Group D contains clear group favourites Spain along with three nations that will all feel they have a chance of sealing second spot and a second round place against Belgium or Italy. The pick of the games is Spain’s clash against Croatia on June 21, which could be the decider for top spot and will serve as a good indicator of this exciting Croatia side’s tournament potential.
There is a sense that Spain has been in gradual decline since their Euro 2012 triumph, and with Vicente del Bosque still managing a nation with few fresh faces it is easy to see why. Their humiliating performance at the World Cup still lingers in the memory, although a solid qualifying campaign has restored some hope that Spain can win an unprecedented third consecutive title.
They conceded just three goals in qualifying and still possess a strong core that includes David de Gea, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, and Andres Iniesta. They continue to play an extreme version of tiki-taka football, although the gradual transition towards greater verticality taking place at Barcelona has rubbed off slightly on Del Bosque.
Their head-to-head with Croatia will be particularly exciting given the number of Real and Barca stars on display in the middle of the park, although ultimately Croatia’s lack of firepower in the final third should allow Spain to keep a clean sheet and win the group. Turkey and the Czech Republic should be comfortably beaten.
Spain to win Group D: 1.595*
Croatia lost only once in qualifying and conceded just five goals in their ten matches, including two 1-1 draws with Italy; this is a highly organised outfit that is certainly capable of qualifying for the second round.
The qualifying order of Group D will rest on the final match day, when Croatia and Spain battle for the top 2 and Turkey and Czech Republic aim to squeeze through in 3rd.
Those unexpected results against the Italians announced the arrival of a new generation of Croats who ply their trade at some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Their central midfield trio of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Mateo Kovacic all play for Real Madrid or Barcelona, making it one of the most dynamic and formidable in world football.
They play in a possession-based 4-3-3 formation that looks to maximise the impact of these three players, along with their other star player Mario Mandzukic – the fulcrum of their attack.
This should give them enough quality to overcome Turkey and Czech Republic, both of whom lack the individual quality boasted by Croatia. They also benefit from playing Spain in their final group game, giving them a chance to secure qualification before facing one of the tournament favourites.
Croatia to advance from Group D: 1.355*
The Czech Republic, ranked 29th in the world by FIFA and 31st according to Elo ratings, topped a very easy qualifying group to reach this summer’s tournament and as recent friendlies indicate are unlikely to cause a stir. The catastrophic collapse of the Netherlands allowed them to qualify along with Turkey and Iceland, both of whom beat Croatia along the way.
The Czechs have few notable players these days, with Petr Cech the only exception. A 1-0 defeat to Scotland in March summarised succinctly their chances of going far in this summer’s tournament; reaching the second round via third place would be an achievement, although they face tough competition from Turkey – who beat them 3-2 on aggregate over the two games in qualifying. Their crunch match is also the last game of the group on June 21.
Czech Republic to advance from Group D: 1.847*
Like Croatia, Turkey’s young team is built around a strong showing in central midfield that is not matched in other areas of the pitch. 22-year-old Hakan Calhanoglu has the potential to become one of the world’s best midfielders (although it is perhaps too soon for him to make an impact on the international stage) whilst Nuri Sahin and Arda Turan combine experience and intelligence alongside him.
Turkey qualified automatically for Euro 2016 as the top ranked third place side, although their tally of 18 points from 10 games was largely thanks to being placed in a group with Kazakhstan, Latvia, and the Netherlands – all of whom performed poorly.
This is the nation’s first international tournament since reaching the semi-final at Euro 2008; few anticipate them getting anywhere near that far this time around. If they draw with Czech Republic in the final match then they will most likely fail to qualify for the next round, even if they finish above the Czech’s in third.
Turkey NOT to advance from Group D: 1.90*
Group D: What to look out for
The entire hierarchy of this group will rest on the final match day, when Croatia and Spain battle for the top two and Turkey and Czech Republic look to squeeze through in third. It is unlikely that events will transpire differently, given that the latter two sides have shown little resolve against stronger nations over the last two years.
Euro 2016 Group betting previews by Alex Keble
Odds to win the Euro 2016*
See the latest Euro 2016 odds, including Top Goal scorer, who will reach the semi-finals, over/under points and much more under the left-hand side menu Bet Options/Specials!
See the latest Euro 2016 odds, including Top Goal scorer, who will reach the semi-finals, over/under points and much more under the left-hand side menu Specials!
*Odds subject to change