Denmark stand between not only the Czech Republic and the last four but also Patrik Schick's chances of being tournament top scorer.
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Patrik Schick has played down his chances of emulating Milan Baroš by winning the EURO Golden Boot, but that will not stop the comparisons between the Czech Republic striker and the talisman of his country's 2004 campaign.Czech Republic vs Denmark: live coverage
"It is not a big topic for me – the main thing is the team's success," said Schick when asked about being one goal shy of Cristiano Ronaldo in the UEFA EURO 2020 top scorers race. "My aim is not to win the Golden Boot but to help my team get as far as possible. I am not that interested in how many goals I will have scored by the end."
The 25-year-old Bayer Leverkusen forward has claimed four crucial goals in as many games going into Saturday's Baku quarter-final against Denmark – and with Ronaldo's Portugal eliminated, he is the player most likely to catch or eclipse the Juventus star. Schick has already equalled Vladimír Šmicer's overall EURO tally of four and needs just one to sit alongside Baroš – the Czechs' all-time leading marksman at EURO finals after his Golden Boot-winning five strikes in 2004.
Tomáš Galásek, Czech Republic assistant coach, played with Baroš in 2004 and compared the pair for EURO2020.com. "'Bari' [Baroš] played off the main striker so I would liken Patrik more to Jan Koller, but they are different players," said the 69-cap former international. "Baroš played around Koller, who set up some goals for him. Patrik is creating them on his own and has a strong left foot."
Vladimír Coufal also found the comparison difficult. "That is a hard question," said the Czechs' West Ham full-back. "Patrik is a more technical player. He prepares more in his approach to finishing, though Milan Baroš was an excellent player too – he won the Champions League. But we all want him to win the Golden Boot. If he wants to become a top player he must score one more goal. And if we don't concede, then we are in the semis. That would be great!"
Coufal provided an excellent assist for Schick's first goal, a fine header against Scotland in the Group D opener. "I spotted Schick in position and knew, as soon as I got the ball and crossed, that he would beat the two defenders," he said. "It was not served on a plate. It was hard but he did brilliantly to get there.
"He is a smart player. He always finds space, goes past players and manages to get into space in time and either uses his head or volleys – he does it so well. I just need to look in his direction and when I see him, I get him the ball."
Though different types of attackers, Schick and Baroš share one trait – a hunger for goals. "I did not hesitate to take the penalty – I could sniff a goal," said Schick of his penalty against Croatia on Matchday 2, when he had to change his blood-stained shirt before being allowed to convert the spot kick. "Schick is very confident and he scores goals, so there was no reason to talk him out of it," added Coufal. "He took it and scored, so everything was fine. It didn't matter if his nose was bleeding or not!"
Fellow forward Michael Krmenčík confirms the dressing-room view of Schick, who has also played for Sampdoria, Roma and Leipzig (on loan) . "He's the kind of person for whom team success is more important than goals. If he scores but we lose, he's disappointed. He's a team player just like everybody else," said Krmenčík, who predicts the former Sparta trainee and Bohemians loanee will finish as tournament top scorer.
When the Czechs beat Denmark 3-0 in their 2004 quarter-final en route to a losing semi-final appearance, Baroš bagged two marvellous goals; the Danes will note there is another in-form striker trying to produce a painful déjà vu moment.
Current Denmark defender Mathias Jørgensen told EURO2020.com that match remains a sorry memory: "I think of EURO 2004 when I had a really bad experience watching the match in Copenhagen Town Hall Square. We all believed we would easily get past them [Czech Republic], but it turned into an awful and, I remember, rainy day in Copenhagen."
If Schick can replicate Baroš's heroics against the Danes this weekend, he will take a large stride towards making history both individually and for his nation.Download the EURO app