With Euro 2020 now just around the corner, GiveMeSport shines a light on Group D, assessing the chances of England, Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic.
FIFA ranking: 4
Best Euros finish: Third (1968, 1996)
Best player: Harry Kane
Like reigning World Cup holders France, you could make a good squad of players that won’t play at the Euros for England, and that speaks about the quality they possess at the moment.
Gareth Southgate will be looking to build on their semi-final run at the World Cup and perhaps add a trophy to a country that’s been starved off one on the international scene for so long – it’s been 55 years since the Three Lions’ first and only major honour.
England qualified with ease, winning seven of their eight games and losing one to Czech Republic (who they’ll face in this group). The Euros also bring home advantage – if they reach the final by winning this group, six of their seven games will be at Wembley Stadium.
They should do well: the squad is young and talented with players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Declan Rice and others amongst it. Talent, however, needs to be matched with coaching acumen.
Recent times have raised doubts over how far Southgate can take them, but if he can inspire them like he did in Russia, then England are in for a treat. Like the World Cup, the semi-finals at the Euros should be a reasonable goal – and they certainly have the quality to go all the way too.
FIFA ranking: 14
Best Euros finish: Quarter-finals (1996, 2008)
Best player: Luka Modrić
It’s incredible that a nation this small produces this much talent and Croatia will be buoyed by their World Cup display in 2018. There have, however, been some seismic changes to the Croatia squad that reached the World Cup final in Russia in 2018.
Mario Mandžukić, Ivan Rakitić and Danijel Subašić have all retired from the national set-up and there are a few youngsters coming through: 19-year-old centre-half Joško Gvardiol, who is set to join RB Leipzig, is in the team. In midfield, 2018 Ballon d’Or holder and captain Luka Modrić is still in the side.
As is normal with big changes, the squad took a while to adapt and qualification certainly posed some challenges. They lost once to Hungary and drew games against Wales and Azerbaijan but got to the tournament in the end. Despite that, there’s still enough experience and quality in this team to do well.
The likes of Mateo Kovačić, Marcelo Brozović, Duje Ćaleta-Car and Ivan Perišić will all take part and they should progress through their group – that is the minimum expectation.
They aren’t as strong as 2018, which is why it’s hard to see them replicating that feat again and they’ll likely be runners-up in their group. The quarter-finals is perhaps the furthest they can push for.
FIFA ranking: 40
Best Euros finish: Winners as Czechoslovakia (1976); Runners-up as Czech Republic (1996)
Best player: Tomáš Souček
This Czech Republic side is interesting, to say the least, and there are a few sub-plots to their latest campaign at the Euros. Back in 1996, when the Euros were held in England, the Czechs reached the final with a fine generation of players including Pavel Nedvěd and Karel Poborský.
This time around, they’ll play in England again. Additionally, they have the experience of beating two of their fellow group members in the recent past: Scotland in the Nations League and England in the qualification campaign for this tournament.
Can they stun a few again at the Euros? For sure. The West Ham duo of Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal come into the tournament on the back of a great season with the Hammers where they secured European football.
Their forward, Patrik Schick, has been in fine form in Germany over the last two seasons with RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen while Jakub Jankto is an exciting winger. This is a team that’s united, that’s determined and they’re tough to break down – qualities ideal for an international tournament.
That they reach the final at Wembley again is incredibly unlikely, but going through this group is not. They open their campaign against Scotland, a winnable game, and that could pave the way for a Round of 16 entry.
FIFA ranking: 44
Best Euros finish: Group stage (1992, 1996)
Best player: Andy Robertson
Scotland qualified for the Euros in the most dramatic way possible. A penalty shoot-out victory over Serbia in the play-offs sent the nation in euphoria and at a time when people needed something to cheer the most, the national team provided it.
A first tournament appearance in 23 years will be something to cherish, and there’s a game at Wembley against England to look forward to, which is sandwiched by two fixtures in Glasgow at Hampden Park. This summer should be fun for the Scots.
The squad has a mix of Premier League talent. At the back Scott McTominay has formed a trio with Kieran Tierney and that’s served them well. Captain Andy Robertson plays at wing-back.
Youngster Billy Gilmour is an intriguing pick in the squad and Che Adams switched allegiance to Scotland, making his debut and scoring in March’s World Cup qualifiers. John McGinn can provide the energy in midfield – he’s been so important for Aston Villa since their return to England’s top-flight. This Scotland team is their best in years.
If they perform like they did against Serbia – winning when no one expected them to, pushing all the way to the end and having a bit of luck, they can sneak through the group. Home advantage will come in handy as well.