Group D previews exciting matchups including a 2018 World Cup semifinal rematch and a matchup between rivals Scotland and England. This group has two euro title contenders in England and Croatia and I’m excited to see how they perform in this tournament along with Scotland.
3 players to watch: Midfield and Attack
England arguably has the most talented team in the tournament and the next 4-5 years are theirs to dominate the international stage. Unfortunately, with all the attacking prowess they have, Southgate will probably elect to play a three back. Their front three is near unstoppable with Grealish, Kane, Sancho, Rashford, and Foden being the options. Their wingers are great on the ball and are great at forcing defenders into tackles. They also create a lot of chances by dragging defenders out wide and opening up space for Kane through the middle. Their midfield consists of Bellingham, Mount, Henderson, Phillips, and Rice. I would like to see a midfield of Rice, Mount, and Bellingham as the attack would be insane with Bellingham and Mount sitting just in front of Rice. Bellingham burst onto the big stage this season and has shined for Dortmund. Mount is highly regarded as one of the best youth players in the world and has been a crucial part in pulling the strings for Chelsea’s attack this season. Rice was the motor for West Ham CL charge this season and will be a crucial part of England’s success. Defensively is England’s weakness as, without Maguire, this backline lacks leadership. I expect a backline of Stones, Mings(Maguire if healthy), Walker and Trippier, and Shaw as the wing-backs. I wish they would play a back four but Southgate loves his wing-backs. With a back 3, I think the loss of Maguire will be mitigated but with Mings replacing him, I think teams will target him. Overall, this England team is going to be exciting to watch and should compete for this years Euro Championship.
3 players to watch: Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Mateo Kovacic
The 2018 World Cup runner up are not heavily favored to win the tournament. Their defense is aging and they lost a key midfielder in Rakitic to retirement. However, with former Ballon D’ Or winner Luka Modric pulling the strings in midfield, and a young Kovacic filling in for Rakitic, their midfield should not skip a beat. I’m interested to see how their attack fairs without Mario Mandzukic, who played a key role in their world cup run. Rebic and Perisic should run the wings for Croatia with Kramaric, who scored 20 goals in 28 games for Hoffenheim, up top. Their midfield and attack should be solid, but their defense worries me, especially with the lack of depth and recent injuries suffered. However, this is a very experienced team that should qualify for the round of 16 easily.
3. Czech Republic
3 players to watch: Tomas Soucek, Vladmir Coufal, Patrik Schik
Czech Republic is another underrated team that I may be sleeping on, but with their style of play, I can see them making it out of this group. The Czech’s love to play through their wings and put crosses into the box, which are two great ways to beat teams that play 3-5-2 or 5-3-2. By drawing out the wing-backs, it opens up space behind the defense which puts the centerbacks in a tough position on whether to commit or stay central. Schik is great in the air and is strong in hold-up play. Soucek is an excellent box-to-box midfielder and is a great playmaker. Coufal and Boril love to overlap and assist in the wing play which can cause problems for wingbacks and the defense. Overall, the Czech Republic is a very underrated team and with 2/3 teams in their group utilizing a 3 back-formation, they may be able to surprise many and make it out of the group stage.
3 players to watch: Andrew Robertson, Billy Gilmour, McGinn
Scotland has never advanced out of the group stage and looks to change their fate this year. Scotland likes to run a 3-5-2 with Robertson and Tierney on the left side. Mcginn and Gilmour occupy the midfield with Adams and Dikes playing in the forward positon. Gilmour is an exciting young talent that has made a few appearances for Chelsea but has a chance to shine on the big stage with his home country. Scotland, however, has an over relaince on the left side of the field as all their attack generate through Tierney and Roberston and rely on McGinn to generate attacks in the midfield. Not to mention they lack squad depth along with a lack of quality players, so I see Scotland as an early group stage exit.