When you think of Czech Republic football the first memories for most would be their highly successful Euro 1996 campaign, a dazzling run to the final which saw them eliminate Italy, Portugal and France. While they eventually succumbed to a newly reunified Germany in the final, ever since the Czechs are seen as a strong outside bet for any major tournament they are lucky enough to qualify for.

This interesting phenomenon looks set to continue, as manager Pavel Vrba leads his side to France having topped one of the most taxing qualifying groups. Overcoming the likes of Holland, Turkey and up-starts Iceland to accrue an enviable twenty-four points, the Czech Republic go into this summer’s  tournament buoyed with the knowledge that they can compete against some of the continent’s best sides.

If the Czech Republic is to continue their perennial dark horse trend then they must overcome a highly challenging group. Fixtures against Spain, Croatia and Turkey ensure that a safe passage into the knock-out stage is far from a guaranteed procession.

Whilst Cech is still relishing in the No1 role, Rosicky is being phased out of the international team

Whilst Cech is still relishing in the No1 role, Rosicky is being phased out of the international team

In winning the Barclay’s Premier League Golden Glove award for the fourth time Veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech has demonstrated that he is still a goalkeeper of world-class talent. Vrba can also call upon the experienced unit of Michal Kadlec, Daniel Pudil, David Limbersky and Gebre Selassie in defence. Marek Suchy can deputise at left-back but is equally adept in shielding the back four, an option they will likely explore considering the vast ocean of attacking talents of their group stage rivals.

Elsewhere, the experienced duo of Tomas Rosicky and Jiroslav Plasil are slowly being phased out in favour of a more youthful, vigorous model in the shape of Vladimír Darida, Bořek Dočkal and Josef Šural. While the midfield will be much less aesthetically pleasing than the 96’ variety, there is still enough quality and dynamism to make an impression on the tournament. Despite the menagerie of injuries that have curtailed Rosicky’s career, there is still the hope his big-game mentality and undoubted technical ability can make the difference one last time.