The Czech Republic enter Euro 2020 with the core of the Slavia Prague team that reached the Europa League quarter-finals, giving them the confidence to make a mark at the tournament.
But the Czechs, appearing in their seventh consecutive Euro finals, face a challenge to get out of a group that includes tournament favourites England, host nation Scotland, and 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.
Czech Under-18 coach David Holoubek has said the cohesion and high-intensity of Slavia’s approach will boost the national team’s chances of surviving Group D.
The Slavia thread binding the national team together also includes the club’s former players such as midfielder Tomas Soucek who plied his trade at the Czech champions before moving to West Ham in 2020 where he has played a key role.
In the Czechs’ 1-0 loss to Wales in a World Cup qualifier in March, four Slavia players started the match alongside Soucek and Coufal with another coming off the bench.
One key Slavia player who won’t travel to the tournament is Ondrej Kudela, the centre back serving a 10-match UEFA ban for “racist behaviour” during the club’s second leg of their Europa League last-16 match against Rangers.
That incident took the sheen off Slavia’s success in the competition in which they dispatched the Scottish champions and Premier League side Leicester City before losing to Arsenal in the quarter-finals.
It sets up an intriguing match with Scotland on June 14 before the Czechs face Croatia four days later, also in Glasgow, and England — who they beat 2-1 in qualifying after a 5-0 thumping by the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists — at Wembley on June 22.
Coach Jaroslav Silhavy, 59, a former defender who holds the Czech top-flight record for appearances, took charge after the team missed the World Cup in Russia and leaned on the Slavia core as he guided the team to Euro 2020 qualification.
While the Slavia contingent make up the heart of the side, the Czechs will rely on 25-year-old Bayern Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick to lead the attack.
Schick topped their scoring chart in qualifying with four goals and has shown flashes of his early promise in the Bundesliga this season after struggling to make a big impact at Sampdoria and AS Roma in Italy’s Serie A.
Team captain and Hertha Berlin midfielder Vladimir Darida, who has scored eight goals in 70 international appearances, provides experience for what will be the 30-year-old’s third Euro finals appearance.
The Czechs have mostly avoided major injuries but have lost Slavia midfielder Lukas Provod – who scored in the 1-1 draw against Belgium in World Cup qualifying – with a knee injury.