The U21 European Championship begins on Wednesday, June 17 and The Set Pieces’ new signing Phil Costa has previewed every team.
NATION: Czech Republic
MANAGER: Jakub Dovalil
FIXTURES: Denmark (June 17, 1700GMT), Serbia (June 20, 1700GMT), Germany (June 23, 1945GMT)
OUR VERDICT: Though expectations are low, this Czech side will be looking to impress in their home country. However, they will need their star players to shine if they are to have a realistic chance of progression out of the group stages.
Tomas Kalas: A versatile defender, 22 year old Kalas is able to play as a right back, centre back and left back, a valuable trait should injuries strike or rotation be needed. A youngster who has had his fair share of loans since his move to Chelsea from Sigma Olomouc in July 2010, he appeared 17 times for a defensively sound Middlesbrough last season.
Kalas played his football at Sigma Olomouc between 2004 and 2010, before spending the 2010/11 season there on loan after signing for The Blues. In three seasons, he has been on loan to Vitesse, FC Koln, as well as ‘Boro and gained some good experience, but it still isn’t clear what Chelsea’s intentions are for him.
He is not the tallest centre back you’ll see at just under 6ft, but he has an incredible spring and is a very well rounded athlete. Due to his stints playing at right and left back, he is able to read forward passes and can launch quick counter attacks for his team. Sometimes, Kalas can be sloppy in possession which may be his downfall when looking to play regularly at a high level.
With his future up in the air, Kalas is at an age now where he needs to settle at a club and play regularly to find his top level. He has a lot of desirable attributes, and a lower level Premier League side (or even Middlesbrough signing him permanently) would be a great step for him. He is still young and has the potential to be a very good central defender.
Ondrej Petrak: Capable of playing in defence and midfield, 23 year old Petrak is a consistent performer for his FC Nürnberg in the second tier of German football. He enjoyed a successful personal campaign, featuring 30 times for Der Altmeister last season, though the team finished in a disappointing 9th place.
He signed his first professional contract at Slavia Prague in 2010, and made 62 appearances for the club before signing for Nürnberg in 2014. Petrak’s main quality is his reading of the game and how often he intercepts the ball. He is also a physically strong player, cleverly breaking up the play in the centre of midfield to try to buy his team valuable time to regain their positions. He is sometimes guilty of fouling opponents too often though, conceding free kicks in dangerous positions and his ability on the ball is a little lacking.
Petrak isn’t a flair player, nor is he a player with obvious star quality but he will always put in a shift. And every squad needs players like that. As one of the more senior players in the squad, his work ethic will be crucial.
Ladislav Krejci: A player very much in the typical ‘winger’ mould, Krejčí is small, but very quick and skilled on the ball when dribbling at defences. He is always a threat down the left with his close control, able to beat defenders with a quick shimmy and burst of pace. He is also a very good crosser of the ball, as well as having a knack of being in the right place at the right time to score goals.
The 22 year old plays for Sparta Prague, the most successful side in the Czech Republic. Krejci has been at the club for his entire career, signing his first professional contract with the club in 2008 after impressing throughout youth level. He has played over 100 times for his club and has featured for the Czech Republic from U-16 level all the way to the senior squad.
He is however very reliant on his left foot which can make him one dimensional sometimes and his predictability can make his simple to nullify. Nevertheless, the 22 year-old is another player who is capable of giving the Czech side that spark in the final third. He is likely to be a constant figure on the left wing, and his team-mates will look to him to quickly to initiate attacks with speed. Krejci is another talented attacker who will want to prove that he is capable of stepping up a level for both club and country.
Vaclav Kadlec: The brightest talent in this team can also be the most annoying. While Kadlec is a great finisher with intelligent movement, he can be frustrating with his questionable attitude and slack passing. He rarely presses centre backs and when he is dispossessed he can be guilty of throwing his arms up and getting into a strop. These traits are all contributory factors as to why his time in Germany hasn’t been as successful as it might have been, but he is a natural goalscorer so his club Eintracht Frankfurt aren’t quite ready to give up on him yet.
Kadlec was signed by Sparta Prague in 2008 from Bohemians 1905. He actually fractured his skull in a collision in November 2012, but upon his return showed no signs of lasting damage and after again impressing, packed his bags for Frankfurt the following summer.
Kadlec’s main strength is his finishing. With his deadly right foot, he is capable of scoring from anywhere. Usually playing on the shoulder of the last defender due to his speed, the Czech striker rarely gets flustered in front of goal and will gobble up any chances he’s presented with. He can also play wide on the right, but usually plays instead as a supporting striker rather than an out and out winger creating making dangerous runs inside the opposing left back.
Kadlec is a very efficient goalscorer and has the potential to be playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues for sure. However, his poor attitude and lazy approach could compromise his progress. Everybody can see that he is talented, and he should be itching for the chance to prove himself to Frankfurt this summer. But which Kadlec will turn up?
You can follow Phil Costa on Twitter (@Costafc_)