Czech Republic players celebrate the draw at the end of the UEFA EURO 2012 Group I Qualifying match between Scotland and Czech Republic at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Montenegro and the Czech Republic are involved in perhaps the Euro 2012 playoffs tie with the least star power. However, the relative unknown nature of each side's ability makes this tie intriguing.
Czech Republic and Montenegro are unknown quantities. Not because we're unaware of the players on the roster or how they try to play, but because they haven't been sufficiently tested. They've both played teams that are obviously considerably better than they are and teams who are obviously not very good. Czech Republic fell twice to Spain and beat a disappointing Scotland side. Montenegro finished behind England and recorded wins against disappointing Wales and Switzerland sides.
And yet, even with all of Switzerland's disappointments, they only came up one point short of Montenegro for their playoff spot, beating them on the final day in a game that didn't matter. Montenegro took just 12 points from a group that wasn't very good, outside of England. Hell, even England weren't that great.
That group was loaded compared to Czech Republic's. Spain is almost certainly the best team in the world, but the rest of the group was a joke. Scotland, while in possession of some talent, haven't done anything for a decade. Lichtenstein and Lithuania are not powerhouses. The Czech Republic almost made the playoffs by default, with no disrespect intended to the wonderful supporters in the Tartan Army.
Despite Czech Republic's repeated success in youth tournaments, they've struggled to produce top-level players who can contribute to the national team. Some of their young or young-ish players have been either dropped or are injured, and the team is reasonably old and lacking in name recognition. They're lead by Viktoria Plzen's midfield and a bunch of players who haven't been on form since 2008. The roster is reasonably deep with respectable players, but there are no real stars. Pavel Nedved is not walking through that door.
Montenegro are a completely different story. The star power is there, but the depth certainly isn't. Mirko Vucinic and Stefan Jovetic will be asked to carry this team. Veteran Milorad Pekovic provides some steel in the midfield while Marko Basa is a very good central defender, but the real quality of this team is with their firepower up top. They can score and they should score. Vucinic and Jovetic will have to lead the way.
Expect matching 4-2-3-1 formations from the two sides, with Czech Republic perhaps committing more numbers forward with the first leg being played on their home turf. This one could potentially be a bit static and conservative, but we haven't really seen these teams play meaningful games against similar opposition. It's tough to make a prediction.
Czech Republic vs. Montenegro kicks off at 2:15 pm ET, 7:15 pm GMT on Friday. We'll have live coverage of this and every Euro 2012 qualifying playoff match in our Euro 2012 Qualifying Playoffs StoryStream. For more on the entire world of football, visit SB Nation Soccer.