There are some things that people did not expect to see in Group A after the first day of the tournament.
They didn’t expect to see the Greeks pitch up for each game in a bus lined with diamonds for example, and they didn’t reckon they’d be watching Alexsandr Kerzhakov receiving the golden boot.
Equally however, nobody thought they would be watching the Czech Republic and Greece qualify in first and second place respectively.
After a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Russia, the Czechs have vastly improved. Whilst there were still errors at the back against Greece, their defensive unit was on top form as they dismissed Poland 1-0 to top Group A.
The Czech side held their positions, tackled well and forced opponents into difficult angles, benefiting largely from the presence of two defensive midfielders who worked to form a back-six-style defence when the team was under pressure.
Michal Kadlec looked particularly improved since his side’s opening day defeat, with the Scottish heartbreaker clearing a Polish effort off the line to seal his nation’s win in the dying seconds, even if he did get amusingly stuck in the net afterwards.
The Czechs major concern against the Poles was where their attacking threat would come from, with Tomas Rosicky injured. Rosicky is often the man the nation look at to launch attacks, and with a poor range of strikers available, his contribution is invaluable.
Instead though, the main dangers continued to flow from wingmen Petr Jirocek and Vaclac Pilar, who were involved in launching several counter-attacks. Whilst the former managed to send his side to the quarters by converting one of these aforementioned breaks, both players have shown a deft touch in the tournament so far.
It is important that their form continues to the knock-out stages too, as with Milan Baros continually failing to produce, much of the expectation for goals falls on their shoulders.
Defender Theodor Gebre Selassie is also an important element in attack for the Czechs, and he has begun to draw the gaze of the European viewers with his sterling performances.
The right-back travelled from Czech Republic with an abundance of praise after guiding club side Slovan Liberec to their first league title since 2006, and he has now shown his flair at international level also.
Whilst Gebre Selassie represents a solid entity in the Czech defence - well positioned and tactically aware - it is his ability to get behind his opposition defender and play in devilish crosses that has seen him catch the eye of many.
We saw this within the opening minutes of the Poland tie as he cut into the opposition box and fed the ball into an open area from which Pilar should really have scored, and the speedy defender seems capable of causing troubles for even the best of defences.
Nevertheless, despite these improvements critics will suggest that a Czech side with a poor scoring record cannot progress into the semi-finals, referencing how they sneaked through qualifying and squeezed into the knock-out stages.
The fact of the matter is however, if you scrape through every game successfully then you are going to win the tournament, and after topping Group A the Czech Republic’s Euro 2012 campaign is every bit alive.
You can follow Stuart Kenny on Twitter.
- Czech Rep 1-0 Poland: Petr Jiracek the hero as Czechs dispose of Poland
- Czech Republic have improved since pipping Scotland in qualification
People who read this story also read
In this section
- Football Talk: 64-team Champions League plans, Chick Young photobombing
- Where do Sweden go after their poor performance at Euro 2012
- Joseph Sexton on Spain's striking dilemma and accusations of boredom
- David Schiavone discusses Pirlo, Prandelli and a prolific striker
- Attempting to solve the problem of 'super' Mario Balotelli
- The case for the defence of the much derided 4-6-0 formation
- Italy well aware they have work to do at Euro 2012 despite final surprise
- Tracing Spain's evolution from untouchable brilliance to boredom
- England's Euro performance shows signs of promise for World Cup 2014
- Germany look to record first-ever competitive win over the Italians