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European Championship

Euro 2016 Team Guide: Czechs look to domestic stars to recreate former glories

02:41 GMT+3 05/06/2016
Borek Dockal - Cropped
The current crop of players is lacking in household names and must navigate a tough group despite qualifying for the tournament in France with ease

Coach: Pavel Vrba

Key player: Borek Dockal

Qualifying form: W7, L2, D1

Top scorers in qualifying: Borek Dockal (4), Pavel Kaderabek, Vaclav Pilar, Milan Skoda (all 2)

After storming through qualifying, Czech Republic will be out to reprise their strong performances of European Championships gone by in France, but they must navigate a difficult group in order to make an impression.

The Czechs have an impressive history in the competition, winning the trophy in 1976 as Czechoslovakia before returning to the final as a newly formed nation in 1996, only to lose 2-1 to a golden goal from Germany in extra time at Wembley.

A run to the semi-finals in 2004 was ended by shock champions Greece but, while that team featured a number of well-known talents who plied their trade in Europe's major leagues - such as Pavel Nedved, Tomas Rosicky, Jan Koller and Milan Baros - there will be few star names present in Pavel Vrba's squad this time around.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech will feature in his fourth European Championship, while club-mate Rosicky was included in the squad despite an injury-hit season for Arsene Wenger's men.

But if Czech Republic are to progress through a Group D that also features holders Spain, a talented Croatia side and a Turkey team that claimed an away win over Vrba's men in qualifying, they will have to rely largely on players who contest their club football in the Czech First League.

Sparta Prague midfielder Borek Dockal was pivotal as they topped qualifying Group A, netting four goals and supplying an assist from his position wide on the right in a marvellous campaign in which they beat Netherlands - who failed to reach the finals - home and away.

Hoffenheim right-back Pavel Kaderabek, who along with Cech played the most minutes in qualifying with 810, also proved a threat with two goals and two assists, while Viktoria Plzen midfielder Vaclav Pilar and Slavia Prague forward Milan Skoda also contributed, both finding the net twice.

But while Czech Republic were able to find goals from different areas, the worry for Vrba and centre-back and captain Tomas Sivok will be the defensive side of things.

The side failed to keep a clean sheet in qualifying, conceding two goals away from home against minnows Kazakhstan.

Fortunately for Vrba, their defensive frailties went unpunished, although that is unlikely to be the case in France when the real action begins.

Indeed, Spain and Croatia scored 43 goals between them and, for all the quality the likes of Dockal and his team-mates can offer going forward, their talent will count for little if the backline is not solidified ahead of what promises to be a difficult path through to the knockout stages.