Schick's goal from the halfway line is likely to be the goal of the tournament
As a child, Patrik Schick wore a t-shirt with Milan Baros emblazoned and had hopes of emulating the Golden Boot winner of Euro 2004. His dreams of following in Baros’ footsteps moved closer last week and he has ambitions of causing further upsets starting at Wembley tonight.
Czech Republic were the afterthought in Group D when the draw was made, deemed Scotland’s best chance of a victory, while England and Croatia were concentrating on renewing rivalries from the World Cup semi-finals.
For a country who reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals since their glorious Euro 96 run, they arrived into the tournament under the radar and Schick was a striker who had question marks over whether he would reach the very highest level.
Schick failed two medicals ahead of a proposed move to Juventus and a heart problem was uncovered. It looked like his progress in Italy was being halted after starting well at Sampdoria, but two seasons in Germany has dispelled any uncertainty.
His goal from the halfway line at Hampden Park is likely to be the goal of the tournament but England should be more concerned about his first goal, hanging in the air and steering a header into the far corner of the net. It was a strikers’ goal that will have been analysed by John Stones and Tyrone Mings in the last days.
It is at centre-forward where he has flourished at Bayer Leverkusen, with a healthy return of nine goals last season. He has only played as centre-forward, rather than a wide-forward which is where he found himself at AS Roma after the Juventus move fell through.
There is a touch of the underdog about him too, having taken a detour after his failed medical. As a child, with his Baros t-shirt, he would be the smallest kid playing with the adults in his dad’s amateur team.
“He didn’t play at a high level, every Tuesday and every Sunday he played the weekend league,” Schick said. “I started to go with him to shoot at the goal he was playing at with the men. I was shooting at the goal. I started and when I was a little bit older, I started to play with the men as well although I was still young.”