The Czech Republic is facing Montenegro at home in the first leg of the EURO 2012 playoffs tonight, uncertain whether its star keeper Petr Cech will come to terms with his broken nose in time to play.
The Czechs are eyeing their fifth European championships in a row, while Montenegro, the youngest UEFA member that emerged in 2006 as the country gained independence on Serbia, is eager to advance to its first major tournament.
Montenegro, which finished second behind England and ahead of Switzerland, Wales and Bulgaria in its qualifying group, has named an injury-free team led by star Serie A strikers Mirko Vucinic and Stevan Jovetic.
The Czechs, which took second spot in its group behind Spain and ahead of Scotland, Lithuania and Liechtenstein, will miss suspended midfielder Tomas Hubschman in both games and defender Roman Hubnik in the home tie.
But the Czechs’ biggest cause for concern is Chelsea keeper Cech, who broke his nose in a clash with teammate Ashley Cole in Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Blackburn last Saturday.
Cech, who already wears protective headgear following a skull fracture six years ago, has had a special mask made in Italy, but he had doubts about his appearance as he landed in Prague on Wednesday.