Euro 2016 Group D Preview
Can Spain recover from their blip in the last World Cup, that brought a stop to their run of three trophies on the trot. While on face value, you would fancy Spain and the ever impressive Croatians (a cliche ‘dark horse’ in the tournament), if both teams don’t get out the blocks with wins, then the Turks and Czechs have enough about them to make this a very tight group in the opening weeks of the tournament. Any winner of the Turkey vs Czech game could over up a serious threat to the two favourites.
Spain endured an awful World Cup campaign by conducting a failed experiment with Diego Costa and fielding an ageing team who severely underperformed.
They are however favourites to win their group despite an “ugly” performance in this week’s friendly defeat to Georgia. Vincente Del Bosque is still wavering over his decision on whether to choose Casillas or De Gea as goalkeeper and his loyalty to players means he will likely select the creative but defensively flawed, Cesc Fabregas in his line up.
Spain should be improved up front with Morata as their main striker and they have a big game player in Andres Iniesta to rely on. Whether the new generation is ready to win the tournament this year is possibly unlikely, but they should have enough to win the group or finish second to an impressive Croatia.
Croatia are likely to have a good tournament as they have steadily been building a good team for a while now.
Luka Modric is at the peak of his powers. If you consider how Xavi dominated the Euro’s for Spain during his peak years, then Croatia arguably are a good shout to compete to win the entire competition. Spain had to overcome a very stubborn Croatia side in winning the 2012 Euro’s tournament in what was one of the best games of the summer that year. Again, Modric dominated.
Croatia can also rely on Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic. They are likely to dominate midfield battles, even against a possession based team like Spain. On paper Spain have the players to win the group but Croatia cannot be discounted, and once through the group, will be a challenge for anyone.
Turkey are most likely to be third favourites. Their star player, Arda Turan, had a disappointing season but normally performs well for his country.
Turan may, however, be fresh from his absence from so many Barcelona team sheets and Turkey can always rely on players with a high level of individual skill even when their team isn’t the strongest.
Calhanoglu is certainly one player who can excite in addition to Turan and Sahan.
Furthermore, Fatih Terim is a very experienced and capable manager who could organise Turkey to perform above expectations.
The Czech Republic are by no means the team certain to receive the wooden spoon. They have a coach in Pavel Vrba who thrives in matches against stronger opponents and he will have his team well organised.
Individually, they have an excellent goalkeeper in Petr Cech, who has had a great season at Arsenal. His club team mate Rosicky will be a big factor in deciding whether the Czech Republic can open up Spain, Croatia and Turkey. Rosicky has missed almost the entire season with Arsenal but performed well recently for his country against Russia in a 2-1 victory.
The prospects of the Czech Republic performing well this summer will largely depend on them remaining organised and hard-working. Whilst the Czech Republic lack many star players, they can potentially cause an upset against the group favourites by relying on their team ethic.
Morata has come of age this season at Juventus. He had very big shoes to replace when Carlos Tevez left the club but his performances have been impressive.
Clubs are currently sniffing around him as they are aware of Real Madrid’s buy back clause. Whilst he hasn’t scored a prolific amount of goals this season, he has always performed well through the age groups for Spain.
Iniesta, Thiago and Fabregas feel more comfortable playing behind a striker like Morata, rather than Diego Costa, so Morata could potentially have a decent tournament with such good service behind him.
Who will qualify?
Ultimately, it’s hard to look beyond Spain and Croatia, when looking at the players available to them in their squads.
Villa connection to the group
Diminutive Aston Villa midfielder Carles Gil played in the same Spain u21 team as Alvaro Morata and Sergi Roberto and will no doubt be cheering on his national team this summer. it’s unlikely Gil will ever make Spain’s senior squad, but the more immediate question is where will the Villa midfielder be plying his trade next season? At the moment, a return trip to Spain seems to be on the cards.
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