Euro 2020 preview: Group D
Written by The Final Ball on 28/05/2021
Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!
And as we continue with the Euro 2020 preview it’s the group you’ve been waiting for…
In order to inconvenience everyone into at least scrolling down to the end, England will be previewed last!
Ye Auld Enemy is back in the big time and similar to the other sibling of the Brexit family, will want to prove a point, so being drawn in the same group as England gives them all the inspiration that they could ask for. And although they don’t possess Gareth Bale & Aaron Ramsey at the peak of their powers, there is enough in the squad to give the rest of the group a run for their money. Having two of the Premier League’s left backs in Tierney & Robertson brings irritation towards the “football gods” for not spreading the talent across the pitch, and something similar must be felt in the centre of the park with a “modern day” Darren Fletcher in both nationality, club upbringing and most likely career path; Scott McTominay does bring an air of leadership and experience at the bigger stages then most in the squad, and the talents of Ryan Jack, John Fleck & Ryan Christie will match teams in desire and determination. But with a lack of a true “top-level” goalscorer, John McGinn will be seen as the lynchpin of the side that will be able to bring a bit more magic than the rest of the squad. The biggest question, will all of that be enough to get through the group? They won’t need a teamtalk for the England game but you worry that the lack of quality in the attacking areas won’t enable them to win a game in the group, and even if they do, not every 3rd place gets through
Player to Watch: John McGinn
Of one the modern-day adversaries for England, with the latest instalment of their rivalry resulting in the end of England’s World Cup journey in 2018. Since then, you could argue that England have gone on a positive trajectory whilst Croatia have aged and been on the end of some batterings and even struggled against some of the smaller nations, especially in the Nations League fixtures. Nevertheless, The plethora of midfield talent poses a common problem for England when it comes to keeping possession, but with Modric & Rakitic ageing, the slightly more athletic legs of Kovacic & Brozovic may feature in a more frequent fashion than previously. Without Mandzuskic, the pressure is on for Kramaric & Rebic to provide the goals to keep Croatia holding the “dark-horse” tag that they seem to enjoy.
Player to Watch: Josip Brekalo
Prediction: Knockout rounds
Long gone are the days of Antonin Panenka, Pavel Nedved & Tomas Rosicky, The Czech are much more of a physical prospect nowadays. And although people won’t want to give them much of a chance as the “UK bias” fills this tiny yet condensed island, Czech Republic are the last team to defeat England in a competitive nature, which will motivate them to do so the same again on the bigger stage. They won’t see reason to fear Scotland and they tend to be competitive against Croatia as proven in the only point that they received in the last edition of this competition. That occasion they were together in Group D, which might be considered a bad omen, but they have every reason to believe that they can go against the bookies and produce the shock of the summer.
Player to Watch: Tomas Soucek
Prediction: Cause trouble, but won’t get through
Wanted to wait until the squad was confirmed, but as Southgate has bottled it, we move. The expanded squad makes sense as so many players are playing this week, so he needs enough players in training and potentially tinker as the extent of injuries gets revealed. But looking at what’s been picked so far, he has kept his options open and included some young talents in Ben Godfrey & Ben White that probably weren’t expected. But it makes sense as they cover a range of positions and even the midfield has so many injuries that could cause major problems when facing the quality that teams like Croatia offer. Without Fikayo Tomori, it does feel like Southgate’s scouts have neglected what goes on in the rest of Europe but he has rebuffed that by picking Bellingham, Trippier & Jadon Sancho. But the attacking options is what causes the most debate in this squad, as the world calls for Grealish, Mount & Foden to somehow fit into one team, Southgate has his favourites (Lingard), who can boast the fitness that Grealish currently doesn’t have. Overall, a fully fit squad makes for easy decisions but the injury worries throughout the spine might cause Ranieri levels of overthinking & rejigging especially against bigger sides. Gareth prides his squads on having experience and togetherness that we see in a lot of the previous winners of big tournaments but we will only truly know if the right decisions have been made at some point in July. The potential is there but circumstances continually work against England
Player to Watch: Jadon Sancho
Prediction: Realistically, should be semi-finals, but unless they win this group, Group F winners will comfortably send them home