Players to watch
Milan Baros (Czech)
Milan Baros was the top scorer at Euro 2004. He hit five goals. The only match in which he failed to register was the only one the Czech Republic did not win — the semi-final in Porto against Greece. It was a fabulous tournament for the striker, all the more remarkable for the fact that he had spent half of the season leading up to it recovering from a broken leg. If 2004 was unquestionably the highlight of Baros’s international career, there was more to celebrate a year later as he helped Liverpool to victory in the Champions League. He left the Reds to join Aston Villa FC a few weeks later but never truly settled in Birmingham, moving on to French champions Olympique Lyonnais - where he was a title winner — and then Portsmouth on loan. Baros was injured for the 2006 World Cup but returned to lead the Czech attack alongside Jan Koller in their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, scoring three times and maintaining his international strike rate of roughly a goal every other game.
Petr Cech (Czech)
A revelation for the Czech Republic at Euro 2004, his first major tournament, Petr Cech had already agreed to leave Stade Rennais for Chelsea before the finals. Jose Mourinho must have felt blessed because the giant goalkeeper, then 22, not only excelled in Portugal but also went on to stamp his class on the Premier League. His commanding displays helped Chelsea win their first league title for 50 years in 2004-05, then retain their crown the following season. Cech was a European Under-21 champion in 2002, saving two penalties in the final shoot-out against France, so his nerveless displays for the senior side in 2004 were no great surprise. His big-match mentality has shone through on countless occasions since, earning him several individual distinctions, including two Champions League Best Goalkeeper awards. The second of those came at the end of a 2006-07 season disrupted by a head injury which left him requiring a rugby-style headguard as protection on his return. An eye-catching performer at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, he figured strongly again in 2008 qualification, passing 50 caps.