Ahead of Nigeria and Czech Republic friendly on Wednesday in Austria, Completesportsnigeria. com’s JAMES AGBEREBI highlights SIX interesting facts about the Czechs…
– CZECH REPUBLIC WERE RUNNERS-UP AT 1934 WORLD CUP
Known then as Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic made their debut at the 1934 FIFA World Cup hosted in Italy.
Czech Republic were among 16 teams that took part at the second edition of the World Cup.
Despite playing in their first edition, Czech Republic went all the way to final only to lose 2-1 to hosts Italy.
– CZECH REPUBLIC WERE RUNNERS-UP AGAIN THIS TIME AT THE 1962 WORLD CUP
Still known as Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic once again progressed to the final of a FIFA World Cup, this time in Chile 1962.
After finishing in a group that had holders Brazil, Mexico and Spain, Czech Republic advanced to the final.
Just like in 1934, Czech Republic once again lost in the final as they were beaten 3-1 by Brazil who retained their title.
– CZECH REPUBLIC WERE CROWNED EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS IN 1976
After two FIFA World Cup final heartbreaks, Czech Republic eventually won a major tournament which was the 1976 European Championship in the former Yugoslavia.
In the final they took on European and world champions West Germany who they beat 5-3 on penalty after regulation time had ended 2-2.
The highlight of the penalty shootout win against West Germany was Antonin Panenka’s softly-chipped penalty kick up the middle of the goal which saw the goalkeeper dived away.
It was the kick that fetched Czech Republic their first ever major title and is widely known world wide as the Panenka penalty.
– CZECH REPUBLIC WON 1980 OLYMPIC FOOTBALL GOLD MEDAL
The Czechs followed up their 1976 European success by winning the men’s football event of the Moscow 1980 Olympic games.
They topped a group that had Nigeria, Kuwait and Colombia (beat Colombia 3-0, Drew 0-0 with Kuwait and 1-1 with Nigeria).
After progressing all the way to the final, they beat East Germany 1-0 to claim their only Olympic football gold.
– CZECH REPUBLIC WERE RUNNERS-UP AT THE 1996 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP
For the second time, Czech Republic made it to the final of the European Championships which took place in 1996 in England.
Despite being one of the less fancied side at the tournament, Czech Republic breezed through to the final after seeing off heavyweights like Italy (2-1 in group stage), Portugal (1-0 in quarter-finals) and France (5-4 penalty shootout win).
They met Germany in the final for the second time but this time were not lucky as they lost 2-1 in extra-time following an Oliver Bierhoff’s golden goal.
– CZECH REPUBLIC GREAT PAVEL NEDVED WON THE 2003 BALLON ‘OR AWARD
One of the finest player ever to come out of Czech Republic was Pavel Nedved.
Nedved represented Czech Republic at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 European Championships as well as the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Aside from being outstanding for his country, he was also impressive for Serie A giants Juventus and in 2003, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or award.
He beat off competition from Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry and Italy and Milan icon Paolo Maldini to land the award.
Nedved’s choice did not come as a surprise as he helped Juventus win the Serie A and also played a big part as they qualified for the 2003 Champions League final which unfortunately he did not feature in due to suspension.
Juventus went on to lose the final 3-2 on penalties to AC Milan at Old Trafford.