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Euro 2020 – Group D preview

England and Scotland will meet in a fascinating all-British match-up in Group D at this summer’s European Championship, the latter having reached a first major finals in more than two decades.

World Cup finalists Croatia and the Czech Republic make up the rest of the four-team group, with each side harbouring ambitions of making an impression.

Here is our Euro 2020 Group D preview.

Group D  Fixtures (London/Glasgow): England (hosts), Croatia, Scotland (hosts), Czech Republic

Sunday 13 June

England vs Croatia (14:00, London)

Monday 14 June

Scotland vs Czech Republic (14:00, Glasgow)

Friday 18 June

Croatia vs Czech Republic (17:00, Glasgow)
England vs Scotland (20:00, London)

Tuesday 22 June

Czech Republic vs England (20:00, London)
Croatia vs Scotland (20:00, Glasgow)

England

Manager: Gareth Southgate

Best European Championship result: Third-place (1968, 1996)

Key player: Harry Kane

Pre-tournament odds: 5/1

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England head into this summer’s major tournament with a talented squad and cautious optimism, a scenario far from uncommon for the Three Lions who have continually flattered to deceive in finals.

Semi-finalists at the World Cup three years ago, this is a stronger squad than the one that reached the last four in Russia, with an emerging crop of talented technicians including Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish raising optimism England can compete with the continent’s best.

Gareth Southgate’s side qualified with seven wins from eight fixtures and averaged 4.6 goals per game, Harry Kane the leading scorer in Euro 2020 qualification with 12 goals across those games.

Kane’s performances will be crucial as the England captain looks to add to his World Cup Golden Boot, the 27-year-old heading into the tournament in fine form having finished as both the Premier League‘s leading scorer and assist provider.

Southgate has a wealth of attacking options and the talent and depth to trouble any side at the tournament, though finding a balance will be key amid concerns over England’s defensive strength.

 

Harry Maguire’s fitness issues pose a major problem to the Three Lions with alternatives in Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady far from convincing at this level, whilst Jordan Henderson’s own fitness problems could leave Southgate without one of his most trusted squad members.

England face World Cup conquerors Croatia in their opening fixture before facing Scotland in what will prove an atmospheric all-British clash, with results early on set to prove crucial in determining how far Southgate’s side can progress.

With several key performers missing for the warm-up fixtures it has been far from ideal preparation, but Jack Grealish’s displays have shown the Aston Villa captain deserves a prominent role in the XI.

Croatia

Manager: Zlatko Dalic

Best European Championship result: Quarter-finals (1996, 2008)

Key player: Luka Modric

Pre-tournament odds: 33/1

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Despite finishing as World Cup runners-up just three years ago, Croatia are regarded as 33/1 outsiders to be crowned as European champions with several stalwarts ageing or retired from international duty.

Manager Zlatko Dalic has attempted to temper expectations following a testing qualifying group, Croatia finishing top of Group E with just five points separating the winners and Hungary in fourth.

Midfield remains Croatia’s greatest strength with Luka Modric their central figure even into the latter stages of his career, the Real Madrid star and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner the metronomic heartbeat of the team.

Provided with a supporting cast including Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic, that trio will be tasked with dictating games and asserting a level of control as Croatia look to progress beyond the last eight for the first time.

Mario Mandzukic’s retirement has left the nation without a regular source of goals in attack however, with Ante Rebic, Andrej Kramaric and Bruno Petkovic competing to lead the line.

Scotland

Manager: Steve Clarke

Best European Championship result: Group stage (1992, 1996)

Key player: John McGinn

Pre-tournament odds: 200/1

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Scotland are into their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup after more than two decades of near misses was ended in dramatic fashion, beating both Israel and Serbia on penalties in the play-offs to book their place at Euro 2020.

The reward for the Tartan Army have been a place in Group D alongside Croatia, Czech Republic and England, with that latter match-up set to cause huge excitement on both sides of the border.

Steve Clarke has often opted to go with a back three system with Arsenal‘s Kieran Tierney moving into a left centre-back role in order to allow allowing Liverpool‘s Andy Robertson greater licence to influence play further forward.

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay has also been utilised in a central defensive role for the national side, though could be moved back into his club position following an injury to Ryan Jack.

The prospect of McTominay, John McGinn and Chelsea teenager Billy Gilmour operating as a midfield three is an exciting one, with the latter earning his first call-up ahead of Euro 2020.

McGinn shapes as arguably Scotland’s most important player, having proven a match-winner at international level with seven goals in eight qualifying appearances, the Aston Villa midfielder the only player to score more than once.

Southampton forward Che Adams’ introduction to the fold offers an option to ease the load on McGinn, the former England youth international having scored twice in four caps since making his debut in March.

Czech Republic

Manager: Jaroslav Silhavy

Best European Championship result: Runners-up (1996)

Key player: Tomas Soucek

Pre-tournament odds: 150/1

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It’s been some time since the Czech Republic have made an impression on a European Championship, having twice reached the latter stages since the nation’s independence in the mid-nineties.

An exciting collection of players finished as runners-up to Germany at Euro ’96, before another expansive and attacking side reached the semi-finals of Euro 2004 after producing some exhilarating performances.

The current side is void of the star names that lit up those tournaments, though possesses a number of players who will be hoping to make a name for themselves this summer.

Premier League fans will be familiar with West Ham duo Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek, both having arrived at the London Stadium as relative unknowns before becoming fans’ favourites, with the latter named on the shortlist for the Premier League’s Player of the Season award.

Soucek brings both a physical and goalscoring threat from midfield and has scored seven goals at international level, including a hat-trick against Estonia during March’s World Cup qualifiers.

Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik provides quality further back, whilst Patrick Schick will lead the line following a productive season at Bayer Leverkusen.

The Czechs will hold no fear of their opponents in Group D, having beaten England in qualification for Euro 2020.

Read – Five of the best players from Euro ’96

Read Also – Faith restored: Is this England’s real Golden Generation?

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