There is a changing of the guard amid the Czech Republic squad so fans are having to familiarise themselves with some new names. One in particular stands out: Theodor Gebre Selassie. Most would probably associate his surname with Ethiopia's legendary long-distance runner, Haile. But make no mistake; Theodor is as Czech as knedlíky and pivo (dumplings and beer).
"I prefer much shorter distances, like the ones you have to run in football," smiled the pacy defender, who was born in the picturesque southern Czech town of Trebic. "My father came from Ethiopia to study in the Czech Republic. He met my mum at the University of Olomouc, and after graduation they stayed together."
Nearly three decades on and their son has developed into arguably the best Czech right-back since Zdeněk Grygera. He made his debut just over 12 months ago in a friendly with Peru, and the 25-year-old's lung-bursting forays forward – coupled with his serenity in possession – have caught the eye. Coach Michal Bílek showed his faith by including Gebre Selassie in the starting XI for both legs of the play-off against Montenegro.
For someone who has risen so quickly, his feet remain firmly rooted to the ground. "It was much better than I expected," he said of this season's championship-winning campaign with his club, FC Slovan Liberec. Like his namesake, Gebre Selassie put in a marathon performance, playing every minute of every game. He makes the switch from defence into attack look effortless.
Gebre Selassie is always ready to talk to fans through Twitter, and writes a daily blog for them from UEFA EURO 2012. He is also an avid cinema-goer, and his team-mates often turn to him for recommendations. The film of his own life might be called 'Theo's Czech Dream'. On Friday, when the Czech Republic take on Russia, another dramatic scene may unfold.
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