Published 26/05/2016 at 12:47 GMT | Updated 10/06/2016 at 17:01 GMT
The Czechs have an impressive track record at European Championships, finishing as runners-up in 1996 and losing to eventual winners Greece in the 2004 semi-finals when a wonderfully talented side should probably have won the tournament.
That is before the success of the state from which the country emerged, Czechoslovakia, in winning the 1976 tournament is considered and while there is little chance of a repeat performance this time there are a few signs that Czech football is on the way back.
Coach Pavel Vrba has done a fine job since arriving in 2013 and, while they will compete in a very tight group, could well take them into the last 16.
What part will Tomas Rosicky play? The former captain was selected for the squad despite playing just 19 minutes of football at Arsenal last season and, at 35, is now looking for a new club. There is no doubting the influence that Rosicky, who has won 100 caps and at his best has been a marvellous driving force for the national team, has had since his debut in 2000 and he played in half of the qualifiers, but it is surely asking too much for him to feature from the start in France. The team has probably moved on, but even the merest flourishes from Rosicky could be enough to improve their fate.
The Czechs will play a 4-2-3-1, a feature of which will be the forays upfield of Hoffenheim right-back Pavel Kaderabek. Across from him, the 32-year-old David Limbersky will probably play but Werder Bremen’s Theodor Gebre Selassie, although primarily right-sided, can also operate there to good effect. In midfield, Vladimir Darida will probably the playmaker role that Rosicky made his own for so long. Experienced Bordeaux player Jaroslav Plasil will be important in a deeper position.
THE MANAGER: PAVEL VRBA
Image credit: Imago
Vrba has breathed new life into a previously uninspiring Czech team, forging a unit that plays attacking, attractive, possession-based football. He worked wonders in his previous job with Victoria Plzen, winning two league titles and taking them to the Champions League group stage; the 52-year-old has a Slovakian league title to his name with Zilina, too, and has been named the Czech coach of the year five times. His sureness of touch is a big asset to setup going into Euro 2016.
TOP THREE PLAYERS
Petr Cech: If Rosicky is absent then his erstwhile Arsenal clubmate is the Czechs’ one world-class presence, and Cech – who is closing in on his 120th cap – has a measure of experience and composure that rubs off on his team-mates.
Pavel Kaderabek: An attacking right-back with good physical presence, Kaderabek was outstanding when the Czech Republic hosted the UEFA Under-21 Championship a year ago, subsequently moving to Hoffenheim from Sparta Prague.
Czech Republic's Pavel Kaderabek (C) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between The Netherlands vs Czech Republic at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, October 13, 2015.
Image credit: AFP
Vladimir Darida: Hertha Berlin fell short of qualification for Europe last season but the industrious Darida, who can operate in deep or attacking midfield roles, impressed so much that he was linked with a move to Real Madrid.
Vladimir Darida (Hertha BSC)
Image credit: Imago
SOCIAL MEDIA STAR
The squad are not a laugh a minute on social media although Gebre Selassie has a dry sense of humour and often tweets in English, too.
JONATHAN WILSON’S KILLER KNOWLEDGE
For most of qualifying, David Lafata was the lone central striker. He is experienced but, despite four times being the top scorer in the Czech League, he hasn’t scored an international goal since October 2014. That suggests his importance as a link-man and creator of space, but there is an argument to start the taller Bursaspor striker Tomas Necid.
Image credit: Eurosport
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
The Czechs did superbly to win Group A by two points from Iceland, securing top spot with a 3-2 win in the Netherlands on the final matchday. Slip-ups were few, a setback in Reykjavik and a 2-0 home reverse to Turkey three days before the Amsterdam victory proving the only real blemishes although a late Vaclav Pilar goal prevented an embarrassing defeat to Latvia.
Four successive wins at the start of the qualifiers did much to pave the way for their success – with an early triumph over the Dutch and a 2-1 win in Istanbul suggesting Vrba’s team meant business.
Goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet (C) of the Netherlands fights for the ball with Theodor Gebre Selassie of Czech Republic during their Euro 2016 group A qualifying soccer match in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos