Advertisement
Euro 2016

Euro 2016 Preview: Group D – The Group of The Marquis

In our next Euro 2016 preview, we take a look at Spain, Turkey, Croatia and the Czech Republic, as well as Vincente del Bosque's claim to nobility.

by UK Sports Staff
Jun 7 2016, 6:43pm

EPA Images/Oliver Weiken

Our next Euro 2016 preview covers Group D, where reigning champions Spain are joined by the Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia. While Vincent del Bosque's men are firm favourites to make the last 16 there's plenty of competition among the other three sides, with Croatia's squad looking particularly strong.

SPAIN

How Did They Do It? Spain topped a group that also included Slovakia and Ukraine. From 10 games they won nine – losing to Slovakia early on in qualifying – to easily reach the tournament they conquered in 2008 and 2012. They shipped a mere three goals in the process, a number equalled only by England.

Household Names: Yeah, all of them. Spain's squad is comprised of players who ply their trade in the Champions League, or in a few cases plain old La Liga. But suffice to say you'll recognise the likes of Casillas, Pique, Thiago and Morata. And their respective backups, and probably their significant others.

Not a bad starting line up, all told // EPA Images/Andreas Schaad

The Man in Charge: The fella who led them to World Cup glory in 2010 and Euro 2012, Vincent del Bosque. His stock fell after a dreadful 2014 World Cup showing, but the former Real Madrid man hung on and gets a chance at redemption in France. Large and jowly, Del Bosque resembles a supporting character from a fifties noir flick, so we're pleased he's still around. Also, it turns out he's a Spanish Marquis. No, seriously.

Prospects: It's Spain, and their squad is stuffed with talent, so clearly they're here to win the thing. Then again, they've been handed a tricky group – there's no heavyweight rival, but Turkey, Croatia and the Czech Republic are all capable of giving the Spanish a game. The decision to persist with the past-his-best Casillas in goal instead of David De Gea seems to be holding the team back, while their options up front are (for once) inferior to many of their major rivals'. Still, there's no reason to think Spain can't go all the way for a third time in succession. The semis are the minimum target.

This dude is officially known as the First Marquis of Del Bosque, believe it or not // EPA Images/Oliver Weiken

CZECH REPUBLIC

How Did They Do It? Seven wins, two defeats and a draw saw the Czech Republic qualify as group winners, ahead of Iceland, Turkey and – more surprisingly – the Netherlands. They beat the Dutch home and away, and will play at their fifth successive Euros as an independent nation. Turkey were also in their qualifying group, with each side recording a victory a piece on away soil.

Household Names: It's not quite the days of Poborski, Berger and Koller, but there are nevertheless a few big names in the Czech squad. Well, there's Petr Cech at least.

The Czechs need Petr to be on top form over the next couple of weeks // EPA Images/Maciej Kulczynski

Meanwhile, fans of Championship football will know Jiri Skalák (Brighton), Matej Vydra (Reading), and Daniel Pudil (Sheffield Wednesday). There's also the wonderfully named Theodor Gebre Selassie, while Tomáš Rosický – who has recently left Arsenal – is one of only two players still standing from Euro 2000.

The Man in Charge: Pavel Vrba has been national team boss since 2014. He has won the Czech Coach of the Year Award five times, which is five more times than Pep Guardiola has won it.

Prospects: Having qualified pretty well the Czechs will hope to make the latter stages. Spain are clear group favourites, but it's up for grabs thereafter. And, given how Del Bosque's boys fared at the last World Cup, you wouldn't rule out an upset.

Can Pavel Vrba guide the Czechs past the group stage? // EPA Images/Fredrik Sandberg

TURKEY

How Did They Do It? Turkey are major beneficiaries of the expanded tournament, having finished as the best third-placed team across the qualifying groups. The Czech Republic and Iceland finished ahead of them, but Fatih Terim's side amassed enough points to grab the coveted final automatic spot. This will be their first major tournament since reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2008.

Household Names: Their captain, Arda Turan, plays his club football for Barcelona, having switched from Atletico Madrid last summer. He's one of six overseas-based players in the squad, with the majority of this Turkish side playing in their domestic league. Borussia Dortmund's Nuri Şahin – who is formerly of Real Madrid and spent a brief loan spell at Liverpool – should also be a starter.

Arda than you think, it's a beautiful thing // EPA Images/Christian Bruna

The Man in Charge: Now in his third spell as national team boss, 60-year-old Fatih Terim is an old school manager, well-dressed and absolutely terrifying. A Galatasaray man, he first managed his country from 1993 through '96, then again between 2005 and 2009. He was appointed for a third time in 2013, and will lead Turkey at a major tournament for the second time – having last done so at Euro '96. As a club manager he's won six Turkish Süper Lig titles with Gala, and has had spells in Italy with Fiorentina and AC Milan.

Prospects: It's not an easy group, this, with a big hitter in Spain and a trio of capable second-tier nations. They could make it to the second round, but it's just as easy to imagine them being dumped out in fourth spot.

Fatih Terim, winking cheekily at an unidentified person // EPA Images/Tolga Bozoglu

CROATIA

How Did They Do It? As runners-up to Italy in their qualifying group. There was a dip in form around the middle of the campaign that cost Niko Kovac his job, but Croatia recovered to pip Norway into second spot. The highlight was tonking Azerbaijan 6-0 at home, the low ebb a 0-0 draw with the same side in Baku.

Household Names: There's no shortage of big names in this Croatia squad, led by La Liga rivals Luca Modric and Ivan Rakitić, and Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic. Ivan Perisic and Nikola Kalinic also play in Serie A, while captain and most-capped player Darijo Srna is appearing at his sixth major tournament for Croatia.

Croatia fans are all about the craic, sort of like Irish fans without the Guinness // EPA Images/Yuri Kochetkov

The Man in Charge: Ante Cacic has had a varied career, working mostly in his native Croatia but also in Slovenia and, curiously, Libya. He took the national team job in September 2015 after the sacking of Niko Kovac, and subsequently led Croatia to the Euros.

Prospects: There's a glut of top-level talent in the team – it's difficult not to be impressed by a side that has Modric, Mandzukic and Rakitic – and on paper they must be favourites to join Spain in the automatic qualification spots.

READ MORE: Group A – The Group of Inherent Privilege

READ MORE: Group B – The Group of Very British Problems

READ MORE: Group C – The Group of Cashmere