Group Preview

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June 12, 9pm (S’pore time) Turkey v Croatia

June 13, 9pm Spain v Czech Republic

June 17, midnight Czech Republic v Croatia

June 18, 3am Spain v Turkey

June 22, 3am Czech Republic v Turkey

June 22, 3am Croatia v Spain


Croatia

The form of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will be crucial to the side's adventurous strategy, which is based on their lively midfield setting up a potent attack led by towering striker Mario Mandzukic.

The team can be inconsistent, though, and past campaigns have been marred by dressing-room discontent and fan racism.

In qualifying for France, they seemed to be in control of their group after winning four and drawing two of their opening six games, but a 0-0 result at Azerbaijan and a 2-0 away defeat by Norway triggered the departure of coach Niko Kovac.

In his place came 62-year-old Ante Cacic, who steadied the ship to see them finish group runners-up, behind Italy.

Fifa ranking: 27
Manager: Ante Cacic
Squad - Goalkeepers: Danijel Subasic, Lovre Kalinic, Ivan Vargic. Defenders: Vedran Corluka, Darijo Srna, Domagoj Vida, Sime Vrsaljko, Gordon Schildenfeld, Ivan Strinic, Tin Jedvaj. Midfielders: Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo Brozovic, Milan Badelj, Ivan Perisic, Marko Rog, Ante Coric. Forwards: Mario Mandzukic, Nikola Kalinic, Marko Pjaca, Andrej Kramaric, Duje Cop.

Key player: Ivan Rakitic. A versatile playmaker with an eye for goal, he will be Croatia's driving force after finally stepping out of Luka Modric's shadow.

His superb close control, outstanding vision and immaculate passing are complemented by darting runs into the penalty area and his ability to unleash thundering long-range shots.

REUTERS


Czech Republic

The Czech team's primary concern will be the fitness of Tomas Rosicky, even though they qualified without help from the playmaker for half their campaign.

Pavel Vrba's side may be attack-minded, yet they lack a proven scorer and rely heavily on the creativity of their midfielders.

No one does that better than a fully-fit Rosicky, although to return to the international stage at the age of 35, after a season disrupted by injury, is a huge ask.

To qualify, the Czechs will also have to make history because they have never beaten their first two opponents - Spain and Croatia.

Fifa ranking: 30
Manager: Pavel Vrba
Squad - Goalkeepers: Petr Cech, Tomas Koubek, Tomas Vaclik. Defenders: Theodor Gebre Selassie, Roman Hubnik, Pavel Kaderabek, Michal Kadlec, David Limbersky, Daniel Pudil, Tomas Sivok, Marek Suchy. Midfielders: Vladimir Darida, Borek Dockal, Daniel Kolar, Ladislav Krejci, David Pavelka, Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Rosicky, Jiri Skalak, Josef Sural. Forwards: David Lafata, Tomas Necid, Milan Skoda.

Key player:  Borek Dockal. The Czech league's Player of the Year will be under pressure to maintain his scoring touch after netting a team-leading four goals in the country's surprise rise to the top of their Euro 2016 qualifying group. With the fitness of Rosicky a big question mark, Dockal could again emerge as the key to the Czech attack. The 27-year-old Sparta Prague midfielder will be making his first Euro appearance after making his debut with the national team just after the last championship.

REUTERS


Spain

Strangely for a team going in to the tournament looking for their third consecutive European Championship, they are surrounded by doubt, especially in midfield and up front.

Spain may struggle for goals, with coach Vicente del Bosque often playing Cesc Fabregas as a false nine - although there is also Alvaro Morata, Aritz Aduriz or Nolito to choose from up front.

Now without Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso, the holders move the ball forward more quickly.

Sergio Busquets stays deep and the use of Andres Iniesta alongside Koke, Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara or Santi Cazorla is bold.

Del Bosque has not decided whether to use Iker Casillas or David de Gea, but eight clean sheets shows Spain's defensive discipline.

Fifa ranking: 6
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
Squad - Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas, David de Gea, Sergio Rico. Defenders: Marc Bartra, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Cesar Azpilicueta, Hector Bellerin. Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Mikel San Jose, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Thiago Alcantara, Bruno Soriano, Andres Iniesta. Forwards: Pedro Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata, Aritz Aduriz, Manuel Agudo (Nolito).

Key player: Aritz Aduriz. The striker has scored 36 goals in all competitions this season and justified his recall to the squad after a six-year absence in March by netting in a 1-1 draw with Italy. He may not start every match but he will be a useful option from the bench. Given his aerial presence, he is also the perfect forward to play against certain opposition.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN


Turkey

Fatih Terim's side are a scintillating prospect on paper, and they have their tails up after turning their qualifying campaign around to reach the Finals as the best third-placed side.

But the big question is: Which Turkey will turn up?

They went 13 games unbeaten before a narrow friendly defeat by England in May, and have an impressive array of technical quality at their disposal.

But the days of a heavy defeat by Iceland and successive draws with Latvia during their qualifying campaign are not exactly ancient history, and defensive concentration, in particular, will be a big thing to get right.

Fifa ranking: 18
Manager: Fatih Terim
Squad - Goalkeepers: Volkan Babacan, Onur Recep Kivrak, Harun Tekin. Defenders: Gokhan Gonul, Ahmet Calik, Sener Ozbayrakli, Hakan Balta, Mehmet Topal, Semih Kaya, Ismail Koybasi, Caner Erkin. Midfielders: Emre Mor, Hakan Calhanoglu, Nuri Sahin, Volkan Sen, Oguzhan Ozyakup, Ozan Tufan, Selcuk Inan, Arda Turan, Olcay Sahan. Forwards: Burak Yilmaz, Cenk Tosun, Yunus Malli.

Key player: Arda Turan. Turkey's ambitions of reaching the knockout stages will largely depend on the form of their inspirational captain, who has had a patchy season with his new club Barcelona. Pace and dazzling footwork, combined with an eye for goal, ensure that the 29-year-old is a driving force. He will be inspired by memories of Euro 2008 when he scored in comeback wins over Switzerland and the Czech Republic as Turkey reached the semi-finals.

REUTERS

PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, ACTION IMAGES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Group Preview'. Print Edition | Subscribe