Pavel Vrba knows that his Czech Republic team are Euro 2016 underdogs but his past experience at club level has taught him that an upset is always possible. With an attacking mentality the former Viktoria Plzen boss is looking to make an impact this summer.
The Panenka looks at Vrba, the Czech Republic team and their chances at the summer tournament in France.
Pavel Vrba has a reputation for achieving the unachievable in eastern European football. After spells turning around the fortunes of clubs in Czech Republic and his native Slovakia, the relatively young coach is looking to do the same at Euro 2016.
“We can’t say we’re going there as one of the favorites but we don’t want to go home after the group stage,” said the 52-year-old coach ahead of his premiere at a major international tournament.
“I think we’re one of the teams that can surprise. Football is beautiful because even the theoretically weaker teams can beat the favorites,” he added.
Vrba took over the Czech Republic team on January 1 2014 and led it to win the Euro qualifying Group A ahead of second placed Iceland, 3rd placed qualifiers Turkey and the dismal Netherlands.
Asked about his team’s prospects at Euro following the draw that put his team in Group D alongside Croatia, Spain and Turkey, he said: “The outcome of the draw is clear and it doesn’t make sense to muse about it.”
Vrba’ attacking style is underlined by the fact that in 19 games they have not managed a single clean sheet. Despite having the brilliant Petr Cech in the goal.
The Czech team is likely to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Full-backs Pavel Kaderabek and David Limberskys are key to the offensive nature of Vrba’s team, as is the attacking midfield role. Tomas Rosicky has occupied that role for a number of years but has been injured for the majority of the last few seasons. Vladmir Darida could fill the void left by the former Arsenal midfielder but Vrba is confident Rosicky will be fit and ready to captain the side in France.
“I was in England three weeks ago to see how Tomas was for myself. I went back satisfied, I saw that Tomas handed the whole match and had no break,” said Vrba. “Even now, after two days of being in the training camp, he handles everything without any relief. I see no reason why he should not be ready for the European Championship,” he added.
The Czech coach has added 76-year-old coach Karel Bruckner to his coaching staff. Bruckner led the Czech Republic to third place at Euro 2004 and his responsible, like Vrba, for promoting an offensive style that suited the likes of Czech exports Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky, Vladimir Smicer, Tomas Rosicky and Milan Baros.
Born December 6, 1963, Vrba started his top-flight coaching career in 2003 at Banik Ostrava, a team where he had once played. In his very first game at the helm he was on the wrong end of a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Slavia Prague.
After cutting his managerial teeth in at Banik Ostrava he moved to MSK Puchov where the Czech coach enjoyed a largely uneventful spell. In 2006 Vrba’s career began its ascent.
Upon being appointed the MSK Zilina post in 2006 he was concurrently offered the assistant manager position with the Slovakia national team alongside Jan Kocian. Together they led an unsuccessful campaign to qualify for Euro 2008 before parting ways with the national team set up.
At club level however Vrba was beginning to make a name for himself. During his first season with MSK Zilna In 2007 he won the league title during an unforgettable season where the new coach’s signings and attacking approach took the club to a new level. The team dominated throughout the season and was applauded across the country for their style of play.
Vrba became the most loved coach in the history of Zilna with the most exciting brand of attacking football the country has ever seen. On their way to the title his side scored 80 goals in 36 matches.
The title win took Zilna to the qualifying stages of the Champions League. Disappointingly they were unable to make the group stages after being knocked out on penalties to Slavia Prague in the second qualifying round after goalless draws in both legs.
In the following season Zilna finished second in the division to qualify for the qualifying stages of the Champions League once more. Surprisingly the club board took the decision to dismiss Vrba. The reason was speculated to be due to inconsistent performances, naiveties in an all out attacking approach and fallibility against European competitors.
Vrba’s dismissal seemed extremely harsh after he brought the club their first trophy in 100 years. The club had little to brag about beforehand and have only ever been relevant due to both Pavel Nedved and Petr Cech playing for their youth teams.
In 2008 the young go-getter moved to Viktoria Plzen. According to reports, before his first training session he told the players: “Don’t think I’ve come here to be thirteenth in the league and worry all the time about relegation.”
Team captain Pavel Horvath later confessed to having thought: “My God, now he’s going to tell us he wants to win the title and I’ll die laughing.”
At Plzen the Czech coach built a strong team playing attractive, offensive football with the help of some shrewd signings. Under his guidance, Plzen first lifted the Czech Cup in 2010, then won two league titles in 2011 and 2013. Furthermore he qualified for the Champions League group stage twice.
Pilsen fans will for long cherish the memory of games against giants Barcelona, AC Milan, Bayern and Manchester City, or Europa League wins over Atletico Madrid and Napoli with Vrba at the helm. A 5-0 victory over Napoli in the Europa league exemplifies his attacking mindset.
Since Vrba’s departure Viktoria Plzen continued their winning tradition. Under the guidance of Vrba’s national team assistant, Karel Krejci, they have won the Czech First League twice in 2015 and 2016.
Czech Republic start their Euro 2016 campaign against holders Spain on June 13 in Toulouse before taking on Croatia on June 17 and Turkey on June 21.