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Euro 2016 Group D preview: Smooth sailing for Spain, Croatia face tough contests

Holly Thackeray | June 6, 2016

Euro 2016 Pool D is dubbed, perhaps predictably, the ‘Group of Death’. Every European Championship has to have one, and the France finals are no different, as punters are presented with defending champions Spain alongside three tricky teams in Croatia, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

La Roja are the rather obvious shouts to clamber ahead of the competition, with perennial dark horses the Croatians also available alongside in a straight forecast with Coral at 12/5 for the couple to qualify in first and second spots respectively.

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So, read on as we preview the intriguing angles and odds for this most perilous of pools…

History between teams

Starting with successive champions Spain (odds-on group favourites at 8/15), Vicente del Bosque will be expecting to bow out of coaching in style as his sixth placed FIFA ranked side have a whopping 21 spots between them and competitors Croatia.

And, not only that, but La Roja’s biggest stumbling block the Blazers have only beaten their Iberian opponents once in five attempts, with a sole splitting of spoils to boot making Spain look a fine shout to finish first with their three victories, including previously at the pool stage of Euro 2012.

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As for the rest of La Roja’s foes, Del Bosque won’t be having any sleepless nights over Turkey, as the Crescent-Stars have lost five of 10 fixtures against the Spanish, forcing four draws and one win but scoring just five against them compared to Spain’s fierce 14. Though, the Czech Republic may have more luck as they currently straddle level with the current champs on seven head-to-heads apiece, with the identically amount of goals leaked and scored.

If you do fancy outsiders the Czech’s (even-money to escape the group, surprisingly behind Turkey) to make it to the next round after their heroic qualifying campaign, their record against Spain is a compelling reason. They also have encouraging previous with Croatia (one win, one defeat, one draw) and Turkey (11 victories, four defeats and three draws).

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While, the Fatih Terim’s team are 6/4 to finish bottom as, aside from their history with Czech Republic and Spain, Turkey have never beaten Croatia in six attempts, falling twice and drawing on four occasions.

Player absences

Spain have so much quality that several big names are missing from their roster, with La Roja’s ruthlessness inspiring Coral writers to create an XI of their exclusions. The most notable absences for the holders include Brazil-born Chelsea striker Diego Costa, whose injury niggles have seen the sharpshooter left behind.

While, Real Madrid right back Dani Carvajal had to drop out due to injury, joining the likes of Javi Martinez, Juan Bernat, Isco, Saul Niguez, Juan Mata and Paco Alcacer, who are all watching from home.

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Croatia have similarly left Barcelona wonderkid Alen Halilovic out in the cold, as well as Red Bull Salzburg defender Duje Caleta-Car and Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Domagoj Antolic. Liverpool centre back Dejan Lovren also stays behind after reported problems with coach Ante Cacic.

Terim’s Turkey have jettisoned West Ham United-linked winger Gokhan Tore, with fellow Besiktas boy Kerim Frei also missing out. As for the Czech Republic, the most familar name cut is Watford-owned frontman Matej Vydra.

Previous tournament success

It goes without saying that Spain boast the most silverware of this bunch, as three-time European champions in 1964 and then more recently 2008 and 2012 in succession, with a 2010 World Cup triumph too.

La Roja are a tough act follow trophy-wise, but Turkey have finished third after tremendous runs in both the Euros (2008) and World Cup (2002) before. Croatia have achieved third at the 1998 World Cup before, but have never navigated past the quarter-finals of a European Championship, aside from when they were formerly part of Yugoslavia and reached two finals.

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While, the Czech’s (who won the 1976 Euros as part of Czechoslovakia) have barely made a splash at World Cups in their current incarnation but have rallied to runners-up at Euro ’96 and and third place finishers at Euro 2004. Not bad. Even Spain had to start somewhere…

Group D fixtures

Turkey vs Croatia, Sunday 12 June, 14:00, ITV

Spain vs Czech Republic, Monday 13 June, 14:00, ITV

Czech Republic vs Croatia, Friday 17 June, 17:00, BBC One

Spain vs Turkey, Friday 17 June, 20:00 ITV

Czech Republic vs Turkey, Tuesday 21 June, 20:00, ITV4

Croatia vs Spain, Tuesday 21 June, 20:00, ITV

Related

Keep up to date on all the Euro 2016 action by visiting our dedicated competition archive.

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