Czech Republic
© AFP

The Czech Republic are set for a sixth appearance at the FIFA U-20-World Cup this year. The former Czechoslovakia reached the quarter-finals in 1983 but were eliminated at the group stage in 1989. The east Europeans again made the last eight on the global stage in 2001, but failed to survive their group at the 2003 finals in the United Arab Emirates. The Czechs’ best result to date came two years ago in Canada, where they were narrowly edged out by Argentina in the final.

Qualifying
At the UEFA European U-19 Championship 2008, the Czech Republic made the most of their status as host nation, thrilling fans and experts alike. The young team’s potential was clear for all to see from the very first match, when they defeated England 2-0 despite going a man down. In their second fixture, the Czechs played out a goalless draw with Greece.

The hosts then lost 4-3 in a dramatic encounter with eventual runners-up Italy, but they had done enough to claim a place in the semi-finals and a ticket to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt. In the semi-finals, the Czechs suffered a desperately unlucky defeat to Germany, conceding on 119 minutes and losing 2-1.

Coach
Jakub Dovalil successfully supervised his young team through the European Championship on home soil, guiding them to a place at the U-20 World Cup for the sixth time in all. Dovalil himself never played professionally, turning down the chance of a career with Slavia Prague and opting to study sport academically at the age of 20. His playing days were spent in the lower amateur leagues and he first took a coaching role in 1998 with his former club’s youth section. Dovalil then joined the Czech FA in 2002, initially taking charge of the U-16s, before moving onto the U-17s two years later. He was assistant coach to Miroslav Soukup at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2007, and is now looking to build on his team’s achievements in Canada. 

Star Players

Tomas Pekhart and Ondrej Mazuch were key players in the Czechs' run to the 2007 final and their experience will be vital as Jakub Dovalil's side seek a repeat of those heroics. The former, a 6ft 4ins striker, was an ever-present in Canada despite being the squad's youngest player and has been in fine recent scoring form the national U-21s. Mazuch, meanwhile, won a move to Fiorentina on the back of his performances to Canada and has been impressing of late during a loan spell with Belgian giants Anderlecht.

Record

- FIFA U-20 World Cup runners-up 2007
- Six appearances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup
- Reached UEFA European U-19 Championship semi-finals in 2003 and 2008

What they said...

"The European Championship was an unforgettable experience for all of us. We played in some fantastic matches, and I’m convinced a great future lies ahead for my players." Czech Republic coach Jakub Dovalil