The Czech Republic have only qualified for the finals of the World Cup once since becoming an independent state in 1993, but the side failed to make it past the group stages of the 2006 finals. However, the nation celebrated its biggest football achievement when they reached the final of EURO 1996.

Under the guidance of manager Dušan Uhrin, a talented squad that included the likes of Pavel Nedvěd, Patrick Berger, Vladimír Smicer and Karel Poborský headed to England looking to make their mark on the international stage as an independent country. However, their opening match offered little indication of what was to come.

Taking on Germany at Old Trafford was always likely to be a difficult proposition, and first half goals from Christian Ziege and Andreas Möller completed the scoring before half-time in what was a comfortable 2-0 win. However, a short journey to Anfield for their second game against Italy proved to be far more productive, and goals from Nedvěd and Radek Bejbl earned Uhrin's team a 2-1 victory.

One of the most entertaining games of the tournament completed the group stage as the Czech Republic played out a 3-3 draw against Russia at Anfield, with Šmicer's late equaliser edging the side into the knock-out stages at the expense of Italy. Goals from Jan Suchopárek and Pavel Kuka had put the side 2-0 ahead, but Russia responded by taking a 3-2 lead on 85 minutes. However, Smicer still had time to score the decisive goal, and would find himself back at Anfield three years later when he signed for Liverpool.

A tie against Portugal in the quarter-final was the reward for their group stage drama, and the dream would continue as Poborský scored the only goal of the game at Villa Park to upset the great Luís Figo and his illustrious countrymen. The Czech Republic would return to Old Trafford for the semi-final against France, and after playing out a 0-0 draw, the match was eventual decided in their favour 6-5 on penalties.

In an ironic twist, the tournament would end for the Czech Republic just as it had started, with a defeat to Germany. Although a penalty from Patrick Berger would hand them a second half lead at Wembley Stadium, Oliver Bierhoff equalised to take the match to extra-time, and the German striker would then make history by deciding the match with the golden goal that brought the match to an immediate end.

Although the tournament ended in disappointment, the Czech Republic had impressed against the odds, and almost achieved redemption at EURO 2004 when they again reached the semi-finals. However, another underdog was destined to make history at that particular tournament, and the side were eliminated in the last four by a 1-0 defeat to eventual competition winners Greece.

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