Vladimir Coufal was one of the Premier League’s signings of the season last term, having initially arrived in east London as a relatively unknown right-back from Czech Republic.
By the end of the 2020/21 campaign, he’d played a vital role in West Ham’s 6th place finish and Europa League qualification, and was touted as being one of the best right-backs in the division.
Now, he’s preparing to line up against England for his country at Wembley in the final round of fixtures in Group D and is fully focused on emulating the success of the Czech Republic side that reached the final in Euro ’96, after seeing his career catapulted by his recent switch to the Premier League.
“The Czechs had really good players in that time .
“To be honest, while I know all the names, the two that stick in my mind are [Karel] Poborsky and Vladimir Smicer.
“Particularly Smicer, because he is a former Slavia Prague player. He is a legend of the club and I remember loving him during that tournament.
“There is a special feeling when you represent the national team, but I never feel big pressure to perform personally.
“That said, I have hope that we can be successful like our team in ‘96.”
Coufal and his Czech Republic side have great memories of Wembley from their success story in 1996 and after beating England in the qualifying group, they’ll be quietly confident of a getting a result on Tuesday night.
Either way, both they and the Three Lions are already guaranteed a route into the knockout rounds of Euro 2020, but this game will decide who will win the group and who will go through in either second or third, which is still a big deal given the way the draw works; it’s suggested not winning Group D will lead to an easier route to the final.
Permutations aside, Coufal is also looking forward to lining up against Hammers teammate Declan Rice on Tuesday and admits he wants to get one over his teammate.
“Of course when we are team-mates we are fighting for one goal, but when we have different jerseys on the body we are opponents. I want to beat him and England,” he said.