As unpredictable as the European championship can be, you can’t go wrong with favoring England and Croatia to claim the top spots in EURO 2020 Group D. However, with Group D winner set to face a team from Group F in the last 16, it would perhaps be better for either of the two to finish in second, making this group just so slightly more exciting to follow.
EURO 2020 Group D Fixtures
England vs Croatia – Sunday, June 13
Scotland vs Czech Republic – Monday, June 14
Croatia vs Czech Republic – Friday, June 18
England vs Scotland – Friday, June 18
Croatia vs Scotland – Tuesday, June 22
Czech Republic vs England – Tuesday, June 22
Croatia – Unpredictable and Always Dangerous
Always a dark horse, but never to be underestimated, Croatia enter EURO 2020 off a historic finals appearance in the 2018 World Cup. Vatreni have proven before what they’re capable of, now they only need to find that form again, and they’ll be bound to make a splash at their sixth European championship.
Since making their debut at EURO in 1996, just a year after gaining their independence, the Vatreni have established themselves as a mainstay at major football tournaments. A massive feat for a relatively young nation.
Besides their bronze medal from World Cup 1998 in France and the still very much alive memory of their loss to France at the 2018 World Cup, Croatia has also had relative success at EURO, with two quarter-finals appearances (1996,2008) and a round of 16 exit in 2016.
Heading into EURO 2020, Croatia don’t look as potent as you would believe after their Worlds showing, suffering heavy losses to Spain (0-6), Portugal (1-4), and France (2-4) leading into the tournament.
It doesn’t help that Danie Subasic, Mario Mandjukic, Vedran Corluka, and Ivan Rakitic are no longer with the team, either retiring or ending their international careers following the painful defeat in Russia.
Regardless, Croatia have been historically very consistent in making it out of groups at major tournaments, and it’s not likely that will change this year. While Zlatko Dalic’s side look weaker on paper than how they did three years back, the quality is still very much there.
England – Three Lions Counting on Home Advantage
There is no other team at EURO 2020 that have as high expectations put on their shoulders as England. As a nation known for its world-class players, England have struggled to finally “bring it back home” for the last two decades.
Year after year, England’s attempts to climb back to the top of the football food chain ended in failure, so much so that it has become customary to expect England to fall flat. However, it’s only a matter of time before England finally find the long-lost winning formula.
Led by the ex-U21 boss Gareth Southgate, who succeeded Roy Hodgson, England reignited optimism among their fans with their impressive semi-finals run at the 2018 World Cup. And the optimism kept with the team and their supporters leading into EURO 2020.
For the first time in a very long time, England will enter a major tournament without any off-the-pitch issues, which might indicate the beginning of a new and potentially more prosperous era for the 1966 World champions.
When it comes to home ground advantage, no team at EURO will enjoy as much of it as England. With Wembley hosting all three of England’s home matches, in addition to round of 16, semi-finals, and the finals fixtures, the Three Lions’ chances to succeed will exponentially increase as they advance through the tournament.
And it’s not like the home ground advantage is all England have going from them. Southgate’s men were exceptional during the qualifiers, scoring 37 goals across eight matches. Much of their success in the final third came via Harry Kane (12 goals in qualifiers), who won the Golden Boot at 2018 Worlds and is one of the main favourites to complete the pair at EURO 2020.
He has notched 35 goals for his club and nation this term, rising up to no.6 on England’s all-time goalscorers list. Stopping him will be crucial for opposing sides looking to derail England en route to their first EURO title, however, nothing less than a world-class backline will be enough to do so.
Czech Republic – Lack of Star Names
Czech Republic have done well in international football tournaments since gaining independence. The Lions have qualified for seven successive EUROs and claimed two medals, including silver in 1996 and bronze in 2004.
In their last three EURO appearances, Czech Republic reached the quarter-finals only once (2012), but did not make it out of the groups in 2008 and 2016. Jaroslav Silhavy’s men will be motivated to get back on track and compete for top honours, however, it’s tough to be overly optimistic about their chances to shine in this group.
Comparing Czech Republic’s current squad to their previous, it’s easy to see that the team are without stand-out stars in Pavel Nedved, Patrick Berger, Jan Koller, and even DK Peter Cech. Despite lacking “big names,” the Czech Republic side are definitely not one to be brushed aside.
After seeing the team fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in combination with the lack of international success over the last years, no one expected Czech Republic to make it to EURO 2020, but they did it, and that alone is an indication of their quality.
Czech Republic’s success can largely be attributed to Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek, who have shown immense progress and are a big part of the Czech Republic’s strong foundation. That said, we’re a bit concerned with Czech Republic’s backline, where they’ll miss Ondrej Kudela, who has received a 10-match ban for using racial language in the Europa League match.
Like any team, Czech Republic have an ace up their sleeve in young forward Adam Hlosek. He will likely start his side’s games from the bench as a viable alternative to shake up the opponent’s defence.
The Czech Republic might lack big names of their past, but the talent is definitely there. Silhavy’s men won’t lack the confidence to take on any team in Group C, but with the likes of England and Croatia standing in their way, progressing won’t be an easy task.
Scotland – 23 Years in The Making
After a long 23-year wait, Scotland clawed their way back into a major international football tournament with a nail-biting penalty shootout against Serbia in the qualifiers. Some may call Scotland’s route to EURO 2020 a miracle, but you can’t deny that Steve Clarke put together a team that is tough to beat.
And it’s not like the Tartan Army lack talent on the roster. Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Stuart Armstrong, Scott McTominay, and John McGinn have all been developing in the Premier League over the last two season and have emerged as a very talented bunch of players and key components in Scotland’s rise.
The development of their star players has ushered Clarke to change up the style of play, and now prefers a three-man defence, which he can afford due to the star defenders (Tierney and Robertson) he has at his disposal. That opened up Scotland’s playstyle to now feature a more energetic football.
This is likely one of the strongest rosters Scotland has had in years, which explains why Clarke’s men have been involved in several odds-defying performances. Scotland have never progressed past the group stage in their last 10 major tournaments, but this current iteration definitely has the capacity to surprise.
EURO 2020 Group D Predictions