Scotland – Czech Republic: Schick Delivers For Compact Czechs (0-2)
Scotland started poorly, with their possession structure unsuitable for breaking through the Czech defensive block. With the ball, Czech Republic were also relatively compact and overloaded the areas around the ball. Goals either side of half-time from Patrik Schick were enough to dispatch Scotland, despite an improved performance in the second half from Scotland who were probably unlucky not to score.
Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Scotland faced Czech Republic at Hampden Park in their first international tournament match in 23 years. Manager Steve Clarke started his side in a 3-5-2 shape for this match, with the biggest team news being the absence of Kieran Tierney. Meanwhile other notable talents such as Billy Gilmour and Che Adams only made the bench.
The back three for Scotland then consisted of Jack Hendry, Liam Cooper and Grant Hanley, while Stephen O’Donnell and Andrew Robertson were the wing-backs. In midfield there was the Premier League trio of Scott Mctominay, Stuart Armstrong and John McGinn, while Ryan Christie joined Lyndon Dykes up front.
Czech Republic meanwhile lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a back four of Vladimír Coufal, Ondřej Čelůstka, Tomáš Kalas and Jan Bořil. The double pivot in midfield was formed by Tomáš Souček and Alex Král. Up front, Lukáš Masopust, Vladimír Darida and Jakub Jankto supported striker Patrik Schick.
Aggressive start without breakthroughs
Roared on by the home crowd, Scotland started largely on top for the first ten minutes or so, with decent intensity in implementing their 3-5-2 system to put Czech Republic on the back foot. Ultimately though, they were unable to make a breakthrough in this period.
Scotland built up in a 3-5-2 shape with McTominay at the base of midfield, while Armstrong played higher in the left halfspace, If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. and McGinn from the right halfspace even more attack minded. There were some problems connecting with these advanced midfield players though, and therefore Scotland were left with sometimes quite low-quality direct plays throughout much of the first half, seeking the target man Dykes.
Aside from quite large distances between the Scotland defenders and number eights, a big reason why Scotland faced these connection issues was due to the Czechs’ compact pressing shape making it difficult for Scotland to progress through the halfspaces.
Czech Republic’s pressing to block the halfspaces against Scotland’s buildup.
The Czech wingers occupied fairly narrow positions in the second line of the Scottish buildup, while the central midfielders behind them could then mark McGinn and Armstrong. Darida in the number ten position for Czech Republic could also then mark McTominay, who does not possess the strongest movement to receive the ball in buildup, therefore he was rendered mostly ineffective during organized buildup phases.
With the central options difficult to access for Scotland, and good pressure in the second line from Czech Republic, Scotland were mostly forced wide and long. Some of their better moves came from Robertson down the left side, who injected energy into the attacks and could deliver good crosses from the left.
Ball-oriented Czech attacks
As alluded to, Czech Republic showed good compactness in defense. In attack though, compactness was also a strategic feature, as they chose primarily to try and have a high concentration of players in the immediate area around the ball, rather than distributing attackers across the pitch.
These overloads When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. around the ball were especially prominent on the right side, where Coufal could help to create more dynamic situations with his overlaps outside Masopust. On the left side meanwhile, Bořil the fullback would often push up, while Jankto often moved long distances from his nominal position as left winger to add to the overloads on the right side of the pitch.
Right-sided overloads in the Czech attack.
Czech Republic were also keen to use long balls, although these scenes were a bit better prepared than the Scottish use of long balls, as the compactness in the areas around the target player meant that they could counterpress After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. quite effectively in these scenes, as well as move the ball quickly when it had been won due to the nearby passing options.
Also adequate was the staggering from the double pivot Souček and Král, who often moved onto different lines to offer connections in the number six space rather than getting caught flat in the cover shadows of Scotland’s strikers.
Although Czech Republic did nothing outstanding in the first half, they were able to take the lead through a Schick header shortly before half time. Scotland brought on Adams after the break, who added good movement to the attack overall.
The home side came out in the second half positively, going close to scoring a couple of times. However, they were hit by an outstanding long-range goal from Schick early in the half, putting Czech Republic 2-0 up and leaving Scotland with a mountain to climb.
Scotland naturally began to push forward more, and Czech Republic took a somewhat deeper defensive stance, pushed back by the continued direct passes from Scotland, which were now more successful with the home side able to collect the second balls more often and threaten the Czech goal, with Robertson prominent down the left once again.
There was a reshuffle from Scotland with just over twnty minutes to go, with Callum McGregor and Ryan Frasier coming for Hendry and Armstrong. McTominay then moved back into the defense to take Hendry’s place, while McGregor played in midfield with McGinn and the more advanced Frasier.
Czech Republic made changes of their own, bringing Tomáš Holeš into the midfield in place of Král, and replacing wingers Masopust and Jankto with Matěj Vydra and Adam Hložek. Clarke added further attacking threat to Scotland by bringing in James Forest and Kevin Nisbet for O’Donnell and Dykes, as they continued to push for a goal.
Scotland’s direct play in the second half got them into good positions in and around the Czech box, but they were unable to find the finishing touch, meaning Czech Republic held on their 2-0 lead and claimed the three points.
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Czech Republic were the more cohesive team in the first half, benefitting from compactness on both sides of the ball. Schick’s moments of quality ultimately won them the game, even if they were slightly fortunate not to concede in the second half.
Scotland were poor in the first half and arguably deserved to concede the goal they did before half-time. They were able to impose themselves more in the second half and had a couple of decent chances. Improvements in the buildup phase are likely needed in future games though.
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