The performances of the Czech Republic might not be worrying the likes of Germany, Spain, France and Italy just yet. However, there is one player in Michal Bilek's side who has made the rest of Europe sit up and take notice.
23-year-old left winger Vaclav Pilar will have sent shock-waves around Europe with two goals in two games, that have propelled the Czechs to the brink of the quarter-finals.
With a do-or-die match with co-hosts Poland this evening at the Municipal stadium, Pilar could very well hold the key to unlocking a stubborn Polish defence and securing Group A qualification.
He has the talent and potential to go all the way to the top, but Pilar can be as equally frustrating to watch. His mazy runs often lead to blind alleys or an over-hit pass, but his trickery and ability to bamboozle defenders can win a game on its own.
Wolfsburg have stolen a march on their rivals by agreeing a €1 million deal for the Czech winger earlier this year, which will see him link up with former Viktoria Plzen team-mate Petr Jiracek
The directors at Wolfsburg must have been left purring at the duo’s display against Greece as they both netted goals in the 2-1 victory.
LEFT WINGER | WOLFSBURG
The talents of Pilar have been well documented in Czech Republic; he was the talisman for Hradec Kralove during the 2010-11 season, where he was dubbed the ‘Hradec Kralove Messi’.
Hradec were then a newly-promoted side but comfortably finished eighth in the Gambrinus Liga, above the likes of Slavia Prague. The 5ft 5in winger really came to the fore in an adventurous 3-4-3 system, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory against champions Sparta Prague on the opening day of the season that set the tone.
Pilar was soon to outgrow Hradec Kralove and earned a move to Viktoria Plzen, a club with an attacking and free-flowing ethos, making it seem like a perfect fit. The left flanker was a constant fixture in the side and was soon testing himself in the Champions League against AC Milan and Barcelona.
However, he often appeared to be on the periphery of a game and was guilty of failing to produce on the big occasion. In eight European games last season (6 in the Champions League and 2 in the Europa League) Pilar failed to register a single goal or assist.
But this criticism can no longer be leveled at him after scoring in successive matches in Poland and Ukraine.
The diminutive midfielder has developed a knack of scoring important goals for his country.
Pilar now looks at ease on the international stage and has improved his reading of the game. His intelligent positioning against Russia saw him latch on to Jiroslav Plasil’s perfectly-weighted through ball to round the goalkeeper as he opened his account at the tournament.
The diminutive ace has developed a knack of scoring important goals for his country. He scored an unstoppable 30 yard drive to break the deadlock against Montenegro in the first leg of their Euro 2012 play-off.
The match against Poland will see an intriguing battle between Pilar and the talented Lukasz Piszczek at right-back. If the Czechs are to avoid an early trip home then the 23-year-old will need to come out on top and serve his ever-growing reputation.