EURO 2016 Group D by DamirJ
Few days before the start of EURO 2016 in France, we will try to present overview of the national teams playing it, now making a breakdown of the group “D” where the national teams of Spain, Croatia, Turkey and Czech Republic will be playing. On the first sight, it might look that the Spaniards are first favorites to get the qualification, however one game can change everything in such a group with three rather equal sides.
Spanish national team is the most successful one in recent years in Europe, as the team got crowned as World Champions back in 2010, but also won the EURO competition twice in recent years, back in 2008 and 2012. A total of three times they won the EURO, with the first one being in distant 1964 in Madrid. However, the team disappointed in the most recent competition in Brazil in 2014 not managing even to progress the group stage having a huge slap from Holland 5:1 during the tournament.
The team finished at the top of the table during the qualifying process, as they ended up the road with nine victories and a defeat, having 23:3 goal difference. Only defeat came in Zilina against second placed Slovakia. Most of their victories were in style and actually had great defensive approach mostly winning without a goal conceded.
That defeat against Slovakia ended an undefeated streak of thirty-six matches in all qualifying games. In the most recent friendly games, the team won over South Korea 6:1, doing also fine against Bosnia 3:1, but the last time out they didn't impress at all suffering 1:0 defeat to modest Georgia.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Porto), David De Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Rico (Sevilla)
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Hector Bellerin (Arsenal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Bruno (Villarreal), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), David Silva (Man City), Pedro (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
Forwards: Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao), Nolito (Celta Vigo), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Lucas Vasquez (Real Madrid).
After their fiasco suffered at the World Cup, the team had to re-new their roster as old stars like Xabi Alonso and Xavi have left the team, but there is still plenty of quality left in their roster. Defender Dani Carvajal is injured and will miss this tournament, as Hector Bellerin from Arsenal got invited as a replacement. Players such as Diego Costa (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid) and Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich) won't be part of the team due different reasons. Striker Paco Alcacer from Valencia also won't be part of the team and will represent a blow, since he has scored five goals during the qualifying phase.
David De Gea will probably be sure between the posts according all the indications. This will certainly be the last competition for thirty-six years old Casillas, who counts 166 caps for the national team. Jordi Alba at the left and Juanfran on right look sure in the defense, as well as central defensive duo Ramos and Pique.
Busquets and Thiago Alcantara will be the ones at the position of defensive midfielders, being responsible for maintaining the ball possession and organizing some of attacks. In front of them, there will be Xavi and Fabregas, while David Silva (11 assists this season with Manchester City) and Iniesta are two other players who are set to increase the responsibility in creation of the game. Morata could be leading attack, even though he felt discomfort in the thigh in a friendly game against South Korea week before the start. Equally reliable solutions should be Aduriz from Athetlci Bilbao (20 goals this season) and Nolito from Celta (12 goals this season), both coming from good seasons.
Celta's striker even started in the last two friendly matches for Spain, scoring a total of four goals. Players like Koke (Atletico Madrid), Pedro and Bruno might be sitting on the bench, but that's the luxury that the Spanish side can afford.
Interesting fact is that the Spain has the shortest team at the tournament, with average high being 1.80. The shorted player is Pedro with 1.67, while nine other players don't exceed 1.80.
Manager Vicente Del Bosque:
This is eight year in row that 65 years old technician is spending with the national team, quite likely the EURO competition to be his last at the helm of the Spanish national team. His career as a national coach was successful, since he remains the only coach to have three most precious trophies, Champions League, European Championship and World Cup. He reached the top of the World with Spain in 2010 and two years later confirmed great success with EURO title.
Generally, he is known for a conservative manager, mostly using his 4-2-3-1 system with many players in the midfield. They are once again expected to use Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, Busquets, Fabregas, all in the midfield, once again to be creative but also to defend well too. He might also apply a bit more aggressive version using 4-3-3 formation with Pedro and Silva acting in attack, having Iniesta, Busquets and Fabregas behind them. He said in one of the latest interviews, that he would be pleased with the semifinals.
Spain surely wants to was away the shame of the fiasco at the World Cup in Brazil and their exclusion in the group stage. They are coming at EURO after being double recent champions, so the team surely remained one of the favorites to lift the title again.
Odds of around 1.50 to finish the group stage as first have little value, while the scenario of Spain ending the group stage with 6 or 7 points might be interesting option with odds of 2.25. Overall, I expect very attacking Spanish side and they surely will have plenty of space to prove it, already starting with Czechs and Turkey, while their power in attack should also be obvious in later stages of the tournament.
Since Croatia became independent state, they did more than fairly well, since the team participated in five out of six final European champions events. Greatest achievement for them till now where quarterfinals in 1996 and 2008. In the most recent big event, the team has been eliminated from the group stage in Brazil in 2014, being below hosts from Brazil and Mexico.
Croatia has many ups and downs during their qualifying path, as the team reached the second position in the last rounds, overtaking that place in front of Norway. They anyway had the best defense in the group with only five goals conceded, however some disciplinary problems were quite obvious, with the team getting three red cards in the process. They remained undefeated in all five friendly matches, winning four of them. The side won over Russia 3:1, Israel 2:0, drew to Hungary 1:1, won over Moldova 1:0 and San Marino 10:0. In most of them, their coach made experiments, mostly using two formations - 3-5-2 and 4-4-2.
Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Lovre Kalinic (Hajduk Split), Ivan Vargic (Rijeka)
Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Sime Vrsaljko (Sassuolo), Gordon Schildenfeld (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivan Strinic (Napoli), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen)
Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter), Ivan Perisic (Inter), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marko Rog (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Coric ( dinamo Zagreb)
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Nikola Kalinic (Fiorentina), Marko Pjaca (Dinamo Zagreb), Duje Cop (Dinamo Zagreb), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim).
Biggest absentee for the Croatian national team remains defensive Lovren from Liverpool, who paid the price of not having good relations with the national team manager. Ivica Olic is also absent, since he decided to retire from the national squad and five chance to younger players. Strong point of Croatia is their midfield section, since the team has players like Modric, Rakitic, Perisic and Kovacevic and all of them might fit in the starting lineup. Midfielder Brozovic is also close to the starting lineup, so their coach will have plenty of options there.
However, defensive part of the team might be their weaker spot, since Corluka and Srna do stand out as experienced and quality players, but the team lacks other big names there. Vrsaljko is surely great talented, especially after positive season with Sassuolo, but is lacking experience at the highest level.
Srna will surely cover entire right wing, even though he is 34 years old already, so fatigue might represent a bit of a problem for him at one point. Partner of Corluka in the defense will probably be Vida, with the first one playing for Lokomotiv Moscow and later for Dynamo Kiev.
Subasic will surely keep the position as a goalkeeper, since he is by far the best one in the country. Their attack looks strong too, with Mandzukic surely starting in the original lineup and Kalinic being just behind him. Alternative options should be Cop frmo Malaga and Kramaric who played this season for Hoffenheim.
Manager Ante Casic:
He replaced their previous manager Niko Kovac after two setbacks early in qualifiers, when the team had a goalless draw away to Azerbaijan and suffered defeat against Norway. However, they responded much better when Casic came, taking the second position in the end. Their current manager is still undefeated, having two victories out of two games in qualifiers and a 4-1-0 record in friendlies.
He was a personal choice of federation president Davor Suker, although the manager lacks experience at the greatest level. He was sitting as a coach of Lokomotiva Zagrev, Slaven Belupo, Maribor and Dinamo Zagreb, being also assistant coach of National team of Libya and Croatian under 21 manager. As said, he might choose to play in 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation, even though he prefered 4-2-3-1 during qualifiers.
As always in recent years, Croatia is quite ambitious. After the World Cup in Brazil and failure there, they surely aim to progress the group stage now since not many things changed from back them, regarding their lineup. Croatia to finish at top two positions might be worth considering at odds of around 1.90, while we can try Croatia to be second placed side with additional risk and odd of around 2.50
Turkish national team has the best course at EUROs back in 2008, when the team reached semifinals and got eliminated by Germany with a very late goal. Also, during 2000, they reached the quarter-finals, while the team missed previous EURO failing to qualify.
Although Turkey started very poorly, with only one point in first three matches (defeats to Iceland and Czech Republic and a draw against Latvia), they improved significantly and managed to have great 5-2-0 run in next seven rounds to get the ticket for the final even as the third best players side. Especially impressive was the ending of the qualifying round, when the team won over Netherlands, Czech Republic and Iceland. Their record in friendly matches was 5-1-1, as the side defeated Qatar, Sweden, Austria, Montenegro and Slovenia. Only defeat came against England on the road.
Goalkeepers: Harun Tekin (Bursaspor), Onur Kivrak (Trabzonspor), Volkan Babacan (Istanbul Basaksehir)
Defenders: Gökhan Gonul (Fenerbahçe), Sener Ozbayrakli (Fenerbahçe), Ahmet CaliK (Gençlerbirligi), Hakan Balta (Galatasaray), Mehmet Topal (Fenerbahçe), Semih Kaya (Galatasaray), Caner Erkin (Fenerbahçe), Ismail Koybas (Besiktas)
Midfielders: Emre Mor (Nordsjælland), Volkan Sen (Fenerbahçe), Hakan Calhanogu (Bayer Leverkusen), Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund), Oguzhan Ozyakup (Besiktas), Ozan Tufan (Fenerbahçe), Selcuk Inan (Galatasaray), Arda Turan (Barcelona), Olcay Sahan (Besiktas)
Forwards: Burak Yilmaz (Beijing Guoan), Cenk Tosun (Besiktas), Yunus Malli (Mainz).
Turkish national team has many rising stars in their roster. However, leading figures like Emre Belozoglou or Hamit Altintop are missing now, but maybe even improved versions like Arda Turan and Hakan Calhanoglou will lead the team. Second one might be a real danger for any rival, since he has great skill when speaking about long distance tries, but also being a specialist in set pieces. It's no coincidence that he scored seven goals this season directly from free kicks in Leverkusen.
Other midfield, Nuri Sahin started having a key role in Dortmund as well, so the team surely has plenty of quality in midfield together with names such as Mehmet Topal who can answer on many positions, including a position of defensive midfielder.
Volkan Babacan should be between the posts, while at the top of attack we should see Cenk Tosun from Besiktas (29 matches, 8 goals this season), who should be playing in the original shape together with Buruk Yilmaz. Much more known Yilmaz signed for Chinese side back in January and didn't play much due injury problem. In the last friendly game against Slovenia, Yilmaz showed some decent condition and scored a winning goal for his team. Third attacker could be Yunus Malli from Mainz (34 matches, 11 goals this season).
Fullbacks should be Gonul and Erkin, both coming from nice seasons in Fenerbahce. Central defensive duo should probably be Hakan Balta and Mehmet Topal, making completely domestic defensive lineup. Even though it might not be natural position for Mehmet Topal, he left great impression in the last friendly game. Worth saying is that players like Mevlut Erdinc, Gokhan Tore or Volkan Demirel weren't invited this time.
Manager Fatih Terim:
Is known to be very fond of discipline, but at the same time very temperamental himself is also the most successful coach in Turkey, trying his luck for the third time as the national team coach. He is in charge since August 2013 and continued to be despite a failure to reach the final event of World Cup in Brazil, he continued leading the national team and surely no one in federation regrets it now.
He was the first one who led them at EURO back in 1996, having decent success when they reached the semi-finals of EURO 2008 being defeated to Germany 3:2 with a goal in last moments. At the same time, he is known as a Galatasaray's coach since he won six domestic leagues with the team, also winning two Turkish Cups and UEFA Cup with the same team.
Their probably biggest traditional opponent is the Turkey itself. The team has shown many times that they are capable of the best and worst. We can't exclude them from reaching the knockout stage, especially since third position might bring them that progress. Odds of around 10.00 for Hakan Calhanoglou to be the first Turkish goalscorer at EURO might be worth a shot. No doubt that he should be their penalty taker, while the player doesn't hesitate to test himself from long distances either. Beside that, Yilmaz is far away from his perfect form.
The nation didn't miss any EURO since playing as an independent state back in 1996. Out of these five events, their biggest success was exactly in 1996 when the team lost the finals to Germany in overtime. They also reached semifinals back in 2004, but once again were excluded in overtime, this time to Greece. They also have one trophy, but back in 1976 winning it as Czechoslovakia.
The team has quite impressive progress in qualifying rounds, finishing at the top of the group and leaving side like Netherlands without ticket for EURO. Instead of it, they won twice against Holland, 2:1 at home and 3:2 on the road, topping the standings above Iceland as second placed squad and Turkey as the third nation. Their record was 7-2-1 and were the best attacking side with nineteen goals scored.
At the same time, they were the worst defense out of all 24 qualified sides, since the team conceded fourteenth goals. In the most recent friendly games, they won 6:0 against Malta, took lucky victory over Russia with a goal in 90th minute, but also disappointed with a defeat to South Korea.
Goalkeepers: Petr Cech (Arsenal), Tomas Koubek (Slovan Liberec) and Tomas Vaclik (Basel)
Defenders: Theodor Gebre Selassie (Werder Bremen), Roman Hubnik (Plzen), Pavel Kaderabek (Hoffenheim), Michal Kadlec (Fenerbahce), David Limbersky (Plzen), Daniel Pudil (Sheffield Wednesday), Tomas Sivok (Bursaspor), Marek Suchy ( basel)
Midfielders: Vladimir Darida (Hertha Berlin), Borek Dockal (Sparta Prague), Daniel Kolar (Plzen), Ladislav Krejci (Sparta Prague), David Pavelka (Kasimpasa), Jaroslav Plasil (Bordeaux), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal), Jiri Skalak (Brighton and Hove Albion), Josef Sural (Sparta Prague)
Forwards: David Lafata (Sparta Prague), Tomas Necid (Bursaspor), Milan Skoda (Slavia Prague).
There was no surprise when the national team coach invited the players, since maybe only Reading's striker Vydra could get the position. On the other side, 35 years old Tomas Rosicky from Arsenal is invited, but it remains to be seen how fit he is, since he played only nineteen minutes of competitive football for Arsenal all season long. Other star player should be Petr Cech, who competed this season also for Arsenal.
Ladislav Krejci from Sparta Prague should be creating the game alongside Rosicky as well, in most likely 4-2-3-1 formation. Necid from Bursaspor should be their number nine with Lafata and Skoda as options from the bench. No doubt that midfielder Darida has his starting position too, being irreplaceable member of Hertha, probably with Plasil as defensive midfielders.
There are several experienced played in the central defense. Tomas Siok and Michal Kadlec are both coming from quite quality Turkish championships and should be employed, while right full back should be Gebre Selassie from Werder and left full back Kaderabek from Hoffenheim.
Manager Pavel Vrba:
Pavel Vrba made his name as a coach of Plzen, team that he led to two championships, back in 2011 and 2013, also winning couple of two more domestic titles. He is a national team coach since 2014. The team is playing quite attractive and attacking football under him, while the only concern remains defensive instability since the team concedes goals with ease.
The only sure thing for Czech Republic is that the side will be playing attacking football. Odds of around 1.80 for the Czech to exit the competition after the group stage seems very reasonable since the team will hardly manage to make any surprise against Croatia and Spain, having in mind their defensive functions. They might have a chance against Turkey, but even then, negative goal difference would play it's role, most likely.