UEFA EURO 2016 Preview – Group D: After winning 3 major trophies in a row, Vicente del Bosque saw his SPAIN side capitulate at the World Cup in Brasil, famously humiliated 5-1 in their opening game by the Dutch. Cue retirements to legends Xavi, David Villa and Xabi Alonso, and suddenly the most dominating team in international football history were in a state of flux. That remains, as half of the squad for this tournament have 10 caps or less. Without a go-to striker there are plenty of questions still to answer but don’t be fooled, they still have the most talented squad in the world.Real Club Celta de Vigo‘s inside forward Nolito, and Juventus forward Alvaro Morata both come off impressive seasons for their club an netted braces in a recent 6-1 demolition of South Korea. La Furia Roja should come out unscathed from a tough group where the main threat will likely come from CROATIA. Despite unrest at the Croatian Football Federation, and an unpopular coach (Ante Čačić used to fix TV sets and is generally seen as a puppet after being controversially appointed after failing miserably with 6 clubs in only 4 years), the quality in the squad should see them go far in the tournament. Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ivan Perišić, and Mario Mandžukić have been performing brilliantly for their clubs and I see this as their time to shine. The CZECH REPUBLIC will have other ideas, however. Inspired by beating the Netherlands twice in qualifying they won’t fear anyone in this group. Tomáš Rosický, Petr Čech and the majestic Jaroslav Plašil all have over 100 caps and their experience could see the Czechs surprise and sneak into the latter stages. Disappointing defeats to Scotland, Poland and South Korea in their warm up games don’t bode well however. All three strikers in the squad struggle to hit a barn door so that will be an issue. A miraculous 89th minute free kick from talismanic Galatasaray midfielder Selçuk İnan ensured TURKEY qualified for their first tournament in 8 years as the best 3rd place team. Along with captain Arda Turan, the relationship between to the two idols of The Crescent Stars will need to conjure further miracles to lift a very average squad in terms of quality. through to the knockout stages. What is more likely is legendary manager Fatih Terim bowing out with the wooden spoon.
Loosely called the “Group of Death,” if the Czech’s upset the Spanish in the opening game then the group will be blown wide-open and anyone could go through. All the games should be very good to watch.
Fun link between all the teams: Czech coach Pavel Vrba took Viktoria Plzeň to the UEFA Champions League three straight years in a row, earning their first ever win in the competition against FC BATE Borisov, who had ex-Chelsea striker Mateja Kežman is their side. Kežman played in Spain with Atlético de Madrid, the club Turkey captain Turan left to join FC Barcelona for €34m and had to wait 6 months to make his debut due to their transfer ban for repeatedly breaking transfer regulations. Just 3 days before the ban was announced Croatia forward Alen Halilović had just agreed a dream move to the Spanish giants, which was eventually put on hold. Unlucky son!