Let’s start off my discussing the elephant in the room. A very large one if you are Scottish.
Yes, the Czech’s were extremely lucky to escape from Hampden Park with a point when they faced off last September. Jan Rezek’s tumble, or if we call it what it was, a dive, gave the Czechs an 85th minute penalty which Michal Kadlec duly converted. The Scots were rightly up in arms about this decision; a nation vented it's outrage at the Dutch official. Some people even took to social media to attack me for it...
Lost in the mix though was that Michal Bílek’s squad left Glasgow with a point, one on the balance of play they more than deserved, but it was one gained in the most controversial of circumstances. If the Mr. Blom had been consistent in his decision making then Group I could have taken on a completely different dimension and Scotland could have been in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
After the game Craig Levin’s words were measured but laced with disappointment and anger. Over in Prague the knives were being sharpened and pointed in the direction of Michal Bílek and the older members of his squad. There was no dignity for the team in the immediacy after the trip to Scotland. Ex-internationals laid into both management and the elder group of players in the squad meanwhile on the streets, everybody was a critic.
Yet a few short months and a couple of games later everybody was eating their words. After the team and manager had been written off by large sections of the press, their peers and the fans, the Czech’s swept aside an organised Montenegro side in Prague before holding on in Pogdorica to guarntee their ticket to Euro 2012.
At the heart of this revival were the big names you’d expect: Tomáš Rosický looked near his imperious best, Bordeaux’s Jaroslav Plašil pulled strings in midfield and Petr Čech dealt with the kitchen sink that was thrown at him. But alongside these standout performances the strong Czech based presence to the squad stood out.
This band of players, mainly contracted to Viktoria Plzeň, had up until Hampden next to no international experience when a few of them were thrust in at the deep end. But afterwards, with Bílek's tenure looking bleak, the manager continued to put faith in those largely untried and untested at this level. Players such as Theo Gebre Selassie and Vaclav Pilař came into the squad and have emerged as key components to the side, while others like Petr Jirácek have gone from strength to strength since their debut in Glasgow.
Out of the indignity of Hampden Park rose a side that played with confidence and flexibility and provided a nice balance of fresh faces and experiences brows.
It marked the start of something new, something better.
Be aware this summer of the Czech’s you do know, but fear the names you don’t. For from their darkest hour in qualifaction this Czech side have begun the rebuilding process and have come across, by luck, desperation or otherwise, a side that deserves the tag of 'dark horses' this summer. Rezek's dive may well have been the catalyst for this change and for that we should thank him.