PROFILE: Czech Republic - experienced side out to surprise
Nov 30, 2011, 4:16 GMT
Prague - The Czech Republic booked their place at the 2012 finals via the play-offs after finishing a distant second in group I behind world and European champions Spain.
While Spain finished with a 100-per-cent record after winning all eight qualifying matches, the Czechs started their campaign poorly, losing at home to Lithuania.
Two further losses to Vicente del Bosque's all-conquering team followed during the qualifying campaign to leave the Czechs needing a victory away to Lithuania to be sure of taking second place in the group ahead of Scotland and with it and a place in the playoffs.
A brace apiece from Michal Kadlec and Jan Rezek secured a 4-1 win against Lithuania and coach Michal Bilek's experienced side followed up this success with a 3-0 aggregate victory over Montenegro in the playoff to maintain their impressive record of qualifying for every European Championship since splitting with Slovakia in 1993.
However, the success was marred by celebrating Czech players insulting former international Radek Drulak at Montenegro's Podorica airport before tearing up their official suits.
Drulak was a member of the Czech team at Euro 1996 and the former striker had regularly criticised the team's style during the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
The team was subsequently fined over 100,000 dollars by the Czech football federation and the unsavoury incident led Arsenal midfielder and captain Tomas Rosicky to issue an apology.
'Uncontrollable emotions and euphoria gained the upper hand over common sense, for which I want to apologise,' he said.
However, having failed to even qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Czech fans are likely to have forgiven their team by the time the Euro finals come around next June.
Drawn in Pot 4 with Denmark, France and Ireland for Friday's draw in Kiev, the Czechs could face Spain yet again or the likes of Germany, England or the Netherlands.
'We will wait for the draw and then we will define our ambitions. We have nothing to lose in Poland and Ukraine, as we have achieved our main goal,' said goalkeeper Petr Cech.
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