Written By: Patrick He
Group Analysis and Match-Ups
Croatia finds itself in one of the most balanced and hardest groups of Euro 2016, with the rest of Group D containing Spain, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. While Spain is the favorite to win the group, Croatia should be able to finish second. However, both Turkey and the Czech Republic have strong rosters as well, with many players that compete at the highest level in Europe for their respective clubs.
Match 1: Turkey
Turkey had an unimpressive qualification campaign, finishing third in Group A, behind the Czech Republic and Iceland, though ahead of fourth-placed Netherlands, which failed to qualify (“Standings – Qualifying Round” 1). Turkey has a an overall well-rounded squad, which is then bolstered by big names like Hakan Calhanoglu, Arda Turan, and Nuri Sahin.
Led by Fatih Terim, Turkey usually plays in a 4-3-3 formation. In order to beat Turkey, Croatia will want to take advantage of its creative midfield and keep possession. Croatia should be aware that several of Turkey’s players are quick; Kerim Frei is a dangerous midfielder who is both pacey and adept at dribbling. Moreover, Arda Turan will be Turkey’s key creative playmaker. While the Turkish midfielder has failed to dislodge Iniesta from his role at FC Barcelona, he will still be one of the biggest threats of the Turkish team, and Croatia may want to have a player marking him.
Historically, Croatia has had a mixed-to-strong record against Turkey, losing on penalties in Euro 2008 and winning the two-legged tie of the Euro 2012 playoffs. However, despite past records, Croatia remains the stronger side, with more experienced players in almost every position as well as strengths that Turkey is unlikely to be able to answer.
Match 2: Czech Republic
The Czech Republic finished at the top of Group A with 22 points (“Standings – Qualifying Round” 1). Like Turkey, the Czech Republic has a strong team as well as some top players, such as Arsenal’s Petr Cech (GK) and Tomas Rosicky (CM) and Hertha Berlin’s Vladimir Darida (CM).
Coached by Pavel Vrba, the team has generally used a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation. One player that Croatia will want to be aware of is Marek Suchy, who plays as a center back for FC Basel. He is strong, quick, and good in the air, and could be a nuisance to Mandzukic in the box. One thing that Croatia might try to exploit is the Czech Republic’s relative lack of pace down the flanks; while Croatia also has problems with pace, it is less of a weakness than it is for the Czech Republic. Finally, Croatia will want to continue to take advantage of its superior midfield. Keeping possession will be key, because even in the case of a turnover, there are relatively few players on the Czech side that will be able to take advantage of it.
In the past five years, Croatia has played against the Czech Republic just once, recording a 4-2 win, and there is no reason to suggest that Croatia will achieve less than victory come this summer.
Match 3: Spain
Despite its failure at the 2014 World Cup, Spain is still the clear favorite to win the group. Every single one of its players competes in a top five European league, and its players include superstars like David Silva, David de Gea, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta, Diego Costa, and Alvaro Morata.
In Qualifying Group C, Spain finished the campaign with 27 points after just one loss. The team scored 23 times and conceded just three goals total (“Standings – Qualifying Round” 1). Managed by Vicente del Bosque, Spain tends to play a 4-3-3 formation. In order to succeed against Spain, Croatia cannot lose the midfield battle. Spain likes to play a possession based game, giving creative playmakers like Iniesta opportunities to play key passes for attempts on goal. Croatia also has a very creative midfield, but unlike Spain, it lacks a defensive midfielder like Busquets who can disrupt attacks. In the end, Croatia may be forced to play a counterattacking style, meaning players like Perisic will shine if they can run behind the Spanish defense. Modric and Rakitic will still be important, as they possess the vision and passing ability to start effective counterattacks. Ultimately, however, this would be far from ideal as most of the Croatian squad lacks pace.
How to cite this page: “Croatia Group Analysis and Match-Ups”, Written by Patrick He(2016). European Cup 2016 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/tournament-guides/european-cup-2016-guide/underrated-teams-of-euro-2016/croatia/croatia-group-analysis-and-match-ups/ (accessed on (date)).