In part four of our 12 part series we delve into Group D. As reigning back to back European Champions Spain look to re-assert their dominance in Europe, they will first have to see off competition from Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey.
In Group D Czech Republic and Turkey rekindle their battle from the qualifying stages which saw both sides earn victories on the road against each other. Czech Republic however, qualified top of the group, while Turkey squeezed through in third.
Spain were almost faultless in qualifying with nine wins out of ten, looking to get back to the form that saw them dominate International football for four years. Croatia left it late in their campaign, to skip ahead of Norway into second in Group H.
Croatia looked to be in trouble heading into the final day of qualifying, needing a win against Malta and needing Italy to beat Norway to be sure of automatic qualification. Croatia saw off Malta in Malta and Italy duly obliged by beating Norway.
Croatia will be without the services of Dejan Lovren, after a falling out between the center half and the head coach Ante Cacic. They will rely on the services of their star players, including Mandzukic, Modric and Rakitic to steer the Croats into the latter stages.
Player To Watch: Mario Mandzukic
Prediction: round of 16
Czech Republic looked rather suspect in qualifying topping Group A, which included The Netherlands, Iceland and Group D rivals Turkey. Amazingly with a goal difference of just +5, Czech Republic won seven of their 10 games.
Big wins against The Netherlands, Turkey and Iceland were enough to see off the rest of the competition. Czech Republic conceded more goals than any other nation in qualifying and will have to sort out their defensive issues before France, if they are to progress passed the group stages.
Player To Watch: Borek Dockal
Prediction: group stages
Not quite the team we witnessed in 08/10/12, Spain are now an ageing side with not as many star players. While they are still extremely competitive, they are far from the favorites despite being reigning back to back Champions. A lack of strikers with International experience didn’t hurt Spain, as they introduced the now famous false nine formation but this time around, the midfield players aren’t quite as strong.
Spain will prove to be extremely hard to break down however, with one of the strongest defenses on paper. Having only conceded three goals in qualifying Spain will be hoping that one, or more of the attacking players finds the net early and often to keep their dreams of three in a row alive.
Player To Watch: Koke
Prediction: semi finals
The outsiders in Group D, Turkey will be looking to cause an upset and will be happy to avoid both Spain and Czech Republic in the first game. Having already lost in qualifying to Czech Republic, Turkey will want to give themselves the best possible chance of a flying start.
Turkey recently came close to beating England in a friendly but missed a host of chances, which resulted in England stumbling over the line to victory. This was Turkey’s first defeat since 2014. Their recent form will see them as tough opposition for their Group D rivals.
Player To Watch: Burak Yilmaz
Prediction: group stages