Philadelphia, PA – Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech is almost universally recognized as one of the best players at his position in the world, which he reaffirmed during Chelsea's run to the Champions League title this past season.
And while great goalkeeping can be a major boost for any team, it can take a side only so far.
The problem for the Czech Republic and coach Michal Bilek is that despite having Cech in goal, Bilek has little else that he can really rely on.
Gone are players like Jan Koller, Vladimir Smicer and Karol Poborsky that formed the heart of the Czech Republic side that reached the semifinals at Euro 2004.
Instead, one of Bilek's biggest issues will be the fact that he has to count on increased production from veteran striker Milan Baros, who appears to be well past his best days.
Baros netted only one goal in seven Euro qualifiers, but Bilek has few other options up top as Tomas Pekhart has yet to impress on the international level while promising CSKA Moscow striker Tomas Necid is just returning from a knee ligament injury.
Captain Tomas Rosicky is one of the few holdovers from the better years in Czech football, and he is coming off of a strong season with Arsenal that saw his creative brilliance return after battling injuries for the past few seasons.
But Bilek will be concerned that his top playmaker can remain fit with Rosicky struggling to overcome a late-season calf injury.
The fact that defender Michal Kadlec led the team in scoring during qualifying with four goals, including three from the penalty spot, illustrates how dire the situation is for Bilek and his team in front of goal.
A lack of creativity and scoring prowess would normally give a team little chance at advancing beyond the group stage, but the Czechs at least have the good fortune of landing in the weakest group in the tournament, Group A.
Russia will be the favorite to win the group, but with Greece and co-hosts Poland rounding it out, there is no real heavyweight for the Czech Republic to come up against, giving the team hope that it can do enough to slip into the next round.
In what figures to be a tight and competitive group, having a goalkeeper like Cech could make a big difference. If everything goes right, Baros will rediscover a bit of his old form and the team will score just enough goals to slide into the next round, where they will likely be bounced by a superior Germany or Netherlands team. If things don't break the right way, a lack of offensive punch will prevent the team from advancing out of a subpar group, no matter how good Cech performs in goal.