Two games that both have allot riding on them bring Group D to a close. England meet Czech Republic in a winner tops the group tie, with Croatia playing Scotland in a game where both teams need to win to have any chance of extending their stay in this years tournament.
Czech Republic – A win or draw against England would be enough for Czech Republic to top the group. If they lose they would still finish in 2nd place in the group if Scotland win against Croatia, or that game ends in a draw. If they lose and Croatia beat Scotland, it would come down to goal difference in terms of who finished higher, with Czech Republic currently on +2 goal difference and Croatia on -1.
England – A win for England in their final game would see them top the group. If they draw vs Czech Republic they will go through in 2nd spot. If England should lose to the Czech’s, they would still finish in 2nd if Croatia win against Scotland, or if that game finishes as a draw. If England lose and Scotland win, then goal difference would need to be used to separate the two teams, with England currently on +1 goal difference and Scotland on -2.
Croatia – Croatia need to win to have any hope of going through. If they win they could finish 2nd in the group if England beat The Czech republic, and they get the necessary swing in goal difference, with Croatia sitting on -1 goal difference and Czech Republic on +2
Scotland – Scotland must win to have any chance of qualifying for the knock out stage. If they win they could finish 2nd in the group if The Czech Republic beat England and they improve to a better goal difference than England, with Scotland currently on -2 goal difference and England on +1.
The bookmakers currently have England priced up at 8/15 (Bet365) to win the group, with Czech Republic 5/4 (Bet365) to finish top. England and Czech Republic are both 1/1000 on to qualify for the knock out rounds, with 4 points surely being enough to get them a best 3rd place finisher spot, should either be bumped out of the top 2 in the final round of games.
The winner of this group will play the runner up of group F, who at the moment could be any of France, Germany, Portugal or Hungary. The runner up in this group will play the runner up of group E, which could be any of Sweden, Slovakia, Spain or Poland. The 3rd place finisher in this group, should they qualify for the knock out stages, will play the winner of group B or group E, which could be Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Spain or Poland.
So lets look at the final two games and see how things could play out.
Croatia vs Scotland
In their two games played at this years tournament so far, Croatia have scored 1 goal, conceded 2 goals, had 19 shots with 4 on target, they have an average possession of 45.50%, have been given 4 yellow cards, no red cards and 5 corners.
Scotland in their 2 games have not scored any goals, conceded 2 goals, had 30 shots with 6 on target, they have an average possession of 48.50%, have been given 2 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 11 corners.
The referee for this game is Fernando Rapallini (Argentina), in his last 8 games that he has refereed, he has given 36 yellow cards and 2 red cards, for an average of 4.50 yellow cards per game in his last 8 games and 0.25 red cards per game in those last 8 games.
This should be a good game to watch with both teams needing a win to have any chance of making it through, in truth if one of these sides does win this game they will have a very good chance of being in the knock out rounds, either as the 2nd place team in this group or as a best 3rd place finisher. Both sides will be disappointed with how their campaign has gone so far, Scotland have failed to score a goal and whilst Croatia wouldn’t be too upset with losing 1-0 to England at Wembley, they will be upset that they couldn’t pick up all 3 points vs Czech Republic.
I don’t see their being allot of goals in this game, neither side has convinced as an attacking force and I feel both will be more confident of stopping the other side from scoring, rather than scoring themselves. Croatia are the clear favourites and rightly so, but Scotland put in a solid defensive display against England, and they will always feel that they have a chance on the counter attack or from set pieces. It’s a basic statement as it applies to all football games, but the first goal in this game is going to be absolutely crucial, particularly if Scotland can manage to get it, if they take the lead i see them going into a similar formation as they played against England, which the Croatian side who have not impressed in front of goal will find hard to break down. If Croatia get the first goal then I really can’t see Scotland turning it around, they have failed to score at this tournament and look low on confidence and ideas in front of goal. Them having to open up and attack will leave them open on the counter and Croatia could quite easily pick them off and kill the game. I see Croatia coming out on top by a 1-0 or 2-0 score line to salvage what has been a disappointing group stage, and qualify for the knock out rounds.
Czech Republic vs England
This is an interesting game, with the team who ends up 2nd in the group likely to have an easier last 16 game than the team who finished top. A potential meeting with either Portugal, Germany or France can hardly be seen as a reward for winning your group, though for England in particular, if they have genuine ambition to win this tournament, they are going to need to beat some of the big boys sooner or later. The Czech Republic have impressed me at times in this tournament, their win against Scotland was a solid performance where they dealt with their opponent, but also the crowd and atmosphere very well. They showed a different side of their game against Croatia as at times they had to hang on defensively, but they did just that and got a well deserved point. England continue to frustrate their fans with many feeling that they are just not attacking enough. Gareth Southgate’s approach of playing with 2 holding midfielders has added to their already strong defence, but in doing so means they sacrifice another potential attacker. Funnily enough i believe England may be seen in a better light against some of the better teams at this tournament, as when Scotland put 11 men behind the ball and stayed compact, England often looked to run out of ideas with no one able to pick the lock that was the Scottish team. When teams attack England and leave space in behind, it opens up counter attacking opportunities for the likes of Sterling, Rashford, and Foden to use their pace and run at defenders rather than them getting the ball with a line of midfielders and defenders between them and the goal. Harry Kane has not looked himself this tournament, though his muscle memory of how to finish a chance is sure to still be there, and this run of frustrating form could also be due to him finding himself isolated with a lack of service.
Czech Republic know that a draw will be enough for them to top the group, so i expect England to take the initiative, controlling possession and the tempo of the game. Czech Republic always carry a threat from set pieces and that looks likely to be their best chance of scoring in this game. I expect them to get balls into the box at every opportunity and test the England centre backs and goal keeper in the air. Despite winning this game leading to a harder last 16 game, i expect England to go all out for the win and try to lay down a marker that they mean business at this tournament, whilst it remains to be seen whether that will pay off in the knock out rounds, I expect it to be enough for England to get the win here by a 2-0 or 3-0 score line.