Croatia

I’ll say from the outset that while I will try to be completely unbiased in Group D, I do have a bit of an agenda here. If this had been any other Group in any other tournament I would have an anyone but England mantra. However, Scotland actually made it to a tournament so it’s now Scotland to win, and then anyone but England. Enter Croatia. World Cup Finalists in 2018, victors over England in the Semi-finals, and all round brilliant nation. An aging squad, perhaps, but that should only become a serious issue the deeper into the tournament they go.

For the Group Stages the squad is sheer class from midfield to attack. Modric (Real Madrid), Kovacic (Chelsea), Brozovic and Perisic (Inter Milan), Kramaric (Hoffenhiem), and Rebic (AC Milan). Granted that talent is offset slightly by their defensive talents which include Rangers’ left-back Borna Barasic – very good player in the Scottish Premiership but it’s still the Scottish Premiership. Croatia, like the Czech Republic might also benefit from the fact Scotland and England will be more interested in beating each other that the focus (and media pressure) is directed elsewhere.

Squad (Final 26)

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb), Lovre Kalinić (Hajduk Split), Simon Sluga (Luton)

Defenders: Borna Barišić (Rangers), Domagoj Bradarić (LOSC Lille), Duje Ćaleta-Car (Marseille), Joško Gvardiol (Leipzig), Josip Juranović (Legia Warszawa), Dejan Lovren (Zenit), Mile Škorić (Osijek), Domagoj Vida (Beşiktaş), Šime Vrsaljko (Atlético Madrid)

Midfielders: Mateo Kovačić (Chelsea), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Marcelo Brozović (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Nikola Vlašić (CSKA Moskva), Mario Pašalić (Atalanta), Ivan Perišić (Inter Milan), Mislav Oršić (Dinamo Zagreb), Luka Ivanušec (Dinamo Zagreb)

Forwards: Josip Brekalo (Wolfsburg), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petković (Dinamo Zagreb), Ante Rebić (AC Milan)

Czech Republic

The Czechs are getting the usual incorrect treatment by the British press which makes me quite uncomfortable. The Scots keep pointing to their recent good record against them while England are typically dismissive of anyone other than the big nations. Scotland scraped by a 3rd string Czech side in 2020 due to Covid while we had a full-strength side in Olomouc. The return game at Hampden was a slim 1-0 win for Scotland against a stronger Czech team. Both sides will fancy their face-off at Hampden in Game 1 as the best opportunity to get their (only?) win.

Indeed you could probably draw a bit of comparison between the make-up of the Czechs with the Scots. A smattering of players from huge European clubs supported by a larger domestic contingent. Granted I don’t know how comfortable some of the Slavia Prague players will feel arriving back in Glasgow following the Kudela/Kamara incident. That could be interesting to say the least.

Squad (Final 26)

Goalkeepers: Aleš Mandous (Olomouc), Jiří Pavlenka (Werder Bremen), Tomáš Vaclík (Sevilla)

Defenders: Jan Bořil (Slavia Praha), Jakub Brabec (Viktoria Plzeň), Ondřej Čelůstka (Sparta Praha), Vladimír Coufal (West Ham), Pavel Kadeřábek (Hoffenheim), Tomáš Kalas (Bristol City), Tomáš Holeš (Slavia Praha), Aleš Matějů (Brescia), David Zima (Slavia Praha)

Midfielders: Antonín Barák (Verona), Vladimír Darida (Hertha Berlin), Jakub Jankto (Sampdoria), Alex Král (Spartak Moskva), Lukáš Masopust (Slavia Praha), Jakub Pešek (Sparta Praha), Michal Sadílek (Liberec), Petr Ševčík (Slavia Praha), Tomáš Souček (West Ham)

Forwards: Adam Hložek (Sparta Praha), Michael Krmenčík (PAOK), Tomáš Pekhart (Legia), Patrik Schick (Leverkusen), Matěj Vydra (Burnley)

England

Welcome to the bi-annual deckchair throwing contest, sponsored by Carling-fuelled England fans. Weeks of ‘It’s Coming Home’ ‘Three Lions’ ‘Southgate’s Magic Waistcoat’. Makes me physically sick. Or it does right up to the point of crescendo where songs are at their loudest, fever-pitch has been reached and BAM! England are knocked-out by the Semi-finals. Drink in all those tears.

Aye they’ve got a good squad; another ‘golden’ generation reaching their peak. Aye they’re playing it down a little with a somewhat arrogant theme of ‘we’ll get to the Semi-finals and see what happens’. However, it’s said with a wry smile and a cockiness of expectation that once again this is their time. A condescending tone when literally any other nation is discussed; amplified when it’s a wee irrelevant nation mighty England will sweep aside. Good on you sons of King George, you just keep that rhetoric up; us Scots will see you in the pub watching Croatia and Czech Republic progress through instead of us xo

Squad (Final 26)

Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion), Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Wolves), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Atlético), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Dortmund), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Declan Rice (West Ham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jadon Sancho (Dortmund)

Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

Scotland

23 years of missing out on international tournaments is over! Scotland fans can finally get ourselves worked into a frenzy about giving the European stage a taste of hoofball and a right good physical challenge once again. Czech Republic at Hampden? Ach we’ve beaten them before, 3 points surely! England at Wembley? Anything can happen! Croatia back at Hampden again? Home advantage will see us through! Don’t know about you but I’m sold.

In truth this is the strongest Scotland team I can think of since 2007 where we nearly made it to Euro 2008. There’s an element to the Scotland team that should be capable of turning up and doing something at this level. Quite whether they will or not is up for debate. Historically, Scotland’s best players come a cropper when the limelight is on them. All the attention will be on Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Tierney (Arsenal), McGinn (Aston Villa), McTominay (Manchester United), Stuart Armstrong, Che Adams (Southampton), and Liam Cooper (Leeds United). All English Premier League starters – some even as captain. It’s our own psychology which will be our downfall.

Squad (Final 26)

Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Hearts), David Marshall (Derby), Jon McLaughlin (Rangers)

Defenders: Liam Cooper (Leeds), Declan Gallagher (Motherwell), Grant Hanley (Norwich), Jack Hendry (Celtic), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Stephen O’Donnell (Motherwell), Nathan Patterson (Rangers), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Greg Taylor (Celtic), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Ryan Christie (Celtic), John Fleck (Sheffield United), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), Billy Gilmour (Chelsea), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), David Turnbull (Celtic)

Forwards: Ché Adams (Southampton), Lyndon Dykes (QPR), Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian)

Early Predictions

Being level-headed this is a tough group to predict. England host Croatia in Game 1 and will likely be the game that will determine the winner of Group D. I think England might win it but it’s so difficult to call. The other Game 1 in Group D is Scotland v Czech Republic in Glasgow. Again, very tight to call but I’m going to say Scotland 1-0. Game 2 then sees England v Scotland at Wembley which England will win, annoyingly. Meanwhile Croatia and Czech Republic meet at Hampden in another quite interesting tie. This is where Croatia will get their first 3 points.

Game 3 will have everyone still having something to play for. Scotland finish up at Hampden against Croatia where Scotland will need at least a point to progress, make a meal of it, at lose to Croatia. All the while England will again play at Wembley against Czech Republic in another game they should win. That’ll have England top the group and play the runner-up of Group F (so France, Germany, or Portugal)…do you see the logic now? Croatia finish 2nd and play the runner-up of Group E and a much easier tie, comparatively. Scotland might get through as a 3rd place best finisher but quite unlikely.

broony001
June 11, 2021
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