The Czech Republic were humiliated by a Finnish side ranked 96th in the world – 77 places lower than the Czechs. Sierra Leone, Libya, Haiti and Canada are all deemed significantly superior according to FIFA’s latest rankings.
However, to gather some perspective, let’s remember England and Portugal are ranked third and fourth respectively.
Galatasary defender, Tomas Sivok, was at pains to explain last night’s first half performance that bordered on farcical.
“The first half was tragic. It was probably the worst forty five minutes in the last three years.” he said.
In many ways the first half drew a lot of parallels with the 3-0 tonking handed out by Norway last summer. A result that left the beleaguered coach, Michal Bilek, hanging onto to his job by the slimmest of threads.
But unlike the Norway debacle, the Czech’s improved the tempo in the second half and laid siege to the Finnish goal for long periods. But ended the game without any reward for their second half endeavour.
It was a true Jekyll and Hyde performance. And it left the same ugly questions rearing it’s head. Who will score the goals? Where is the creativity and penetration?
Tomas Pekhart was given the thankless task as lone striker, but was withdrawn at half time as he maintained his blank in front of goal, something of a specialty for the Czechs right now.
However, I believe there are mitigating circumstances around last night’s defeat. Key players were missing. Rosicky, Pilar, Cech and Gebre Selassie did not feature. That’s FOUR first team regulars not playing.
The timing of the fixture was also a hindrance, the hard work of grinding out a 0-0 in Copenhagen just days earlier had seemingly taken it’s toll. The players had their foot off the gas, in fact the players weren’t even in the car for the first half.
Bilek told reporters after the game that he believes there is no reason to change the tactical lineup. And I agree, to an extent.
The 4-2-3-1 system works well when the team has the right balance. The conundrum is fitting the right players in the right positions, too often Bilek is trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
But I am willing to give Bilek the benefit of the doubt for time being. Just.
However, unlike Bilek’s formations, opinions can change and it would be unforgivable should their goal less streak extend by a further 180 minutes.
Another option could be adapting the favoured 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 formation that was mentioned by @theczechup on Twitter last night.
“0-0 after 25 minutes and by biggest thought is ‘this side would be so much better as a 4-3-3’. Too many central midfielders accommodated.”
An excellent point that should be worth exploring. But with crucial home qualifying games against Malta and Bulgaria in just four weeks there is little margin for error.