Group D - SpainEvery tournament has a group that the media like to call the "Group of Death". Silly, isn't it? That's journalism for you. What they are trying to say, I think, is that here is a group which is relatively difficult to win and that one or two decent teams, that might usually expect to progress from the group stages, will be eliminated.
The group that best qualifies for this label at Euro 2016 is Group D (although Group E probably isn't far behind.) It comprises four strong teams: Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey. Spain, despite a rare failure (in recent times) at the World Cup in Brasil in 2014, are still viewed as one of the strongest teams as they are 5th in the FIFA World rankings and 3rd in Europe. They are the bookies 3rd favourites to win the tournament and must be favourites to win this group. However, Croatia, Turkey and the Czech Republic will all be strong challengers and, as they say, there will be no easy games. Group D has the lowest average bookies odds to win the tournament, at 54.4. Croatia are 8th favourites at 29-1, Turkey are 13th favourites at 80-1 and Czech Republic are 16th favourites at 100-1.
The group kicks off in Paris on Sunday (12th June) evening when Croatia take on Turkey and continues the next night when Spain play the Czech Republic.
Turkey had an amazing qualification, again from a very difficult group, finishing 3rd but qualifying automatically as they had the the best record of the 3rd placed teams. Remarkably, the team in fourth place were Holland, the team that was placed 3rd in the 2014 World Cup.
Turkey can also draw optimism from their performance in the 2008 European championships in Austria and Switzerland when they reached the semi-finals, losing 3-2 to Germany. The Czech Republic, of course, came close in 1996 in England losing in the final to - guess who. But Croatia are probably the biggest threat to Spain.
So, going by the bookies odds, Spain should win the group with Croatia 2nd and Turkey in 3rd spot. The "death" in the group, if this all happens (some chance!), will go to the Czech Republic.
So, reading the tea leaves, Spain can look forward to a relatively comfortable round of 16 game in Lens against someone like Russia/Wales, Sweden or Hungary. Assuming they get through that, they'll get through to probably the easiest quarter final against the winners of the runners up of groups A and C - say, Poland.
So Spain, if they can win this group could be on their way to a semi-final in Lyon - possibly against England!
Finishing second will be tough as the winners of Group E will be waiting for them in the Round of 16 game in St Denis. That could be Italy or Belgium, so it looks like it's win the group, or else.
Monday, 30th May, 2016