By Antony Jordan
Group D at the 2016 European Championships contains Spain who have won both of the last two tournaments in Austria & Switzerland and Poland & Ukraine, but after being eliminated at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago after two matches of the group stage are they capable of making in three in a row in Europe?
They are the big favourites with online sportsbook WilliamHill.com to progress to the knockout stages of the competition as the winners of Group D, but can they pick themselves up from the disappointment of the defence of their World Cup title to breeze into the last 16 stage?
12/06/2016 – Turkey v Croatia
13/06/2016 – Spain v Czech Republic
17/06/2016 – Czech Republic v Croatia
17/06/2016 – Spain v Turkey
21/06/2016 – Croatia v Spain
21/06/2016 – Czech Republic v Turkey
Group D Winner (To Qualify KO Stage) Odds with William Hill:
The Spanish squad is certainly one of the most experienced group of players available at this competition in France this summer – with captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, defender Sergio Ramos and midfielders Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas having accumulated more than 500 international caps between them. This vast experience will be necessary if they are to overcome their poor showing in Brazil, but it also begs the question are their key positions filled by players who are now ‘over the hill’?
3-1 and 6-1 warm up wins over Bosnia-Herzegovina and South Korea in the build up to the competition show them in a good light, but winning friendly games comfortably is one thing while competitive games is another. The Spaniards did win nine of their ten qualification games, but with a number of players – including Fernando Torres and Juan Mata – left out of this team and only Pedro having played more than a handful of games up front for Spain will they be let short of goals when they need them most?
France 2016 is the fifth European Championships that Croatia have qualified for from the six that have been played since the nation became independent of Yugoslavia and their previous four appearances have seen them either fall at the first hurdle to get right to the business end of the competition, with two Quarter Final appearances. They did not impress in the qualification with only a narrow 1-0 win in Malta and a 2-1 win at home by Italy saw the side automatically qualify by a point ahead of Norway, who crashed out to Hungary in the Play Offs. This poor form has been magnified by a number of on and off-field issues that largely come down to frustration with the manager and his odd tactical selections.
Despite this poor showing and number issues they are still second favourites to win this group and a strong squad dotted with a number of world class players, with midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitić who play for Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain as well as Juventus striker Mario Mandžukić seeing them more than capable of creating and scoring goals. Like Spain they are looking to bounce back after a poor time in Brazil and while Mandžukić sees them offer a much bigger threat up front than the Group D favourites, can their poor qualifying form see them top the pile and move into the last 16 stage?
This summer’s all European football contest sees the Turkish national squad make their fourth appearance at the competition having exited at the group stage on their first entry in 1996, reached the Quarter Finals four years later and when they last qualified in 2008 they made the semi-finals of the tournament. They will be hoping for this pattern to continue in France so that they make their first major final, but after a qualification campaign that saw them finish behind their group mates, the Czech Republic, and Iceland are they capable of standing still, let alone improving their finishing position?
The Turkish squad for Euro 2016 has a nice balance of age and experience as well as youthful talent and exuberance and friendly wins over Sweden, Austria and Montenegro this year (as well as a late 2-1 defeat to England) shows that they are certainly capable of competing with the other sides in Group D. One of the drawbacks of this squad is that just six of the 23 man group currently plays outside of Turkey and this lack of current foreign experience could cause problems against sides more adept in other playing styles. On top of this only Arda Turan and Burak Yilmaz have goal tallies in double figures for the national team so the players currently playing in Spain and China will need to be at the top of their games if they’re to lead Turkey out of the group.
Although the beaten Euro 96 finalists topped their qualification group, beating Turkey by four points, they come into Group D as the big outsiders to move into the last 16 stage from these four sides doing battle around France this summer. The biggest reason for this is that their key players are at the end of their careers with Arsenal goalkeeper and midfielder Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky aged 34 and 35, while Bordeaux’s Jaroslav Plašil is 34 also. The rest of the squad sees, in the majority of the other 20 players, a lack of top level experience and even fewer international goals.
There are questions over the form of the side too with a loss to Scotland and a draw with Sweden, as well as wins over Malta and, most impressive of all, Russia in the build up to this tournament, plus many in the Czech Republic have questioned the team boss too. The side can play some attractive attacking football, and this will only be helped by having Rosicky fit, but coach Pavel Vrba is hesitant to change his starting XI seeing other sides nullify their threat very easily. The space left at the back by their attacking style can also cause problems too, but can they roll the clock back two decades to repeat what the side managed in 1996?
The key match in Group D is the first match to be played and if Turkey can beat Croatia it is very possible that the Croatian side could implode and finish bottom of the group as their fragile balance and belief is blown out of the water. With Turkey having one of their strongest squads, despite the lack of goals and largely domestic team, victory for them could see them continue on an upwards path and move out of the group with the likely group winners, Spain.
Should Turkey win, and this outcome has a very real chance of coming true, then they stand a great chance at qualifying from the group and having checked the William Hill odds for Group D at the 2016 European Championships we feel that there is value on this side in France.