With four equally competitive teams, Group D is likely to go down to the wire. Can Spain overcome their World Cup disappointment? Or will Turkey spring a surprise?
Euro 2016 will begin on the 10th of June 2016 with a new format in place to accommodate a higher number of teams in a bid to elongate the tournament and give more teams a fair chance at the title. With the top three teams in a group having the possibility of qualifying to the next round, the tournament is bound to be more competitive than its previous versions.
Highlights – Group D consists of Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey, all four sides equally capable of qualifying for the knockout stages. Although Czech and Turkey are considered to be the underdogs in the group, they have had a reasonably strong run in their friendly games to pose a threat to the favourites Spain and Croatia. Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, Juventus striker Alvaro Morata, Arsenal shot stopper Petr Cech and Barcelona midfield duo of Arda Turan and Ivan Rakitic are some big names that will be in action in this group.
After an exceptional 10-0 win against San Marino, Croatia come into the competition highly motivated as they prepare for their first game against Turkey on 12th of June. Their strength lies in their midfield, with the likes of Modric, Rakitic, and Perisic sure to feature in their starting eleven. Their manager Ante Cacic, seems to be fickle about the formation, throwing fans and opponents off-guard with different shapes and tactics employed in every game. Although Croatia are a strong and a capable side with many stars who are in form, their manager’s poor tactical approach to the tournament might prove to be their undoing.
With the likes of Lovren being left out and ageing right back Darijo Srna not the player he was a few years ago, Croatia are likely to be defensively suspect. However, a strong midfield and a proven goal scorer in the form of Mario Mandzukic will enable them to spring some surprises against some of the bigger teams in the competition. Dinamo Zagreb’s Marko Pjaca and Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic are the two young players to watch out for.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Subasic; Srna, Corluka, Vida, Vrsaljko; Modric, Brozovic, Perisic, Rakitic, Pjaca; Mandzukic.
Although they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Czech Republic come into the group stages as one of the weakest sides of the four. With set pieces and counter attacks being their biggest strengths, Pavel Vrba has picked a side with a creative midfield and pacey wingers that will cut infield to provide more men to attack from the center. With the Sparta Prague duo Ladislav Krejci and Borek Dockal, the Czech team has immense pace for counter attacks and will be happy to play against sides such as Croatia and Spain who like to keep possession of the ball and build an attack.
However, their pressing tactic has one defect. When the Czech midfield press on into the attacking third, their center halves stay back in lieu of a lack pace. This leaves a huge gap between the midfield and defence, giving room for the likes of Arda Turan, Iniesta and Rakitic to play crucial balls to their respective strikers.
Although Czech Republic are a reasonably strong side, their over reliance on the now aging Arsenal Star Rosicky might prove to be detrimental to the team. Without him, the team does not have a player who can open up defences and create chances. Czech Republic will have a tough run against Spain and will find it difficult against Croatia. By the time they play Turkey, it may be too late for them to qualify for the knockout stage.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Kaderabek, Sivok, Kadlec, Limbersky; Darida, Plasil, Dockal, Rosicky, Krejci; Necid.
Vicente del Bosque stands at the helm of a younger newer Spanish side that looks to defend their title in the Euro 2016. With the likes of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa missing from his side, Del Bosque has to pick a tactic and a squad that best fits the current players he possesses. Although, Spain have a promising set of individual players, their team chemistry has been called into question by several experts as they prepare to play in a tough group to qualify out of.
David de Gea is a proven goalkeeper and is in exceptional form earning him the right to start. However, the continued presence of Iker Casillas hinders De Gea from securing the No.1 position. Defensively, Spain are a solid unit with Busquets providing more than enough cover for a tough back four. With the absence of Diego Costa and Fernando Torres from the side, the stage is set for Chelsea target Alvaro Morata to establish himself as Spain’s main striker. Morata along with Koke and Lucas Vasquez will be the key young players to watch out for in the Spanish squad.
Probable Line-up (4-3-3): De Gea; Juanfran, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta; Nolito, Morata, Silva.
Fatih Terim, the manager of Turkey has changed his image from a villain, who almost got them kicked out of the Euros, to a hero who could take them far. With the unavailability of Bayer Leverkusen’s Omer Toprak, Terim has been forced to employ defensive midfielder Mehmet Topal at center back. With a wide choice of players available for the full back position, Turkey’s defence is reasonably sound. At the other end, Turkey lack a strong strike force. Burak Yilmaz although having scored in the previous game struggles with injuries while Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun is too inexperienced at the international stage.
Turkey’s strength however lies in their midfield with a vast array of talent coming from the Turkish League and the German Bundesliga. Hakan Calhanoglu, Arda Turan and Oguzhan Ozyakup will definitely feature in the three advanced midfield role. With their ability to convert from set pieces to individually impacting the game, the trio are truly a dangerous weapon in the hands of Turkey. Galatasaray’s Selcuk Inan and youngster Ozan Tufan will most likely be the two deep midfield players providing reasonable defensive cover while employing their exceptional passing skills. To add to this mix, midfielders Yunnis Malli and Volkan Sen are available on the bench for a tactical change. Hakan Calhanoglu and Ozyakup are Turkey’s players to watch. But with a tough group that is likely to result in low scoring games, Turkey will struggle to qualify.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Babacan; Gonul, Topal, Balta, Erkin; Tufan, Inan, Turan, Ozyakup, Calhanoglu; Yilmaz.
Outcome of Group
Although Turkey and Czech Republic will put up a good fight, Spain are most likely to top the group with Croatia coming in second. Since this will be one of the most competitive groups, it is highly likely that the most of the games will be action packed yet low scoring. Thus, all teams will have a low points tally and a poor goal difference making it difficult for the team that’s placed third to qualify to the next round.
Spain will win all three games scoring 9 points. Croatia will beat Turkey and earn a draw against Czech Republic finishing with 4 points. Turkey will earn a solitary win against the Czech and finish third with 3 points, while Czech Republic will finish last with 1 point from the draw against the Croats.