The EURO 2020 Championships start in less than a week with Turkey facing off against Italy on June 11. Summer provides players with a break from their club schedule and time to relax and charge their batteries for fall. With international competitions happening this year, players will have less time off and less time to rest and recover for the next season. Players will look to make their impact in the tournament and potentially earn a raise or transfer to a bigger club or league. Group D features Croatia, Czech Republic, England and Scotland and should be an enthralling group to watch play-out.
Ever since the magical run to the World Cup finals, Croatia have not been able to play up to those expectations. They have won just two out of their last 10 Nations League matches and lost to Slovenia in World Cup qualifying doesn’t look too good on the form table. Croatia easily qualified for the EUROs which took some of the heat off of manager Zlatko Dalic.
The biggest strength is the midfield where they are left with too many options. Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Nikola Vlasic all can provide quality either on the wings or in the middle of the park. Their defense struggled in the Nations League against higher quality opponents, uconceding 16 in six matches. Attackers Ante Rebic and Bruno Petkovic will have to find goals in them if Croatia have any chance of going forward, as they only have seven international goals between the two.
Their EURO qualifying campaign started with a 5-0 loss at Wembley to England but the Czechs rebounded nicely to finish second in the group. They failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, but have made up for lost time by being promoted to Nations League A and have had a decent start to World Cup qualifying as Jaroslav Silhavy’s side held their own against Belgium.
Right-back Vladimir Coufal and midfielder Tomas Soucek showed their ability in the Premier League for West Ham United and were key in their sixth placed finish. Patrik Schick has scored 19 goals over the past two Bundesliga seasons and Matej Vydra displayed quality link-up play with Chris Wood for Burnley in the Premier League this season. The lack of a solid first-choice goalie and center-back was shown in the 5-0 loss to England and will be a major hurdle for the Czechs this summer.
Prediction: Group Stage Exit
The three lions placed third in the 2018 Nations League after finishing dead last in their group at the World Cup the same year. They dominated their qualifying group and scored 37 goals in those matches leading up to the tournament. Gareth Southgate will feel the pressure from the media this summer if he doesn’t deliver the trophy.
The attacking options for England are some of the best at this tournament. Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford will provide quality on the wings and feed the always-scoring Harry Kane who just finished top in goals and assists in the Premier League. Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden will provide the play-making spark from the center of the midfield. The biggest weakness for England is at goalie. Jordan Pickford went from being the first name on the team sheet to competing for the spot. No Trent Alexander-Arnold or Harry Maguire will be missed in the defense.
The Scots beat Israel and then Serbia in penalty-shootouts to advance to their first international tournament in 23 years. Winning kept them in Nations League C after a terrible qualifying campaign which saw Steve Clarke take over as manager for Alex McLeish. Scotland’s World Cup qualifying started well with five points out of nine and a draw against the Netherlands.
The best positions for Scotland are left-back and center midfield and they have an abundance of options at both spots. Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney run the left flanks for Liverpool and Arsenal in the Premier League and can provide attacking quality, as well. John McGinn and Scott McTominay both can run the center of the park in the Premier League. Che Adams will look to provide goals for a Scotland side that hasn’t had a true striker to rely on. And will David Marshall or Craig Gordon be enough quality in goal for Scotland to qualify? Time will tell, but two matches in Scotland and one against their biggest rivals England could make this group interesting.
Prediction: Group Stage exit