UEFA EURO 2020: Group D Preview


By: Abdul Samad


Can England rise to meet exceedingly high expectations? Will Croatia finally overcome the sorrows of the 2018 World Cup final? Or do the dark horses, Czech Republic and Scotland pose a threat to two of the powerhouses in this group?


The biggest storyline coming out of this group plays out in the opening fixture: England versus Croatia, the 2018 World Cup semifinals rematch and the stakes couldn’t be any higher.


Croatia beat a heavily favoured English side to send the underdogs to the final and thwarted the “It’s Coming Home” train that was spreading throughout England.


Heading into the Euros though, England’s resurgence with a boastful youth squad and Croatia’s slight decline are pointing towards The Three Lions topping Group D. Neither Scotland nor the Czech Republic pose that much of a threat to win this group.


However, England’s only loss in the qualifying stages came at the hands of the Czechs and there’s definitely an aura of uncertainty around Scotland’s squad. There are going to be some firecracker matches throughout Group D.


Let’s take a closer look at the four teams in Group D:


ENGLAND

Coach: Gareth Southgate

With a rejuvenated and robust youth squad, England once again will be vying to go all the way in this year’s Euro. Gareth Southgate undoubtedly has been blessed with the most talented group of attacking players in the entire competition. Finding a balance between the starting lineup and his bench will be the key that will ultimately determine how England perform in this competition. An injured Harry Maguire may expose the lack of depth in a key defensive area.


World Ranking: 4th

Euro 2016 performance: Round of 16 loss to Iceland


Fixtures

Sunday, June 13: England vs Croatia

Friday, June 18: England vs Scotland

Tuesday, June 22: England vs Czech Republic


Squad

Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Sam Johnstone (West Brom), Jordan Pickford (Everton).

Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Wolves), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Atlético Madrid), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben White (Brighton).

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds), Declan Rice (West Ham).

Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Phil Foden (Man City), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Man City).


Players to watch

Harry Kane: The captain of the team is coming off another stellar season where he won the golden boot for scoring the most Premier League goals (23) and also led the table in assists (14). He will be looking to lead his team to glory and solidify his name in England’s esteemed footballing history.


Phil Foden: A world-class talent at just 21 making his national debut for England. Phil Foden will be the breakout star in this squad and having already lit up oppositions in the Champions League and Premier League, who’s willing to bet against this masterful football superstar?


ODDS

To win group: -250

To win tournament: +500


CROATIA

Coach: Zlatko Dalić

The runners-up from the 2018 FIFA World Cup saw off Wales, Slovakia and Hungary to top their qualifying group, one of the most competitive during the qualifying stages. There’s definitely a lot of talent within the Croat’s ranks but this is a relatively aging squad and have been really poor away from home winning just one game on foreign soil. It’s always tough to count Croatia out as they have defied odds in the past but they’ll have to play their best football to challenge for the Euros this time around.


World Ranking: 11th

Euro 2016 performance: Round of 16 loss to Portugal


Fixtures:

Sunday, June 13: Croatia vs England

Friday, June 18: Croatia vs Czech Republic

Tuesday, June 22: Croatia vs Scotland


Squad

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb), Lovre Kalinić (Hajduk Split), Simon Sluga (Luton).

Defenders: Šime Vrsaljko (Atlético Madrid), Borna Barišić (Rangers), Duje Ćaleta-Car (Marseille), Dejan Lovren (Zenit), Josip Juranović (Legia Warsaw), Domagoj Vida (Beşiktaş), Joško Gvardiol (Leipzig), Domagoj Bradarić (Lille), Mile Škorić (Osijek).

Midfielders: Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Nikola Vlašić (CSKA Moscow), Mario Pašalić (Atalanta), Ivan Perišić (Inter Milan), Josip Brekalo (Wolfsburg), Mislav Oršić (Dinamo Zagreb), Luka Ivanušec (Dinamo Zagreb).

Forwards: Ante Rebić (AC Milan), Bruno Petković (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Bludimir (Osasuna), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim).


Players to watch

Luka Modrić: Approaching the twilight end of his career at 35, Modrić has achieved everything in his esteemed career except for an international trophy. But if this season proved anything, it’s that he can still pick sublime passes from anywhere on the field and has a lot of fight in him. He holds the key to Croatia’s fortunes without a doubt and he’ll be looking to continue his form.

Nikola Vlašić: Formerly of Everton, Vlašić has maintained his form for CSKA Moscow scoring 23 goals and assisting 10 of them over the last two seasons. Still 23 years of age, he’ll be looking to make an impact for his nation with his quick and creative dribbling and long-range shooting.


ODDS

To win group: +325

To win tournament: +3300


CZECH REPUBLIC

Coach: Jaroslav Šilhavý

The class of 2021 for Czech Republic looks as good as national team legend Karel Poborský’s magnificent lob against Portugal in 1996. They are the dark horse team in this group that will turn heads in the upcoming tournament. They might not look the best on paper but they are certainly a dangerous opposition for any team on their day. Look out for this team to create some magic this time around.


World Ranking: 40th

Euro 2016 performance: Finished last in Group D


Fixtures:

Monday, June 14: Czech Republic vs Scotland

Friday, June 18: Czech Republic vs Croatia

Tuesday, June 22: Czech Republic vs England

Squad

Goalkeepers: Tomáš Vaclík (Sevilla), Jiří Pavlenka (Werder Bremen), Aleš Mandous (Sigma Olomouc).

Defenders: Pavel Kadeřábek (1899 Hoffenheim), Ondřej Čelůstka (Sparta Prague), Tomáš Kalas, (Bristol City), Jan Bořil (Slavia Prague), Jakub Brabec (Viktoria Plzeň), Vladimír Coufal (West Ham United), Tomáš Holeš (Slavia Prague), Aleš Matějů (Brescia), David Zima (Slavia Prague).

Midfielders: Vladimír Darida (Hertha BSC), Jakub Jankto (Sampdoria), Tomáš Souček (West Ham United), Lukáš Masopust (Slavia Prague), Antonín Barák (Hellas Verona), Alex Král (Spartak Moscow), Petr Ševčík (Slavia Prague), Adam Hložek, (Sparta Prague), Jakub Pešek (Slovan Liberec).

Forwards: Matěj Vydra (Burnley), Michael Krmenčík (PAOK), Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen), Tomáš Pekhart (Legia Warsaw).


Players to watch

Tomáš Souček: A Premier League player of the season candidate and Czech Republic’s primary threat, Souček will be looking to punish oppositions with his aerial abilities. He is a solid defensive presence in the back and his goals have provided West Ham with a European qualification. A leader in the team, he comes into this tournament in red-hot form.

Alex Král: Having enjoyed a breakout season in the CSKA Moscow outfit and rumoured to be Premier League bound, Alex Král is a very pacey box-to-box midfielder who is excellent at tracking back for his team. Lining up in the midfield with Souček will only bolster his overall performance for his team.


ODDS

To win group: +1000

To win tournament: +15000


SCOTLAND

Coach: Steve Clarke

This is the first time in Scotland’s history that they have a boastful squad of world-class talent. Add home crowd advantage to that equation and one might give them a serious chance of pushing through to the knockout stages of the competition. They have a robust midfield and possess an excellent left flank duo in Robertson and Tierney with Gilmour up front. It’s all about letting go and overcoming their nerves this time around.


World Ranking: 44th

Euro 2016 performance: Finished 4th in the qualifiers for Group D


Fixtures

Monday, June 14: Scotland vs Czech Republic

Friday, June 18: Scotland vs England

Tuesday, June 22: Scotland vs Croatia

Squad

Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Heart of Midlothian), David Marshall (Derby), Jon McLaughlin (Rangers).

Defenders: Liam Cooper (Leeds), Declan Gallagher (Motherwell), Grant Hanley (Norwich), Jack Hendry (Celtic), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Stephen O’Donnell (Motherwell), Nathan Patterson (Rangers), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), Greg Taylor (Celtic), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal).

Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Ryan Christie (Celtic), John Fleck (Sheffield United), Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), David Turnbull (Celtic).

Forwards: Ché Adams (Southampton), Lyndon Dykes (QPR), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian).


Players to watch

Andrew Robertson: The team captain for the Scots since 2018, the full back is still the best player for his nation. He is widely considered the best in his position and if Scotland is to advance in this tournament, his ability to win possession and provide lethal counter-attacking football will be vital to their success rate.


John McGinn: One of Aston Villa’s star midfielders, McGinn has provided his club with vital goals in decisive games. He scored seven goals in eight qualifying appearances for Scotland, more than any player in the team. A real threat as a box-to-box attacking player, he will be looking to provide for his nation on the highest level of the game.


ODDS

To win group: +1600

To win tournament: +25000