Turkey will face a similar level of difficulty in this year’s group in the European Championships, just as they did in 2008. While Euro 2008 provided them with the ultimate high in the group stage, eventually seeing them advance to the semi-finals, Fatih Terim will need to approach this group differently to how the Turkish 2008 stars did; winning games comfortably, and avoiding the thrill of last minute goals.
The competition kicks off tomorrow as France take on Romania, with group D kicking off their campaign on Sunday as Turkey take on Croatia. Croatia are one of the three tough teams that Turkey will come up against in the group stage; branded as ‘the group of death’, Turkey will be looking to survive against the odds against some of Europe’s more experienced sides at international competitions.
Turkey will firstly have to see off the pressure that Croatia bring to the table, as they play each other first in the group opener. Ante Čačić’s Croatian side are unbeaten in their previous five friendlies, winning four and drawing one. The Croatians reached top form in their most recent friendly, thrashing San Marino 10-0 last week.
Like many teams in the competition, star names tend to take centre stage of a perhaps more less known team. However, Croatia have experience in the highest level of club football, from the front to the back of their team.
Of course, on paper the biggest threat that Croatia have to offer is their midfield, dominated by La Liga and Champions League winning representatives; Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic. The world has seen what the three superstars can do, with or without space and time on the ball, the attackers ahead of them will be eager to exploit their opposition with the distribution and style of the complimentary midfield treble.
Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger has publicly admitted that he backs the Croatians to be a ‘surprise package’ at Euro 2016, Cacic’s side will be hoping to do such praise justice.
The Czech Republic are always a team that are thought of as silent warriors amongst the European elite at international competitions. They have certainly earned the fear factor that they bring to their opponents; qualifying for every European Championship tournament since playing as an independent nation.
Head coach, Pavel Vrba will be hoping his team can break their silence at the Euros, as they have been known to settle for the back seat as far as international competitions go.
Their recent run of form in friendlies tells this story, as they have been unable to get a real run of form under their belts in preparation for the Euros. Their most recent friendly saw the ten men of the Czech Republic lose 2-1 to South Korea.
In their first group stage game, the Czechs take on an extremely experienced Spanish side, who will be looking to right their wrongs following their disastrous World Cup campaign in 2014. Despite the experience that Spain possess in their ranks, the Czech’s have great experience in their side, including the almost royal presence of their most capped player, Petr Cech in goal. The Arsenal 'keeper has won everything available in his club career, and will certainly be looking to add to his international locker.
The current holders will be eager to retain their trophy and become the leading country with the most European Championships, as they are currently level with Germany (3).
After their meltdown at the World Cup, exiting at the group stages, Vincente del Bosque will look to put things right again, as Spain attempt the regain the respect of their opposition in the tournament.
La Roja were unbeaten in their previous five friendlies in preparation for the competition, however they clipped the final hurdle in last week’s friendly, losing at home to Georgia.
The Spanish squad is dominated by world stars, despite the absence of prolific striker, Diego Costa. Turkey will hope to isolate the weakened strike force from the silky stars that sit behind them in the midfield, powering the Spanish engine.
From between the sticks, to leading the line, to lurking on the bench, well respected names are everywhere for Spain. On paper, it could be argued that Spain have the best squad in the competition, with the emergence of young stars and the unsurprisingly appearances of the more matured figures, there is no doubt that the Spaniards will be one to watch as far as winning the competition goes.
Time for Turkey to step up
If Fatih Terim is to exit group D victorious, no stone must be left unturned as they prepare for their three group stage games. Turkey will certainly not want to experience a short lived high after their overdue qualification for the tournament. If Ay-Yıldızlılar can survive this group, they would have conquered some of the best around, adding to the already high levels of confidence this young Turkish side has to offer.