The Czech Republic keeps World Cup 2022 qualification hopes alive

Vlastimil Vacek, Právo

The Czech national football team concluded its performance in qualifying group E of the 2022 World Cup with a narrow and tired victory over Estonia (2:0) on Tuesday. 

The Czech national football team didn’t impress with its performance against an underrated opponent in the last fixture of Group E of the 2022 World Cup qualification. Thanks to goals from Jakub Brabec and Jan Sýkora, the national team eventually defeated Estonia 2-0 at Letná in Prague, finishing third in the group behind Belgium and Wales, and will play a barrage of games to qualify for the World Cup in March. They will not be among the six seeded teams in the draw, so they will probably face a tough opponent. The Czechs will have to play on the opponents’ ground in the semi-final of the barrage.

Czech RepublicUnseeded
North MacedoniaUnseeded
Above the 12 teams who will need to go through the playoffs to secure their 2022 World Cup qualification

The Czech Republic national football team will have to face one of the seeded teams above in the playoff semi-finals. This means that current and previous European Champions Italy and Portugal are possible opponents. The draw for the playoffs will be revealed on November 26, Friday, at 4 PM GMT (9:30 PM IST) and it will be held at the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. The 12 teams will be divided into three groups of four teams each. Each group will have semi-finals and finals based on which the group winners will be decided. In the end, the three winners will qualify for the World Cup finals in Qatar.

The national team has only made one appearance at the World Cup in its independent history, in 2006, and hasn’t managed to perceive the legacy of Czechoslovakia. which had been one of the better-performing national teams in the history of the World Cup. Czechoslovakia twice ended as runners-up, in 1926 and in 1934, and participated in 10 out of 13 World Cups between 1930 and 1994.

The Czechs have been assured since the weekend that they will make the playoffs for next March’s World Cup in Qatar as one of the two winners of the Nations League group. Due to Wales’ draw with Belgium, the national team finished third in qualifying Group E with 14 points. It is only from the Nations League that the Czechs benefited, because thanks to the newly introduced ranking of the winners of its groups, their 2022 World Cup qualification dream is still alive. In the old model, third place would have meant a bitter farewell and the end of their campaign.

“The performance replicated the whole autumn, when we did not have the strength and drive of the European Championship,” said assistant coach Jiří Chytrý, who was replacing head coach Jaroslav Šilhavy, who tested positive for Covid-19.

As long as they have a complete team with all of their biggest mainstays, the Czechs are capable of reaching the quarter-finals of the European Championship, as they proved at the summer EURO. Due to the coronavirus, qualification for the World Cup took place in a single, highly unusual football year. It started with three March games before the European Championships, where the Czech Republic played another five matches. Therefore, the national team played a total of 17 matches, absolutely the most in a calendar year in the history of not only the independent Czech, but also the Czechoslovak national football team.

However, absences alone can not excuse everything. It is no surprise that Belgium dominated Group E. However, it is definitely disappointing that the Czech team could not even beat second-placed Wales once. Against Estonia and Belarus, it collected the maximum number of points, but that cannot be considered a success. The highlight of the Czech performance was in the 2nd round, when Šilhavy’s team almost beat the first team in the world ranking, Belgium, at home. They were rightly disappointed that they only drew with the Red Devils after an impressive performance. If they had maintained at least similar form until the end, they could not have missed second place and seeding before the barrage draw.