What are the expectations for the team?
Fairly low – although the Czech Republic topped Group D, ahead of Germany, it was a problematic qualifying campaign. The low point came after the 2-1 loss to Germany in Prague, when a tabloid journalist visited the team hotel and reportedly found five players celebrating Tomas Ujfalusi’s birthday with prostitutes. Coach Karel Bruckner almost resigned over the incident, and Karel Poborsky was later hired as a sort of national-team babysitter.

Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?

That nice Petr Cech has become a one-man advertising industry over the past couple of years, simultaneously pitching Samsung, the Ceska Sporitelna bank and, modelling leisurewear alongside his wife Martina, Marks & Spencer.

Is the coach popular?

After leading the Czechs to three successive tournaments Bruckner is respected, but if he hadn’t decided to retire after Euro 2008 he would probably have been edged out. One of the conditions for his retaining his job after the 2006 World Cup disappointment was the appointment of Petr Rada, a potential successor, as his assistant.
Do any of the players have famous girlfriends or wives?

Jan Koller’s wife Hedvika has appeared in the Czech edition of Playboy, Tomas Rosicky has been involved with beauty queen-turned-weather girl Radka Kocurova for several years, and defender Radoslav Kovac’s girlfriend Klara Medkova was runner-up in the 2003 Miss Czech Republic contest – a position that the Czechs, rather unfortunately, refer to as “vicemiss”. Keeping track of who Milan Baros and the recently divorced Ujfalusi are seeing keeps large sections of the Czech Republic’s tabloid press in work.

Are there any players involved in politics?

Baros’s experiences have probably put his team-mates off any political involvement. Baros campaigned for the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party (ODS) during the 2006 election. When the ODS took power, Baros applied for a grant to set up a football academy in his home town, prompting a row within the party over whether he had been promised the money in exchange for his participation in the campaign.

What will the media coverage be like?

Prima, the free-to-air commercial station that has the Euro 2008 TV rights, has announced that Vladimir Smicer will be the “face” of their coverage. This is the first time Prima, who currently show English Premier League games, have covered a major football tournament, so it’s a bit of a step into the unknown. In February, there were reports that Prima had been trying to sell the rights on to Ceska Televize, the state broadcaster that normally handles major tournaments, which doesn’t inspire confidence.

Will there be many fans travelling to the tournament?

Demand for tickets has been intense, exceeding that for the World Cup in Germany. Czech fans aren’t the most boisterous supporters – typically, a chant of Cesi do toho (Czechs go for it) fizzles out after three or four repetitions. That said, the sight of several thousand fans jumping up and down and chanting Hop! Hop! Hop! Kdo neskace neni Cech! (If you’re not jumping, you’re not Czech) is oddly impressive.

Sam Beckwith

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