Preview: Czech Republic vs. England

Preview: Czech Republic vs. England

Euro 2020 surprise package the Czech Republic and England – blowing hot and cold – will vie to qualify from Group D as winners when they do battle at Wembley on Tuesday night.

Both teams claimed a point from their most recent encounters, as the Three Lions could not find a way past Scotland while the Czech Republic managed to hold Croatia to a 1-1 draw.

After a full Premier League season of controversial refereeing decisions and VAR reviews sparking heated debates week in week out, a Euro 2020 campaign without such dramas has been a breath of fresh air, but eyebrows were raised when Dejan Lovren’s flailing elbow on Patrik Schick led to a penalty on matchday two.

A bloodied Schick cleaned himself off before dispatching the resulting spot kick as Dominik Livakovic went the wrong way, but Croatia were level within two minutes of the restart as Ivan Perisic cut inside on his right foot before firing home to restore parity for the Chequered Ones.

Neither team could find the second goal which they so craved during the rest of the encounter, but Jaroslav Silhavy was satisfied with a point against the 2018 World Cup runners-up, and results on Monday means that the Czech Republic have already advanced to the knockout stages for just the fourth time as an independent nation.

Schick’s game-winning brace against Scotland on matchday one means that the Czech Republic currently lead the way at the top of the rankings, and so long as they can avoid defeat against England, they will make it out of the group as winners and set up a tie with the runners-up from the group of death.

It is mathematically impossible for the Czech Republic to finish lower than third in the group, so the prospect of Silhavy’s men advancing as one of the best third-placed teams is still very much alive, but the group leaders have every reason to be optimistic about their chances of claiming a famous scalp over an uninspired England.

As the Tartan Army made their presence felt in the English capital, Steve Clarke’s men certainly made their presence felt on the Wembley turf, and England were arguably fortunate to come away with a point in a 0-0 draw against their neighbours.

Another uninspiring performance from talisman Harry Kane did not help matters, but Scotland showed a passion and desire that was devoid in the Three Lions’ side throughout the 90 minutes, and in a familiar sight, the pressure is piling on Gareth Southgate’s shoulders once again.

However, England’s last-16 fate remains in their own hands thanks to their opening-day victory over Croatia, and the second-placed Three Lions have had their spot in the knockout stages confirmed due to results elsewhere, while a win would see them leapfrog the Czech Republic at the top.

Just like in Russia three years ago, a runners-up place could see England rewarded with a friendlier tie in the next round versus the runners-up of Group E – although that could very well be Spain – and failure to sink the Czechs would not exactly lead to high hopes for the rest of the summer.

Southgate would have been satisfied to see his side keep their fourth clean sheet on the bounce against Scotland, though, and they thrashed the Czech Republic 5-0 at Wembley during Euro 2020 qualification, but their upcoming opponents gained revenge in a 2-1 success back in October 2019.

Czech Republic European Championship form:
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Czech Republic form (all competitions):
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England European Championship form:
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England form (all competitions):
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