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UEFA EURO 2020 contenders in focus: Czech Republic

We continue our look at the history and pedigree of all 24 UEFA EURO 2020 contenders. Next up: Czech Republic.

EURO pedigree

Previous final tournaments: 9 (6 as Czech Republic, 3 as Czechoslovakia)
EURO best: winners as Czechoslovakia (1976), silver as Czech Republic (1996)

EURO final tournaments have long been a source of pride for Czech fans. After winning the gold and bronze (twice) as Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic have also been tournament regulars since 1996, when they finished runners-up to Germany. They also reached the semi-finals in Portugal in 2004, an impressive run regarded ultimately as a missed opportunity for a golden generation.

Key players

Every goal on the Czech Republic's road to EURO 2020
Every goal on the Czech Republic's road to EURO 2020

Tomáš Souček (30 caps, 4 goals)
The beating heart of the Czech midfield who redefines what it means to have "good feet for a big man". Czech Player of the Season in 2018/19 as Slavia Praha won the title, and voted the nation's best player by journalists in 2020, he is providing pace and energy in an impressive West Ham United outfit.

Vladimír Darida (68 caps, 8 goals)
All-action midfielder who plies his trade with Hertha Berlin. Darida sets the example to follow and inspired the surprise qualifying victory against England. Captain and leader.

Memorable EURO goals

• Antonín Panenka's decisive chipped penalty in the 1976 final has rightly gone into folklore; what a way to seal the title!

• Karel Poborský's magnificent lob against Portugal in the EURO '96 quarter-finals clinched his team's progress, looping so high over Vítor Baía that the keeper could do little more than watch in admiration.

Watch Baroš strike for Czech Republic in 2004
Watch Baroš strike for Czech Republic in 2004

• The Czechs' 3-2 come-from-behind win against the Netherlands in the 2004 group stage is considered one of the greatest fightbacks in the competition's history. Milan Baroš' sensational volley to make it 2-2 – after Jan Koller had chested down Pavel Nedvěd's cross – is recalled especially fondly.

Memorable moments

• The Czechs have never lost a penalty shoot-out. They won the 1976 final by converting all five spot kicks against West Germany and, remarkably, the same players in the same order took the first five penalties four years later to secure third spot in Italy.

• The Czechs lost the EURO '96 final courtesy of Oliver Bierhoff's golden goal; custodian Petr Kouba's touch was not quite firm enough to keep the ball out and the game was definitively over in an instant.

• Thanks to Vladimír Šmicer's late strike, Czech Republic earned a 3-3 draw with Russia in their final EURO '96 group match. They were left waiting on the pitch for the result of the Italy-Germany meeting and burst into celebrations at full time.

Stats

Watch Poborský's iconic EURO '96 lob
Watch Poborský's iconic EURO '96 lob

Most final tournament appearances
14: Petr Čech, Karel Poborský
12: Pavel Nedvěd
11: Jaroslav Plašil, Vladimír Šmicer

Most final tournament goals

5: Milan Baroš

Killer stat: Czech Republic are the only country to have lost a final and a semi-final by a golden goal (1996) and a silver goal (2004) respectively.

Did you know?

• Czech Republic are ever-presents at EURO, participating in seven successive final tournaments.

• The Czechs won all ten of their UEFA EURO 2000 qualifying fixtures.

• Šmicer flew home to get married ahead of the EURO '96 final but was back in England for the game at Wembley.

Great EURO goals: Czech Republic