting times for the Hammers last term. He also scored a hat-trick in that 6-2 victory over Estonia and he arrives at the Euros in fine form and as an obvious threat.

His never-say-die attitude is quickly apparent and he is a tireless and combative presence. It would be no surprise to see him enjoy a fine tournament this summer.


A lack of cutting edge in the final third – the Czechs scored just 13 times in eight games in their qualifying section – could prove to be their undoing this summer but in striker Patrick Schick they have a man capable of transforming their fortunes in front of goal.

The 25-year-old will lead the line in the 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation that Šilhavý will utilise in Group D and the key for the Czechs will be getting support to a forward that has scored 19 times in two Bundesliga campaigns for RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen.

Technically adept and with a turn of pace that will trouble most defenders, Schick was sent off in that defeat to Wales as a rare moment of madness saw him elbow Connor Roberts.

Formerly of Sparta Prague, Sampdoria and Roma, Schick has an impressive pedigree and he will now be aiming to showcase his talents on the Championships stage.


The Czech squad has a blend of youth and experience within it this summer and the stage could be set for someone to emerge through the ranks and really shine at this level.

At just 18, forward Adam Hložek may be the most likely candidate and he has already been touted with a move to West Ham to link up with international compatriot Souček under the guidance of Davie Moyes.

The Sparta Prague winger earned a first senior cap in September’s Nations League win away to Slovakia but would suffer a metatarsal fracture just weeks later.

Hložek may be inexperienced at this level but the man who is the youngest player ever to play a league match for Sparta could be one to watch in the coming weeks.


Šilhavý would replace Karel Jarolim as boss in 2018 and progress has been steady under the guidance of the respected 59-year-old, who previously had a long spell as an assistant manager at international level.

He holds the record for having the most red cards in the Czech league and his side perform with the same commitment that he exhibited as a player.

An underwhelming stint at Viktoria Plzen aside, Šilhavý has enjoyed plenty of success in recent times and he would lead Slovan Liberec and then Slavia Prague to the league title before a fall out with director Martin Krob saw him return to the national team three years ago.


Since that memorable run to the final in 1996, the Czechs have only reached one semi-final and they wouldn’t get beyond the quarters in 2012. In the other three tournaments at which they have appeared, they suffered group stage exits in 2000, 2008 and 2016.

Given the nature of the competition this time around, they will certainly fancy their chances of avoiding such a fate again and even if they don’t claim one of the top two spots in Group D they will reckon an opening day win over Scotland should put them in the driving seat to finish third in the section.

The chance of another Wembley final will sure inspire them this summer. It is hard to see them going deep into the Euros, though.


The spine of the side is strong and picks itself for boss Šilhavý and there is a foundation upon which they can build in Tomas Vaclik, Ondrej Celustka, Tomas Soucek and Patrik Schick.

That is a solid basis for the Czechs and any success they have will rely on those handful of key men performing at their best. If they do, that doesn’t bode well for Scotland.

There are other figures within the Czech squad – such as Vladimir Coufal of West Ham – that will be familiar to many. A handful of players are on the books of Rangers’ Europa League conquerors Slavia Prague and Lukas Masopust – who saw his header remarkably saved by Allan McGregor late on in the first leg of the Europa League clash - is perhaps the most recognisable name from that tie.

There will, of course, be no place for team-mate Ondrej Kudela after he was given a ten-game suspension by UEFA following the racist abuse directed towards Glen Kamara during the second match at Ibrox. Kudela had appealed the severity of the ban but the 34-year-old has surely now missed out on his final tournament appearance.

His absence will see Tomas Kalas partner Celustka at the heart of the Czech defence, while Coufal and another Slavia star, left-back Jan Boril, will take up the full-back roles.

The Czechs are unlikely to be too flamboyant in the central areas as Soucek and Vladimir Darida form a resolute pairing. Alex Kral will join them.

In the wider areas, Masopust will play off one side and Jakub Jankto of Sampdoria the other as they provide the attacking support to Schick.


Prices in the three-figures – anywhere between 100/1 and 150/1 depending on where you place your money - tell you what you need to know about the Czech’s chances of going all the way and lifting the trophy. Few will back them to put in a serious challenge.