PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech fans’ primary concern heading into the Euro 2016 finals in France is likely to be the fitness of Tomas Rosicky even though they qualified without help from the gifted playmaker for half of their campaign.
The Czechs topped their qualifying group, twice beating the Netherlands and unearthing new talent in midfielder Borek Dockal, who finished as their top scorer with four goals.
A number of key players, such as Arsenal’s Petr Cech, remain from the Euro 2012 team to give them a mix of youth and experience.
However, Pavel Vrba’s attack-minded side lack a proven threat up front and rely heavily on playmaking through the middle. No one does that better than a fully-fit Rosicky, although to return to the international stage at the age of 35 with scarcely any game time after a season disrupted by injury is a huge ask.
While his inclusion in the squad may reflect the paucity of alternatives, the emergence of Sparta Prague player Dockal has made the Czechs a more complete side in attack, where David Limbersky can also be a threat coming from deep on the left.
To qualify, the Czechs will almost certainly have to make history because they have never beaten their first two opponents, Spain, who have only once conceded against them in four games, and Croatia, who are undefeated under new coach Ante Cacic.
The Czechs’ final group match will come on June 21 against Turkey, who eliminated them from the 2008 finals with two late goals.
At the back they do not always convince and keeper Petr Cech failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their 10 qualifiers.
Their tournament record is formidable, though. As Czechoslovakia, they won the tournament in 1976 and, since independence in 1993, the Czech Republic have qualified for every European Championship tournament, reaching the final in 1996 when they lost to Germany.
Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller