Czech Republic vs Scotland: First and Last Encounter
As Scotland face a Czech Republic XI tonight with the central European side's squad being full of fresh faces as COVID precautions have led to an overhaul of the squad. Only two players within the Czech squad have caps for the national team, one of those being a certain Roman Hubnik, the goalscorer in the infamous 1-0 loss for Scotland where Craig Levein decided to line up with no recognised striker.
That horror show back in 2010 would prove costly, with the Tartan Army completely toothless and missing out on second place by 2 points. Had Scotland managed to grab a draw in this game, they would've finished ahead of the Czech Republic by a single point.
Said game has been heavily publicised and talked about for years now, with it still haunting Levein to this day. With the two teams set to face off against one another for only the 8th time in history, it's time to put the 2010 disappointment's behind us and look at...eh... another disappointment (and a positive) against the Czech Republic.
First Encounter: Scotland 1-2 Czech Republic (31st March 1999)
Scotland would have faced off against players from the Czech state prior to 1999 as a part of former Czechoslovakia. The Tartan Army would have a much more favourable record back then, from years 1937 through to 1977, winning five games, drawing one and losing four. Comparing this to the record against the current Czech Republic, it's clear to see Scotland's regression as the Tartan Army have only won two out of seven, with another four losses.
The first of these losses came in the two sides encounter at Celtic Park in the Euro 2000 qualifying groups. Scotland would line up with a 3-5-2, something Steve Clarke could line up with 21 years later, with the likes of Tom Boyd and David Weir in the backline and Paul Lambert alongside Celtic teammate Craig Burley in midfield. The game would be famous for it being the last appearance in the blue of Scotland for current Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister.
A poor display from the Tartan Army would see McAllister become a scapegoat for the National side, with the fans turning on the current Scotland and Coventry captain. Following a period out due to a serious knee injury that kept him out of the 1998 World Cup, McAllister would be booed off on his return to the Scotland squad, with manager Craig Brown subbing him off after 64 minutes. It would be the 57th and final cap for McAllister who had grown tired of the treatment and decided to focus on club football, playing until 2004, playing an integral part in Liverpool's treble-winning season in the 2000/01 season.
McAllister and co would fall victim on the night to a dominant midfield performance from the Czech Republic, a side that boasted Liverpool's Patrik Berger, Lens Vladimir Smicer, Benfica's Karel Poborsky and of course, the legendary Pavel Nedved.
Neil McCann would cause problems for the Czech side early on, with a troubling cross and volley giving the Scots a bright start to the game. However, the visitors would take the lead through an own goal, a header from Tom Elliot following a Pavel Nedved delivery. Things would get worse for Scotland as Vladimir Smicer expertly finishing a one on one off the post to double the Czech's lead. Eoin Jess would get one back for the home side, heading home from six yards following a long throw from David Hopkin.
Both sides would miss further chances as the Czech Republic held out and inflicted Scotland's first defeat at home in a competitive fixture for 12 years. The Czech Republic would dominate the group proceedings, earning a maximum 30 points and sending Scotland to the playoffs, with the less said about that outcome the better.
Last Encounter: Czech Republic 0-1 Scotland (24th March 2016)
It's been over 4 years now since the last time Scotland faced the Czech Republic, this being in friendly action. A lot can change in 4 years, with Scotland changing managers twice in this period, with Gordon Strachan in charge for the last time we visited Prague. Current captain Andy Robertson and Kenny McLean are the only players to have featured in 2016 and be a part of the most recent squads, with McLean making his Scotland debut in the fixture 4 years ago.
The Scotland side that last faced the Czech's was filled with experience, with Allan McGregor in goals behind a defence featuring Alan Hutton, Christophe Berra and Russell Martin. A midfield using Darren Fletcher, Charlie Mulgrew and Robert Snodgrass added to this, with Ross McCormack up top.
It would be emerging fan favourite Ikechi Anya who would make all the difference in this game, with the winger striking on the 10-minute mark, in a similar fashion to his goal against Germany in 2014. Following some good harrying from Ross McCormack, the striker would play a through ball for the speedy winger who would fire low past the helpless Tomas Koubek. It would be Anya's third and final goal for his country who saw himself become an exciting part of the Scotland team during his tenure.
The Czech Republic would find themselves unlucky to equalise on several occasions, with Bořek Dočkal hitting the bar from a free-kick and an in-form Allan McGregor thwarting several chances. Strachan's side showed decent resiliency in managing to see the game out whilst giving debuts to McLean, Tony Watt and Paul Caddis. It would be only the second victory for Scotland over the Czech Republic, the first coming in another friendly in 2010.
An encouraging win that would be backed up by another 1-0 win 5 days later against Denmark, the National team seemed to be on the up and building confidence before the World Cup qualifiers began. Of course, after a few games in the group stages this optimism would be lost for another campaign, something that has become far too familiar for the Tartan Army.
With the way the Czech Republic are set to line up tonight, on paper Scotland should be recording their third victory over the Czech's. This is a massive opportunity for Scotland to pick up a win in what should have been their hardest game in the Nations League and anything less than a win will surely bring outrage. As Scotland fans, we can never ever be too sure of the outcome of a fixture, especially basing off the performance against Israel. Hopefully, with such a great opportunity to gain some points, we'll see a much better performance all round, even if it is against suggested weaker opposition.