🇨🇿 Czech Republic 🇨🇿
The Czech Republic championship was established in 1993 after the country’s independence. Since then, Sparta Prague has dominated the championship to a large extent, while Viktoria Plzeň has been at the top of the table since 2011 and has won its first championship title.
The Czech Republic championship is played in two phases. The sixteen best Czech teams play each other twice in the first phase. At the end of this phase, the sixteen teams are divided into three, the first six play for the title, the 7th to 10th play knockout matches, in order to play a European playoff against the 5th of the Czech Republic championship, and a pool concerning the last six.
The team with the most points in both phases is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League, along with the runner-up. The third team, the winner of the European play-off and the winner of the Czech Republic Cup go to the Europa League. The last team is relegated to the second division. A relegation playoff is held between the 14th and 15th of the Czech Republic championship.
Following the 1993 partition of Czechoslovakia into two new nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Czech Republic has developed a fine reputation as a soccer nation. Finalists at EURO 96 and winners of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2002, the Czechs have excellent players who play for European clubs. The Czech nation can be proud to have such representatives.
Czechoslovakia belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire when soccer was introduced in the 19th century. The city of Prague was interested in this new sport. In 1892, the first club, SK Slavia Praha, was founded.
The Královské Vinohrady, or “King of the Vineyard”, was born a year later, and in 1894 it became AC Sparta Praha – a great rivalry was born. The first derby in the capital was held in 1896 in Cisarska Louka, and then soccer spread to the whole nation. In 1901, thirteen clubs belonged to the Czechoslovakian Football Association (now the Czech Republic Football Association), which six years later became a member of FIFA.
Prague was one of the cities that rose up against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in 1918 the first Czechoslovak Republic came into being – a single state with two republics. This did not change anything in soccer: Sparta – which won the first championship in 1912 – and Slavia still dominated the national scene. An international competition for Central European teams, the Mitropa Cup, was created in 1927 and Sparta won the first edition.
The national team reached the final of the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp but was beaten 2-0 by Belgium. It did not participate in the first FIFA World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. But the Czechoslovakians had a good run in the 1934 World Cup in Italy, although they lost the final 2-1 to Italy after extra time. The world could no longer ignore the talent of goalkeeper František Plánička and strikers Antonín Puč and Oldřich Nejedlý, the World Cup’s top scorer.
In the years following World War II, the Communists implemented a new political order, and the army team, Dukla Praha, took control of the league at the expense of Slavia, the biggest victim. At the international level, Czechoslovakia maintained its unity and finished third in the 1960 UEFA European Championship. They had a golden generation led by Josef Masopust, the best European footballer of 1962, Svatopluk Pluskal, Ladislav Novák, Viliam Schrojf and Ján Popluhár. The team performed better at the next World Cup in Chile, losing only in the final to Brazil (3-1).
In 1976, Czechoslovakia‘s flamboyant soccer was rewarded by winning the European Championship. The Czechoslovakians beat West Germany on penalties 5-3 after a 2-2 draw in Belgrade. Ivo Viktor guarded the goals, Anton Ondruš and Ján Pivarník shone in defense, and the midfield trio of Jozef Móder, Karol Dobiaš, and Antonín Panenka supported the forwards, Zdeněk Nehoda and Marián Masný.
Although Czechoslovakia failed to retain its crown in 1980, it finished third and won the gold medal at the Moscow Olympics shortly after – 16 years after winning silver at the Tokyo Olympics.
After the fall of communism, Czechoslovakia became two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, on January 1, 1993. Three years later, the Czech Republic surprised everyone by reaching the final of EURO 96, where they lost to a golden goal from Germany at Wembley. This team had talented players such as Karel Poborský, Vladimír Šmicer, Patrik Berger and Pavel Nedvěd, all of whom would leave for abroad.
While the new republic was notable for its absence from the 2002 World Cup, the disappointment of non-qualification was offset by the superb results achieved by the youth teams. They won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Switzerland in 2002.
Many players from this generation, including goalkeeper Petr Čech and striker Milan Baroš, later became indispensable in the senior team, which reached the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2004 and then qualified for the World Cup in Germany. Two senior players announced their international retirement shortly afterwards: attacking midfielder Jan Koller, the national team’s top scorer with 55 goals, and midfielder Pavel Nedvěd, the 2003 Golden Ball winner.
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