With the UEFA Euro 2020 set to kick off soon, we bring you the lowdown of Group D, which comprises of England, Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland.
The most intense club footballing season is behind us and the focus in Europe now turns towards the UEFA Euro 2020. Initially scheduled to take place last year, the quadrennial tournament had to be postponed until this summer, owing to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The month-long 24-team spectacle will finally kick-start in a week’s time, with the competition being hosted at 11 venues across 11 nations. It all starts with the group stage on July 11 in Rome, as UEFA Euro 2020 flags off in the quest for the next Champions of Europe.
Before it all begins, The Hard Tackle will take you through an extensive analysis of each group and what can be expected from the teams in it. Today, we take a look at Group D, which comprises of England, Croatia, Czech Republic and Scotland. Here’s an analysis of each of the teams and their chances of making it to the Round of 16.
Group D – England, Croatia, Czech Republic, Scotland
June 13: England vs Croatia
June 14: Scotland vs Czech Republic
June 18: Croatia vs Czech Republic; England vs Scotland
June 22: Croatia vs Scotland; Czech Republic vs England
Perennial underachievers is a tag that has hauntingly followed England whenever they have entered a major tournament. That is for good reason, though, as the Three Lions have often flattered to deceive despite boasting some of the best players in the game in their teams over the years.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup, though, signalled a possible upswing for England, who went right till the semi-finals before faltering against Croatia. However, the resolve that they showed all through the tournament suggests that things are moving in the right direction, with Gareth Southgate also forging a reasonably strong squad this summer.
The UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, meanwhile, was a breeze, with England winning seven of their eight games to coast through to the group stage. What was especially pleasing was the fact that they only conceded a mere six goals while finding the back of the net a whopping 37 times.
However, the real problem lies with Southgate and some of his perplexing choices. The England boss is yet to zero in on his strongest eleven while his decision to select four right-backs in his squad has baffled one and all, although Trent Alexander-Arnold will now miss out due to an injury. However, with such riches at his disposal, it will be a pity if England do not reach the latter stages at the Euro.
Key Players: Harry Kane and Harry Maguire
In the likes of Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling, Gareth Southgate has some of the most talented players at his disposal. However, no one else carries more importance for England than captain Harry Kane, who has been nothing short of phenomenal over the past twelve months.
And, after winning the Golden Boot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Kane will have his sights set on a repeat at UEFA Euro 2020, although he will also be eager to lead England all the way. Meanwhile, at the back, Harry Maguire’s importance cannot be stressed on enough, with the rest of the centre-backs often faltering in his absence. Southgate will, therefore, be desperate to keep him fit after he missed the latter stages of the 2020/21 season with Manchester United.
The big surprise package at the last major international competition, Croatia shocked the football world when they reached the World Cup final three years ago before falling at the last hurdle at the hands of France. However, things are not nearly as rosy for Vatreni as they were in 2018.
Zlatko Dalic & co. were made to work hard before they clinched top spot in Group E and automatic qualification with it. Croatia only managed to win five of their eight games, with third-placed Slovakia only four points adrift of them. What also poses a concern for Dalic is the fact that the squad he now has in front of him is ageing, with the key players no spring chickens anymore.
Croatia, though, still have the inspirational Luka Modric leading by example, while out in front, there have been some positive but key changes. Defence, however, might pose a bit of a concern for the Balkan side, which then brings Scotland and Czech Republic into the picture.
Croatia have also slipped up early on in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, so the odds do seem to be stacked against them heading into UEFA Euro 2020. Having said that, there are quite a few big game players in the squad, not least being the captain himself, while they would still be taking inspiration from their run to the final at the World Cup. One of those wildcard teams again.
Key Player: Luka Modric
Who else but captain fantastic? Three years ago, Luka Modric proved to be the best player at the World Cup and heading into UEFA Euro 2020, the veteran midfielder is one again the player upon whom Croatia rest their hopes. If Modric does indeed lead from the front, Croatia will be in good stead, otherwise a long group stage campaign will be on the horizon.
It was not too long ago that Czech Republic were a part of the same group at the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers as England. The two teams have reunited in the group stage after being drawn together in Group D. However, Jaroslav Silhavy’s charges could have an uphill task at hand.
To begin with, Czech Republic already had to sweat a lot in order to book their place at the Euro, with Kosovo, who finished third in their group, coming extremely closer to usurping them to the second automatic qualification spot. In addition, they have hardly been convincing since then.
Czech Republic were rather underwhelming in the second edition of the UEFA Nations League, while their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification campaign has kicked off on a whimper. All of that is hardly a surprise, as Silhavy & co. are neither a force to be reckoned with in the final third nor are they a solid unit at the back.
Having said that, Czech Republic can be expected to approach their games with a strong defensive outlook in order to catch the big guns unawares on the counter-attack. That indeed has to be their best bet going in the group stage of the European Championships this summer.
Key Player: Patrik Schick
In a team that does not have many standout players, Patrik Schick will hold the key in the final third with his contributions in front of goal. Chance creation will be at a premium for Czech Republic, meaning the 25-year-old will need to be more clinical than he has ever been in his career. Otherwise, his team can kiss their chances of progressing to the Round of 16 goodbye.
The joint-oldest team in the history of the game, Scotland played the very first international game against neighbours England in 1872. However, despite being seeped in the annals of the game, they hardly have any noteworthy achievements to show for their efforts over the years.
In fact, UEFA Euro 2020 is only going to be the third ever instance that Scotland will be taking part in the quadrennial continental tournament, with their previous two campaigns ending at the very first hurdle. The qualifying campaign did not really go smoothly either, as they finished third in Group I behind Belgium and Russia to miss out on automatic qualification.
However, having finished atop their group in UEFA Nations League C in 2018/19, Scotland had earned a ticket to the playoffs, which is where they got the better of Israel and Serbia to return to the premier international competition in Europe for the first time since 1996.
Having finally made it to UEFA Euro 2020 via the scenic route, Scotland are definitely going to be the dark horses in Group D, wherein they ought to put up some spirited performances. That two of their three games will played at Hampden Park ought to keep them in good stead as well.
Key Players: Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney
Two of the best left-backs in the Premier League will hold the key for Scotland at UEFA Euro 2020. However, only one of them will reprise their traditional role, with captain Robertson featuring out wide while Tierney will be deployed as a centre-back. Both the Premier League stars, though, will bring game-changing qualities to the table, which can, in turn, inspire Scotland to the big results.
Likely to Qualify: England and Croatia
England are one of the favourites to go all the way at UEFA Euro 2020, so it really will be a big surprise if they fail to progress from the group stage. Gareth Southgate & co. do have more than enough quality to get the better of a declining Croatia side as well as the more inferior Czech Republic and Scotland.
Croatia, though, should be good enough to seal the runners-up spot in Group D to reach the Round of 16, even though Scotland will have the home field advantage, especially in the final group game pitting the two sides. Having said that, Scotland ought to do enough to come third and perhaps even make the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams. The big stage experience, though, should help Croatia finish second behind England.