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Analysis - Czechs must take Euro inspiration from past glories

Football Soccer - Spain v Czech Republic - EURO 2016 - Group D - Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse, France - 13/6/16 Czech Republic's Vladimir Darida has a shot saved by Spain's David de Gea REUTERS/Albert Gea Livepic
Football Soccer - Spain v Czech Republic - EURO 2016 - Group D - Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse, France - 13/6/16Czech Republic's Vladimir Darida has a shot saved by Spain's David de Gea REUTERS/Albert GeaLivepic

By Ed Dove

BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - Whether it was Antonin Panenka's insouciant penalty or Karel Poborsky's audacious chip, the great Czech sides of the past had a sense of adventure and daring that the current team seems to lack, judging by Monday's 1-0 defeat to Spain.

Gerard Pique's 87th-minute header was enough to earn the Spaniards an opening Euro 2016 victory in their Group D clash in Toulouse against a Czech Republic side that had frustrated the champions but offered little going forward.

Coach Pavel Vrba revealed that television stations at home had regularly been showing replays of the nation's greatest footballing moments in anticipation of the Euros, but his Czech team looked a long way short of their predecessors' panache.

As Czechoslovakia, they won Euro 1976, when Panenka's chipped penalty down the middle of the goal secured a 5-3 shootout victory over West Germany and prompted a litany of imitators.

Twenty years later at Euro 96, the Czech Republic saw off Italy, Portugal and France before a 2-1 extra-time final defeat by Germany.

Winger Poborsky captured the imagination with some dazzling contributions, notably a delicious lobbed winner over Portugal's Vitor Baia to settle the quarter-final.

"I saw it all as a young boy and then as a young man, so I remember them well," Vrba told reporters. "They were great tournaments for the Czechs and the Czechoslovaks.

"Panenka's penalty will never be forgotten," he added.

While supporters have been reminded of the flair and the audacity of these great sides, the present crop demonstrated few of their qualities on Monday.

Better teams than the Czechs have been passed off the park by Spain, although a tame Tomas Necid effort was worryingly their solitary shot on target.

Tomas Rosicky's occasional slaloms forward were the only nod towards the nation's more exotic footballing past.

Unexpected qualities, however, did come to the fore as they frustrated the holders.

For a side who conceded 14 goals in qualification, the Czechs offered an encouraging blend of aggression and discipline to thwart Spain's attackers.

Imperious goalkeeper Petr Cech also set the tone with some sharp first-half saves and was unlucky to concede.

Yet while the defensive resolve they showed will serve them well in upcoming encounters against Turkey and Croatia, they will almost certainly need to produce more attacking verve if they are to come close to matching the achievements of the past.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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