England vs. Czech Republic preview: Euro 2020 Qualifier preview, where to watch and more
England should go into the game as massive favourites given their recent success; they reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and then went on to top their UEFA Nations League group ahead of Spain and Croatia, qualifying for the finals tournament in June in the process.
The Czech Republic meanwhile missed out on the World Cup and also had middling results in their Nations League group in League B, defeating Slovakia twice but suffering a pair of losses to Ukraine that prevented them from gaining promotion into League A.
With the top two teams from each qualifying group making next summer’s finals, the likelihood is that the Czechs will be aiming to capture the runner’s up spot behind England – finishing ahead of Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo in the process – and so to see Jaroslav Silhavy’s side attempt to stifle the Three Lions on Friday wouldn’t be surprising.
Date: 22nd March, 2019
Time: 19:45 (local time), 01:15 (IST)
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
Referee: Artur Soares Dias
TV Coverage: ITV (UK), ESPN 3 (US), Sony LIV (India)
Last 5 international fixtures
Czech Republic: L-W-L-W-W
England: 1 win
Czech Republic: 0 wins
Draws: 1 draw
A rare occasion
Despite being two of Europe’s premier sides for years now, Friday’s meeting will be only the third time England and the Czech Republic have ever faced off against one another – and it’ll mark the first time the two sides have played in a competitive game, too.
You’ve got to go back over a decade to find the last match between the two sides; August 2008 saw the Three Lions draw 2-2 with the Czechs at Wembley, with a last-minute strike from Joe Cole saving England’s blushes after a free kick from Marek Jankulovski put the away side ahead on 48 minutes.
To put the time period into perspective, David Beckham assisted for both of England’s goals, the match was Fabio Capello’s 5th in charge of the Three Lions, and it was also televised on the long-forgotten Setanta Sports channel!
England – fielding a side featuring Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard – largely struggled on the night, and Gareth Southgate will be hoping his side fare better on Friday.
This could’ve been the final of Euro ‘96
England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup went some way to eclipsing their last great performance in a major tournament – Euro ’96, which famously saw the Three Lions make the semi-finals as the host nation.
Interestingly enough, had current boss Gareth Southgate not missed his fateful penalty in the semi against Germany and had England made it through, they’d have played the Czech Republic in the final.
Despite being major underdogs in the tournament, the Czechs – who could call upon future superstars Pavel Nedved, Vladimir Smicer and Patrik Berger – stunned Italy to escape the group stages and then knocked out Portugal and France to reach the final, where they were finally overcome by Germany following Oliver Bierhoff’s ‘golden goal’.
As the Czech Republic have never faced England in a competitive match, Friday will mark the first time they have returned to Wembley for competitive football since that famous final almost 23 years ago – and they’ll be hoping for a better outcome this time.
There’s a distinct lack of Premier League experience for the visitors
The Premier League has become such a cosmopolitan, multi-national competition these days that the majority of international teams that face England – with the exception of minnows such as San Marino and Andorra – tend to have at least a handful of players who play their club football there. That isn’t the case on Friday, though.
The Czech Republic’s squad for the match contains 18 players, and just two of them ply their trade in England, with one – defender Tomas Kalas – playing for Championship outfit Bristol City, for whom he’s made 28 appearances this season. Striker Matej Vydra meanwhile plays for Burnley, but has only started 3 Premier League games this season, scoring just 1 goal.
Overall the Czech squad contains one player from La Liga, two from the Bundesliga, two from Serie A, and one from Ligue 1. 7 of the 18 ply their trade at home, meaning the squad is a far cry from the star-studded one that the Republic could call upon from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s.
England’s squad seems to get younger
Gareth Southgate took one of the youngest squads to the World Cup in Russia last year, meaning their run to the semi-finals came as somewhat of a surprise given their dearth of international experience.
The World Cup squad had an average age of just 25, but since then, older players like Jamie Vardy, Gary Cahill and Ashley Young have stepped away from the international scene.
Southgate has continued to add young talent to the ranks of the Three Lions in the months following the World Cup, with youngsters like Jadon Sancho, Declan Rice and Ben Chilwell breaking onto the scene. The addition of Chelsea tyro Callum Hudson-Odoi to this most recent squad has given it an even more youthful flavour.
The average age of the current 22-man England squad? Just 24 years old. Southgate’s players have a total of 402 international caps between them – Jordan Henderson has the most at 48 – and the most senior player is 32-year-old reserve goalkeeper Tom Heaton – the only player over the age of 30 in the squad.
With other youngsters like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Winks and John Stones sidelined with injuries, and the likes of Tammy Abraham, Phil Foden and Reiss Nelson starring for the U21 squad, it’s no wonder that England fans believe the future is bright.