Friday night sees the beginning of the 2016 European Championships and next in our countdown to the tournament sees Will Burns provide a Group D preview and his recommendations for the best bets.
SPAIN – CZECH REPUBLIC – TURKEY – CROATIA
12th June: Turkey v Croatia (14:00 BST)
13th June: Spain v Czech Republic (14:00 BST)
17th June: Czech Republic v Croatia (17:00 BST)
17th June: Spain v Turkey (20:00 BST)
21st June: Czech Republic v Turkey (20:00 BST)
21st June: Croatia v Spain (20:00 BST)
SPAIN (1.67 at Paddy Power): Despite the challenges of what looks a strong group, I see the Spanish prevailing with top spot. It’s a must for Vicente del Bosque’s side as falling to second place would see a potential last 16 tie against either Italy or Belgium. Apart from flair players like David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Del Bosque’s side do look poor attacking, but it did not matter in qualifying where they had the best defensive record in Europe. Possibly due to David de Gea keeping goal with Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in front of him. Keeping possession is the game they still love to play, and it works for them to grind out the wins.
Ante Cacic’s Croatia are the major challenge to Spain for the top spot with a great squad at Cacic’s disposal. Originally he was an unpopular appointment after Niko Kovac was dismissed last September, but after five wins in six qualifiers that nabbed the Croatians second place behind Italy, fans are now starting to warm to him. The midfield of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will be ribbing each other on who can create the most chances. Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic will look to get on the end of them. Although, looking at the plethora of defenders Spain have in their squad, I fail to see Croatia achieve better than second.
Turkey will look to key player and team captain Arda Turan to lead the team out of the group, however with the lack of experience in the squad, he will be relied on heavily, which may prove a too much to ask of the Barca man. Fatih Terim’s men just scraped into the Euros as the expense of a poor Dutch campaign but I can see them going home early here, either bottom of this group or a last 16 defeat.
Czech Republic are not the side they were and long gone are the days of Milan Baros, Jan Koller, Karel Pobrosky, Patrik Berger and Pavel Nedved, but they are a determined, coherent unit that could cause some problems. However with limited creative options available the onus will be on Hertha Berlin midfielder Vladimir Darida and Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky to pull the strings for the Czechs. It would prove to be a shock if they could leapfrog Croatia or Spain into the top two, but third place is not out of reach.
TEAM TOP GOALSCORERS
SPAIN – DAVID SILVA (9.00 at Bet365): With a lack of strikers present in the squad, Spain will look to Manchester City’s David Silva to cause problems on the edge of the area. Great touch, vision and creativity, he will start on the right of the attack supporting either Alvaro Morata up top, or possibly Fabregas starring in a false nine role. The Man City man is tremendous value at 8/1 at Bet365 in this market and I see him notching the goals, if Spain score many that is?!
CZECH REPUBLIC – TOMAS NECID (8.00 at BetVictor): Necid is a player I know very well from his days at CSKA Moscow and then in Holland with PEC Zwolle. At 6ft 3inches, this mobile powerhouse is always a threat in front of goal. After recovering from a horrific knee ligament injury, Necid rejuvenated his career in the Eredivisie before moving onto Bursapor in Turkey last season where he has notched 11 goals in 28 outings. Not a great record but at 7/1, a good bet as I feel he is the best of bad bunch up top for the Czechs.
TURKEY – BURAK YILMAZ (4.00 at Coral): Despite been troubled with injuries last season, Burak Yilmaz is a valued at 3/1 with Coral. Before a thigh injury struck, he notched four goals in qualifying and he has been in good form over in China with Beijing Guoang. Meanwhile, Turkey have some other good prospects to notch goals and this is a bet to avoid for me. Arda Turan (9/1 – Paddy), Hakan Calhanoglu (9/1 – NetBet) or Cenk Tosun (6/1 – bwin) maybe better options.
CROATIA – IVAN PERISIC (6.50 at Coral): Mario Mandzukic is favourite priced at 3.75 to be Croatia’s top scorer, however I see Ivan Perisic much better value at 13/2 with Coral. Mandzukic managed to score just the once in 706 minutes of qualification football, while Inter Milan’s Perisic notched six in nine games. Perisic is an attacking midfielder however due to the great pace he possesses, he has been used as second striker. If he can score, watch out for his goals… he scores all the complex ones.
Croatia Top Team Goalscorer – Ivan Perisic (6.50 at Coral)
Croatia/Spain Dual Forecast (2.50 at William Hill)