Tomas Vaclik emerged as a hero for Czech Republic, making some smart stops to deny the hosts.
Czech Republic ensured the perfect start to their Euro 2020 campaign, by defeating Scotland 2-0 in their Group D encounter. Patrik Schick was the hero of the game, scoring two brilliant goals. The attacker opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, smashing his 12th international goal in 27 appearances for Czech Republic. Schick’s sublime effort further marked his seventh goal in his last 11 matches for the nation. Not content with this, the Bayer Leverkusen attacker recorded an early goal of the tournament contender from just inside the Scottish half to double the Czech lead. The striker spotted Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall off his line and lobbed him from the halfway line to stun Hampden Park. Schick’s opening goal was the first scored by a player from the nation in the first half in six Euro games. The last such goal had been recorded against Greece in 2012. Schick is further the first player to score two goals in a Euro game for the Czechs since Milan Baros in a 3-0 quarter-final win over Denmark in 2004. The attacker’s goal will certainly be spoken about for years, just like Karel Poborsky’s lob against Portugal in 1996.
“It’s always hard to play against us, we have a lot of hard-working players. Scotland were a tough opponent. But we were ready for their tactics. I saw him [off his line]. I noticed in the first half that this situation would come. I was checking where he was standing,” he said in an interaction with BBC.
However, Scotland could well have pulled off a comeback if not for some brilliant gameplay from the Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik. Vaclik made a couple of lovely stops and looked quite positive as a keeper. He completed five saves with three of them from inside the box. This was followed by a high claim and 34 touches. One of the most significant saves by the Czech Republic keeper was off Lyndon Dykes, getting his feet down in time to stop a crucial goal. Vaclik commanded his box and was extremely confident in doing so. The goalkeeper further saved his teammate Tomas Kalas from an embarrassing own goal, after the footballer accidentally lobbed the ball over his own keeper. Scotland had failed to score in only one of their last nine matches against the Czech Republic, which further extended due to the heroics of the keeper. It was certainly a team effort at the same time with the players blocking 11 out of 19 shots from Scotland.
Vaclik’s contract with Spanish club Sevilla is drawing to a conclusion. This might well be the perfect opportunity for a club like Chelsea which has been looking to add a backup in the goalkeeping department.
Scotland were hoping for a triumph against Czech Republic. While the defeat is certainly a blow from the team’s viewpoint, it is hardly the end of their campaign as stated by midfielder Stuart Armstrong.
“We need to take our experiences from today, learn from what happened, make a few little tweaks to our game. Fundamentally there were some positive moments and we need to carry that through to Friday. We’re disappointed with the way the first goal went in, following a set piece. Apart from that, we defended pretty well for the most part. They showed real quality for the second goal as we pushed for the equaliser. Not to say that we didn’t have chances in that second half, we did, and we tried to push. They were clinical. At this level you do need to be clinical. It was a difficult one. The game was very compact, especially in the first half – there wasn’t much space. We were playing too many long balls for our liking. I think when we passed it, we did quite well. But it was hard to break them down,” said Armstrong in an interaction with BBC.
At the same time, they can take consolation from the fact that Scotland skipper Andy Robertson was on the top of the game. Robertson created six chances today which is at least three more than any other player in the match.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it just now. Everyone in the country wanted to get off to a good start. We were confident, excited, and it comes down to not taking our chances. You can’t say we’ve not created, we’ve had some really, really good chances that we should have done better with. If you do better on that, then it’s a different game. It’s a tough lesson for us that at the highest level, at the best tournaments, you have to take your chances. Czech Republic did that, we didn’t.”
It will be interesting to see how they go about making a comeback in the tournament.