2016 Euros Group D
FIFA Ranking: 23
With the majority of their golden age arguably at their peak, Croatia enter Euro 2016 as arguably the favourite dark horse, and they will be desperate to prove themselves to be more than that. After a disappointing World Cup which saw them miss out on the knockout phase thanks to some dubious refereeing decisions, Croatia head to their 4th consecutive Euro tournament after a relatively successful qualification campaign.
La Liga Classico rivals Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić form the core of their midfield while Mario Mandžukić should lead the line up front. Veterans Vedran Ćorluka, Ivan Perišić and keeper Danijel Subašić gives the side a familiar feel all across the park, while they are led by the popular fullback Darijo Srna.
They participate in a contrasting group, facing an unpredictable Turkish side followed by the more familiar and solid Czech Republic. They are likely to progress to the knockout phase, and should have their qualification wrapped up before they face favourites Spain in their final group match.
FIFA Ranking: 29 Winners: 1976 (Czechoslovakia)
Regulars at the Euro tournaments since the split of Czechoslovakia, an impressive qualifying campaign that included a double win over the Netherlands saw them top their group, giving fans some hope of having an impact at this year’s edition despite an aging squad.
Premier League veterans Petr Čech and Tomáš Rosický are likely to play at their last major tournament, and are set to be supported by fellow veterans Michal Kadlec and Jaroslav Plašil. Tomáš Necid will be their main goal scoring threat up front while David Lafata has been in fine goal scoring form albeit in the Czech League. The fitness and work-rate of Vladimír Darida is also likely to play an integral part in any success they can accomplish.
They face stiff opposition to qualify for the next round in Spain and Croatia, with the unguaranteed third spot their likely recourse.
FIFA Ranking: 6 Winners: 1964, 2008, 2012
Winners of the past two tournaments and international heavy weights Spain head to France rejuvenated after a disastrous World Cup performance saw them eliminated at the group stage. A near perfect qualification campaign saw them win all but one match, with expectations returning to pre World Cup levels.
Iker Casillas remains captain despite David de Gea emerging as arguably one of the world’s best keepers, while Pique and Sergio Ramos are set to retain their sometimes shaky partnership in defense. The familiar faces of Iniesta, Busquets and Fàbregas are likely to feature heavily in midfield, while Atletico wonder man Koke should see himself included as well.
There is less certainty up front, with Nolito enjoying a late blooming to his international career, while Artiz Aduriz at 35 has just enjoyed his best ever season at domestic level, scoring the most goals of any Spanish player in La Liga for the past two seasons. Regulars David Silva and Pedro are also more than likely to feature in a star studded side.
While they face some unpredictable sides in their group, qualification is almost a certainty. They are sure to not take their matches lightly however, lest they have a repeat of the 2014 fiasco.
FIFA Ranking: 17
Turkish international football has taken a significant slump since reaching the semi-finals of the 2008 Euros. Despite boasting a strong domestic league and quality players across the park, results and qualification to major tournaments have been poor. They managed to narrowly secure automatic qualification, and will hope the 2016 Euros can be a catalyst to return amongst Europe’s elite.
Barcelona midfielder Arda Turan will captain the side, and despite failing to break into their first time remains a dangerous threat in the final third. He will be partnered with the exciting Hakan Çalhanoğlu of Leverkusen and the domesticly based Ozan Tufan. Veteran striker Burak Yılmaz is set to lead the line while Mehmet Topal, Semih Kaya and Caner Erkin will be key in their defensive shape.
Qualification is not impossible, but will be difficult in a group with tournament favourites Spain and Croatia, while even the Czech Republic are a more settled side.