Czech Republic national team

Watch Live: Czech Republic vs. USA (Lineups)

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The U.S. national team returns to action on Wednesday, as they face the Czech Republic in a friendly in Prague (Watch live on NBCSN, 2:15 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra) with Jurgen Klinsmann selecting a young squad.

Players such as Emerson Hyndman, Rubio Rubin, Jordan Morris and Alfredo Morales are all in the squad as the Stars and Stripes begin their new cycle towards the 2018 World Cup.

They will be facing a tough task against the Czechs, who have Premier League stars such as Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky to choose from. The Czech Republic face the Netherlands on Sept. 9.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

We know there will be plenty of changes at half time and throughout the game for both teams but here is the starting lineup for the USA and Czech Republic. Altidore start up top for the U.S. in a 4-3-3 formation, while Guzan is given the nod in goal but will be replaced with Nick Rimando at half time. Young winger Joe Gyau starts out wide with Julian Green on the other flank, while there’s a midfield trio of Bedoya, Diskerud and Corona.

The Czech Republic include both Cech and Rosicky in their starting lineup as they warm up for their qualifier vs. Holland next Tuesday.

LINEUPS

Czech Republic: Cech; Kaderabek, Prochazka, Kadlec, Limbersky; Darida, Jiracek; Rosicky, Pilar, Krejci; Vydra.

USA: Guzan, F. Johnson, Orozco, Brooks, Chandler; Bedoya, Corona, Diskerud; Green, Altidore, Gyau.

Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Reflecting on the quarterfinals

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source: Reuters

How We’ll Remember …

Portugal 1, Czech Republic 0 – As the game Cristiano Ronaldo teased everybody’s unreasonable expectations. Let me pause here and clarify: I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Cristiano Ronaldo to perform slower to his Real Madrid levels for Portugal. There are, however, people who tie the magnitude of his performance (for both club and country) to his team’s results. They won’t be satisfied until Ronaldo carries Portugal to a major title. On Thursday, Ronaldo (for the second straight game) tickled those fancies, as unreasonable as they are.

Germany 4, Greece 2 – Despite the six goals, we probably won’t remember this one. If we do, it will be for Joachim Löw trolling the Greeks with three changes to a team that didn’t drop a point in group stage.

Spain 2, France 0 – In hindsight, as the match where France got unjustifiably indignant when Laurent Blanc didn’t go after Spain. Some saw Les Blues as employing the same, negative tactics every team uses against Spain. I guess France is supposed to be about this, I don’t know, because in the week leading up to the match (a week in which Blanc made it clear he’d adjust his approach for Spain), there wasn’t much uproar about the plan. I suppose it’s easier to be indignant after the loss.

Italy 0, England 0 – As a match we’d rather not see again.

Team of the Round

G: Joe Hart, England
LB: Philipp Lahm, Germany
CB: Joleon Lescott, England
CB: Laurent Koscielny, France
RB: Jerome Boateng, Germany
M: Xabi Alonso, Spain
M: Andrea Pirlo, Italy
M: Sami Khedira, Germany
AM: Mesut Ozil, Germany
RW: Marco Reus, Germany
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

Subs: Andres Iniesta, Spain; Joao Moutinho, Portugal; John Terry, England

Three Lessons to Take Home

1. Knockout rounds are a whole new tournament – The group stage’s quality had been one of the stories of the tournament. Too bad it couldn’t last into the knockout rounds.

In the quarterfinals, we saw four teams, having decided they were underdogs, play for survival. If you’re up against a better opponent in group stage and lose – fine. You’ve got two other matches to make up the points. In the knockout rounds, there are bigger rewards for playing out draws: Potentially winning through kicks; not being eliminated.

Unfortunately, those incentives produced a noticeable step backward in quality.

2. Groups were predictably bipolar – We thought Groups B and C would be the strongest. The quarterfinals were our affirmation. With four teams left in the tournament, all of Group A and D’s teams are out.

Sublessons: Giving hosts “seeds” in the group draw is unfair. Poland and Ukraine were treated as top seeds, making their groups weaker while driving better teams into B and C.

Hosts are already blessed into the tournament. They shouldn’t also get special treatment in the draw. When they are, a team like Croatia gets screwed.

3. Spain hate in full effect – I guess we’ve decided to do this? Ignore the fact that Spain’s play is a logical extension of how they’re defended and start exclusively blaming them for how they play? Wow, we’re bored.

I’ve been no fan of Vicente Del Bosque’s tactics, but they’re a secondary concern. The main reason Spain’s winning many 1-0s is their opponent’s tactics. Perhaps if Spain was playing the 4-3-3 they should, a few of those games become 2-0 or 3-1, but Spain’s 4-2-3-1/4-2-4-0 would produce those same scorelines if teams played them straight up.

Which, of course, those teams have no incentive to do, leaving aggravated critics with a problem: who to blame for these boring games?

I have no idea, but I’d like to make two points.

  • First, these games aren’t boring as much as they’re predictable. The possession game Spain’s employing is not that different than the one they’ve used over the last four years. We’re just tried to knowing how the story ends.
  • Second, why do we have to blame anybody? Even if you’re feeling morose about Spain’s play, you could just chalk it up to an unfortunate confluence of strategic choices. Do we really have to take a pound of tactical flesh?

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Offshore drilling, Euro 2012: Portugal 1, Czech Republic 0

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Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored Portugal’s last three goals – their entire output over their last 180 minutes. On Thursday, it took him nearly 80 minutes to put his country into the semifinals, but after spanking the right post twice (once on each side of halftime), Portugal’s captain went with his head. Diving onto a cross at 10 yards out, Ronaldo headed Joao Moutinho’s ball into the six yard box, the bounce going up and into the top of goal.

NBC Sports: Ronaldo puts Portugal into Euro 2012 semifinals

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The Czech Republic had been begging for that type of finish since the 15-minute mark through the first half. Then, they stopped competing and started holding out. Why they did that, we’ll probably never know, but from that point forward, the Czechs sat deep and defended.
  • Until that point, the Czech Republic looked the better side. They were having success building down the flanks, and when they gave the ball away, Portugal were spraying errant long balls to their attack in lieu of building something more substantial through the middle.
  • When the game shifted, the Czechs sat very deep, showed no real interest in retaining the ball, and became reliant on wingers Vaclav Pilar and Petr Jiracek to do something to break the match open. They tried – they were the only two players to show any kind of attacking push – but with Milan Baros invisible and Tomas Rosicky again out, the Czechs had nothing else to offer.
  • Perhaps Theodor Gebre Selassie had something to do with that. The Czech Republic right back had added an element of dynamism to the team’s attack during the last two games. Today, he stayed home, helping with Cristiano Ronaldo.
  • For a brief time in the first half, Paulo Bento switched Nani over to the left, perhaps to help protect against Gebre Selassie’s threat. All that did was give the Czech defender an excuse to get forward. Ronaldo stayed on the left for most of the game.
  • For Portugal, it was just a matter of being patient. Of course, they perpetually tried Ronaldo, with Raul Meireles proving particularly adept at providing for him. As the second half went on, Portugal increasingly tried going down their right, relying on Nani to get the ball into the box.
  • The decisive movement came from the right, though not through a Nani cross. On the ball at the right, Nani turned in and found Joao Moutinho making a run. The Porto midfielder got the ball, burst through the right channel, and played a cross toward the middle. Ronaldo beat Gebre Selassie for the winner.
  • The match was amazingly straight forward: Straight forward because we’re used to one team cowering in the face of (perceived) superior quality; Amazing because it’s unclear why the Czechs chose this approach. This is a nation that’s known for the quality of their soccer, none of which was put on display tonight.
  • Perhaps coach Michal Bilek felt the Czechs couldn’t open up against Portugal. Against Russia, they tried to play with a side that has weapons, and they got run of the pitch. Bilek may have felt he couldn’t take the chance – that he had a better chance of winning by not playing than playing.
  • It was a warning shot for a team like England, who also beg for games to be decided like this. To be sure, England is better at implementing this type of approach, and they have more ambition going forward than the Czechs showed tonight (as remarkable as that sounds). But when you let the other team have so much of the ball and so many chances, you’re begging for lightning to strike. Sometimes that lightning will be a Samir Nasri blast from 22 yards. Sometimes it will be a Cristiano Ronaldo header bounced home from 10 yards out.
  • Milan Baros just completed the worst major tournament I can remember from a starting number nine. In 360 minutes, he put one shot on goal and didn’t contribute enough in the other facets of the game. His energy level was low, he was unwilling to contest balls in the air, and showed no impetus to improve.
  • If you’re a Czech player, you have to feel as if your coach took the game out of your hands. If you go out and put your best foot forward and are shown out: Fine. This loss leaves too many questions. For years, Czech players may wonder what could have been.
  • Portugal has no such misgivings. They’re through to the semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of Spain-France next Wendesday in Donetsk.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Cristiano Ronaldo, wing commanders, and Czech Republic-Portugal: Thursday’s Euro 2012 playlist

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source: Getty Images

Two weeks ago Portugal looked like a good bet to finish last in Group B. Now they’re favorites to advance from Euro 2012’s quarterfinals. How did this happen? They walked into the Group of Death with most seeing them well behind Germany and the Netherlands. The quartet’s other team was Denmark, a nation that’s bested Portugal in the last two qualifying cycles. Now, they’re bonafide dark horses – as good a bet as any to win this, beyond Germany and Spain.

The biggest difference has been goals. Between their playoff win over Bosnia and Herzegonvina and the start of Euro 2012, the Seleccao scored one goal in 270 minutes. It wasn’t exactly a shock. Portugal’s established quite a reputation for squandering their attacking talent. Blame the lack of a number nine, or blame former coach Carlos Quieroz. No matter, the scoring drought extended into Group B play, where Portugal was shut out by Germany in their opening match.

Then came a relative explosion. Three goals against Denmark served as revenge. Wrapping up group play, Portugal scored twice against the Netherlands, both goals coming from their dormant giant: Cristiano Ronaldo. If he finally starts bringing his club-world quality to international soccer, Portugal may be more than mere dark horses.

Their Thursday opponents, the Czech Republic, can do for some awakenings of their own. While people debate whether Milan Baros should persist as the team’s starting striker, the leading scorer at Euro 2004 has gone silent. He went the competition’s first 250 minutes without registering a shot on goal. Suffice to say, he remains scoreless.

Combined with the health concerns surrounding captain Tomas Rosicky, and the Czechs may be left relying on their wingers to carry them. To this point, that’s where all their firepower’s come from, with left wing Vaclav Pilar and opposite Petr Jiracek getting help from right back Theodor Gebre Selassie. With Tomas Hubschmann holding down the middle, it’s been enough, albeit against a weak group.

The easy ride stops at 2:45 p.m. Eastern as Euro 2012 starts its quarterfinal round. Here’s your playlist:

1. New pattern

A howler in each of the Czech Republic’s first two games had goalkeeper Petr Cech looking more like his 2008 self than the man who helped carry Chelsea to the Champions League title. Against Poland, however, he made it 90 minutes without an issue, and while that was mostly because of the control the Czechs exerted over the match’s final 60 minutes, results are results. The scoresheet alone really doesn’t provide much context.

On Thursday, Cech’s going to be tested far more often. Cristiano Ronaldo is hitting a run of form, and if that doesn’t translate into questions for Cech, it’s going to at least force some corners. On the other side, Nani has been one of the tournament’s best wingers. His crossing will test Cech’s decision making.

After Robert Lewandowski was taken out of Saturday’s game, Poland didn’t have much to offer. Portugal won’t be so easily dissuaded.

2. Wide view

Portugal’s wingers can cause nightmares, but given how the Czech Republic’s threatened from wide, Paulo Bento and his staff might have had a moment’s pause before falling asleep on Wednesday. Vaclav Pilar could still prove the tournament’s breakout player. Petr Jiracek’s make an impact on each of the two matches he’s started on the right. Theodor Gebre Selassie’s been the competition’s biggest threat from the back.

Bento, however, shouldn’t lose any sleep over the problem. Fullbacks Fabio Coentrao (left) and Joao Periera (right) have given all-tournament performances, and for as good as Nani has been going forward, he has also exhibited years of work drilled into him by Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. While Gebre Selassie is set to start on Cristiano Ronaldo’s side, there’s no reason Portugal’s wingers can’t be flipped. Ronaldo has shown an aversion to starting as a nine, but for one game, he should be willing to move to his less-favored right wing.

3. Remember Holland

Portugal may slowly be leaving the Caros Quieroz era behind, but in their decisive group match against the Netherlands, they reverted to their shell. It was only after the Netherlands took the lead that Portugal woke up. From there forward, they controlled the match. Who would have known the Dutch can’t defend? (Answer: Everybody except Portugal, seemingly.)

Will Bento learn from the Holland match? There’s no reason for them to come out in their shell except reflexive conservatism. Against the Czech Republic, they can do as they did against Germany and Holland, start their midfield deep, and hope the Czechs expose themselves like they did against Russia. Or, they can control the match from the opening kickoff like the better team they are.

4. Time for answers

It seems Michal Bilek has been putting off his team’s attacking issues. I say “seems” because he doesn’t have a lot of options. If Tomas Necid, their 22-year-old forward protege, isn’t going to be used, there aren’t many alternatives to Milan Baros. There were fitness issues surrounding Necid, but if he isn’t healthy, why is he in the squad?

Baros isn’t the only issue. Tomas Rosicky’s recovering from an Achilles injury that kept him out of the Poland match. That’s one problem. Another is his productivity. Rosicky failed to make an impact in the two games he’s played. It might be best to give Daniel Kolar a second start and leave Rosicky as an as-needed option.

Regardless, Bilek can’t wait any longer. Portugal’s the best team the Czechs have faced since opening against Russia, a game they lost 4-1. He either addresses the attack or leaves the tournament with some “what ifs”.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Shipped from abroad, Euro 2012: Team of the day, memories from Group A’s closing round

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source: Reuters

How we’ll remember …

Greece 1, Russia 0 – As our ultimate reminder these three game mini-tournaments can be quite unpredictable. Russia finished with the best goal difference in Group A, a small bit of evidence to confirm suspicions that they were the group’s best team. Of course, there is one very big piece of contradictory evidence: their third place standing. Greece goes through in second after an unimpressive yet opportunistic round robin.

Czech Republic 1, Poland 0 – As a game where the intensity never matched the stakes. You wouldn’t have known both teams needed a win to advance. From the 30th minute forward, the Czech were the better side, with their 72nd minute counter attack sending them through as unlikely group winners.

Team of the Day

G: Michalis Sifakis, Greece
LB: David Limbersky, Czech Republic
CB: Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Greece
CB: Michal Kadlec, Czech Republic
RB: Theodor Gebre Selassie, Czech Republic
DM: Tomas Hubschman, Czech Republic
M: Giorgos Karagounis, Greece
M: Kostas Katsouranis, Greece
LW: Vaclav Pilar, Czech Republic
RW: Jakub Blaszczykoswki, Poland
F: Robert Lewandowski, Poland
Subs: Tomas Sivok, Czech Republic, Roman Shirokov, Russia; Petr Jiracek, Czech Republic

Three lessons to take home

1. Embrace the randomness of the three-game mini tournament – We all know about the any give day principle. In international soccer, it’s promoted from principle to rule. Any team can beat another, especially when they get the first goal. One errant header (Sergei Ingashevich), one point of clairvoyant opportunism (Giorgos Karagounis), and you’ve got enough to get through.

Don’t let that diminish what Greece accomplished today, knocking Russia off their perch and advancing to the quarterfinals. In the opening minutes, Kostas Katsouranis’s redirection onto goal served notice. Greece weren’t just going to sit back and hope. They were taking hope into their own hands.

We see results like these all the time during league seasons and, after picking our jaws up off the floor, move on realizing these things happen. It’s only one game in a long campaign.

In these tournaments that are major final group stages, these results are one-offs, but the implications loom large within the context of a three-game season.

Russia are the Seattle Sounders. Or Arsenal. They’ve just lost to the Columbus Crew. Or Wigan Athletic. It’s surprising and they should have done better, but it’s hardly the biggest upset we’ve ever seen. In fact, these things happen.

And if they happen to you in a three-team tournament, you’re probably sunk.

2. ‘Best’ and ‘most deserving’ are two different things – Are Russia better than Greece? Probably, but these tournaments aren’t about finding out which teams’ best, no matter of the cliches have inadvertently packaged them as such. They’re about winning, and thankfully, the best team doesn’t always win. To suggest otherwise would mean we have a lot of explaining to do about the non-2004 history of Greek soccer.

It works the other way, too. Following this sport would be boring if the best team always won, but it would be disingenuous if we assumed the winner was always the best team. It’s better to recognize that over two hours on Saturday, Greece did what it took to win the game. They managed the circumstances of the match better, and while that doesn’t necessarily make them empirically better, it does make them more deserving of moving on.

And there’s no doubt: Greece is more deserving. Nothing about Russia’s performance said “we deserve to be in the final eight.” Greece played to the occasion while Russia played as if they were owed a win just by showing up.

The effort Giorgos Karagounis put forth on that goal? Effort that was match by his teammates for 90 minutes? No doubt Greece deserve their place in the quarters.

3. Don’t take people’s picks too seriously – It’s a spot number expected them to claim. Almost everybody had Greece going out at this stage of the tournament. Does that mean those prognosticators were idiots? Not any more so than it meant Greece wouldn’t make the quarterfinals.

Every site (including ours) offer predictions. They’re a lot of fun, but the best way to ruin that fun is to take them too seriously. After today, does anybody need to be reminded about sports’ beautiful variability?

Not that anybody wants to get picks wrong, but part of the charm behind Greece’s upset lies in those bad predictions. There is an against the odds subtext to their performance that undoubtedly enhances it. How do those odds come about? Predictions.

Discard predictions if you must. You’re also throwing out part of what makes Greece special.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.