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Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Thursday, 7 October 2010 12:08 UK

Victory over Czechs possible if Scots raise their game

CZECH REPUBLIC v SCOTLAND
Venue: Synot Tip Arena, Prague Date: Friday, 8 October Kick-off: 1915 BST Coverage: Live on BBC One Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland and streamed on BBC Sport website

Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech
Petr Cech will pose a formidable barrier to Scotland's forwards in Prague

By Liam McLeod
BBC Scotland in Prague

"Football is played by 11 players and, unfortunately, every time it happens, some do well and some do worse."

The words of Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech in the wake of their Euro 2008 defeat to Turkey .

That 3-2 loss in Geneva did not just deny the Czechs a place in the quarter-finals in Switzerland and Austria: it can be pinpointed as the moment the decline in the country's football began.

They led 2-0 with 15 minutes to go and were cruising in that match.

With the arrears reduced to 2-1, Cech himself came for a cross on 87 minutes and missed it completely.

As a result, Nihat Kahveci equalised and hit a spectacular winner three minutes later in stoppage time.

The full-time whistle sounded the end of several international careers, among them big hitters such as all-time top scorer Jan Koller, former Newcastle defender David Rozehnal and AC Milan full-back Marek Jankulovski.

Chelsea number one Cech himself had to be talked out of quitting the international scene, having been left distraught by his blunder.

This was followed by the early retirement of influential skipper Tomas Ujfalusi after an alleged wild night out in the wake of World Cup qualifying defeat to neighbours Slovakia.

The Slovaks - along with Slovenia - pipped the Czechs to a place in South Africa as they finished with just four wins, two of those coming against minnows San Marino.

It was a sore one for a nation that has grown accustomed to qualifying for major finals - a familiar tale for Scots.

Their opening Euro 2012 qualifying 1-0 defeat to Lithuania has piled the pressure on coach Michal Bilek in his first qualification campaign since his promotion from the Under-19 side.

The must-win nature of the match against the Scots makes them a dangerous proposition for Craig Levein's men in Slavia Prague's Synot Tip Arena.

Czech Republic manager Michal Bilek
Michal Bilek is in his first campaign as Czech Republic manager

Despite the Czechs being the better side against the Lithuanians in Olomouc, there was no real penetration by the hosts.

Former Liverpool striker Milan Baros - who misses the game against the Scots through injury - had a penalty saved and lively substitute Tomas Necid was also denied by the keeper late on when one on one.

That apart, Lithuania had a reasonably comfortable night as they took three points that was as welcome in Scotland as Stephen McManus's late winner against Liechtenstein.

With Baros out, Necid of CSKA Moscow is a likely starter. He may partner former Hearts and current West Brom forward Roman Bednar up front.

The main dangers to the Scots will be Czech captain Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal, who has the ability to appear like a ghost anywhere on the park.

Bordeaux's Jaroslav Plasil - who scored in that game against the Turks - is another who can cause problems.

And in 18-year-old Sparta Prague striker Vaclav Kadlec, they have a player rated as the country's best prospect since Rosicky broke through as a teenager a decade ago.

Against Lithuania, the Czechs lined up in a 3-5-2 formation and may do so again against the Scots.

Helping anchor their midfield will likely be Shakhtar Donetsk's Tomas Hubschman, who Celtic fans may remember from recent Champions League clashes against the Ukrainians .

But this Czech team has no-one like Patrick Berger, Karel Poborsky, Pavel Nedved or Koller. If the Scots can raise their game, there is every chance the much sought-after result in Prague can be attained.

The halcyon days of their run to the Euro 96 final, Poborsky's Villa Park lob against Portugal and the semi-final penalty shoot-out win over France at Old Trafford are - like much of Scotland's finals adventures - very much in the past.

If the Czechs are heading backwards, this game represents a chance for Levein's boys to prove they are going in the opposite direction.



see also
Czech Republic 1-0 Scotland
08 Oct 10 |  Scotland
Bardsley proud Scot after U-turn
06 Oct 10 |  Scotland
Caldwell keen to aid Scots' cause
04 Oct 10 |  Scotland
Czechs without Baros for Scotland
03 Oct 10 |  Scotland
Naismith buoyed by Rangers form
01 Oct 10 |  Rangers
Scots call on Gordon and Caldwell
30 Sep 10 |  Scotland
Mackie proud of Scotland call-up
30 Sep 10 |  Scotland
Xavi to miss Spain's Glasgow trip
30 Sep 10 |  Scotland


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