Preview: Czech Republic vs. Turkey

Battling it out for a place in the Euro 2024 knockout phase, Czech Republic and Turkey clash at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion on Wednesday evening.

Both aiming to join Group F winners Portugal in the last 16, the Crescent-Stars must simply avoid defeat to wrap up second place, while their Czech counterparts must win and hope Georgia fail to cause an upset.

Match preview

The hero of their run to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals, Czech Republic again turned to star striker Patrik Schick when in need of inspiration, as he scored a second-half equaliser to deny Georgia a first major tournament victory last weekend.

After losing their opening game to Portugal, the Czechs were in serious trouble when Georges Mikautadze coolly fired home a penalty in first-half stoppage time; however, Schick struck back near the hour mark to net his sixth goal in just seven European Championship appearances.

Though they failed to find a winner, Ivan Hasek’s side now have their destiny within their own hands heading towards a dramatic Group F finale, which will see three teams scrapping for one certain last-16 spot behind Portugal.

The Czechs can finish second if they beat Turkey and Georgia do not stun the Selecao in Gelsenkirchen – but if both were to win, then goal difference would be required to separate them.

Drawing could still end Czech Republic’s journey at the group stage, while they will definitely be unable to reach the knockout rounds should they lose.

Hasek’s squad may have arrived in Germany on a run of five straight wins – mostly in friendlies – but they have won only four of their last 15 competitive matches ahead of such a high-stakes showdown.

Furthermore, the Euro 1996 runners-up have now taken maximum points from just one of their last eight group games at the European Championship, against Scotland three years ago.

Turkey, meanwhile, may be more inspired by a look through the history books, as they came out on top in their two previous meetings with Czech Republic at the Euros – both in the final group game.

A spectacular 3-2 comeback win in 2008 was followed by a 2-0 victory eight years later, and by making it three from three on Wednesday, the Crescent-Stars would book their place in the next round.

In fact, Turkey will be through to the last 16 as group runners-up if they simply avoid defeat in Hamburg, where they are sure to have a huge following – many thousands of Turkish emigrants have settled in Germany over the past 60 years.

Only if they lose and Georgia win, Vincenzo Montella’s men might fail to progress; otherwise, they will become the first Turkey team to reach the knockout phase since a memorable run to the semi-finals in 2008.

That is all despite suffering a 3-0 defeat to Portugal last time out, in which a calamitous mix-up between stand-in goalkeeper Altay Bayindir and centre-back Samet Akaydin resulted in the latter scoring an awful own goal.

Nonetheless, a 3-1 victory over Georgia in their opener leaves the Crescent-Stars needing just one point to certainly go through – and they have lost only three of their last 16 competitive matches.

Team News

Patrick Schick saved Czech Republic’s blushes against Georgia last week, while becoming his country’s all time top scorer at the European Championship, but he is a major doubt for Wednesday’s game.

Including the World Cup – and games as Czechoslovakia – only Oldrich Nejedly (seven) has scored more at major international tournaments for the Czech national team; however, the Bayer Leverkusen striker looks set to be sidelined.

If required, Mojmir Chytil or Schick’s clubmate Adam Hlozek would most likely fill in, perhaps even being paired as Ivan Hasek tries to take the initiative in an almost must-win match.

Little else is expected to change, with West Ham United duo Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal playing influential roles in central midfield and at right wing-back respectively.

Both are among six men at risk of missing a potential last-16 tie, having already been booked: Schick, Tomas Holes, David Jurasek and Lukas Provod are the others.

Meanwhile, Vincenzo Montella will hope to have first-choice goalkeeper Mert Gunok back in the fold. Having missed the defeat to Portugal with a knee injury, it remains to be seen whether the Besiktas stopper can come straight in for Altay Bayindir.

Orkun Kokcu is struggling with an ankle problem, but Irfan Can Kahveci took part in full training and should be available; Real Madrid wonderkid Arda Guler could be ready to start after a minor groin injury restricted him to a cameo role on Saturday.

Having been booked for the second time in two games, Abdulkerim Bardakci must now serve a suspension, so Merih Demiral is set to step into Turkey’s back four.

Captain Hakan Çalhanoglu starts in midfield, currently topping his team’s rankings for touches (191), successful passes (149), passes into the final third (20) and possession won (14) at Euro 2024 so far.

The Inter Milan playmaker will walk a disciplinary tightrope, though, as he joins Samet Akaydin and Zeki Celik in being one booking away from a ban.

Czech Republic possible starting lineup:
Stanek; Holes, Hranac, Krejci; Coufal, Soucek, Provod, Doudera; Barak, Hlozek; Chytil

Turkey possible starting lineup:
Bayindir; Muldur, Demiral, Ayhan, Kadioglu; Yuksek, Calhanoglu; Akturkoglu, Guler, Yildiz; Yilmaz

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