By Oliver Marsh (Spain), Ben Delaney (Croatia), Scott Brotherton (Czech Republic) & Jack Rodway (Turkey)

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Spain (Oliver Marsh)

Spain celebrate another goal against Turkey

Spain celebrate another goal against Turkey

Last time out

So, Spain didn’t half show up to the party in their last match! They didn’t need to be at their best against Turkey, but they were far more successful in front of goal, so reached a 3-0 score line before the hour mark of the game. For a 20-minute spell of this game, Spain hit a level that will have scared all the other leading contenders for Euro 2016. If they can maintain that form, I can’t see anyone stopping them.

How I will watch it

'Quelle Fiesta!'

‘Quelle Fiesta!’

I’m in France to see Iceland play Austria at the Stade de France on Wednesday with my girlfriend Liz and some mates. Currently chilling in Normandy, I’ll look for a local bar to check out this one. On Saturday, while buying copious amounts of cider and ham from a local store, I noticed the front page of L’Equipe proclaiming “Quelle Fiesta!”, to describe Spain’s Friday night performance. If the Spanish line up against France in the knock out stages of the tournament, I think it’s fair to say that there might not be so many flattering headlines in the local papers for the Pique and co.

Prediction: Croatia 2 – 0 Spain

Croatia possess some seriously exciting players, and I can see them creating some chances, but I still think Spain will see this one through. Last week I said it that it would be the third game of the Group Stage where Spain would hit their best form. Considering the score line against Turkey, if I’m right and they beat Croatia without conceding again, then I pity the team that draws them in the Round of 16.

Final group standings:

  1. Spain
  2. Croatia
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Turkey

Croatia (Ben Delaney)

How I will watch it

The backshift, a ten-hour slog, the scourge of my football watching ideals, a bi-weekly nuisance. Destroyer of many a Champions League and World Cup night of football, and sadly it looks set to claim its latest victim; the closing fixtures to the group games of the European Championships. While some of the most interesting games of the season will be contested I will be stuck at work, furiously hitting refresh on my phone updating the scores. Then bleary-eyed, early in the morning I will slump on the couch and watch the extended highlights.

Last time out

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Crowd trouble marred Croatia’s game against Czech Republic

The focus that should have been targeted upon the Croatian players and their superb performance has been dragged away and placed firmly on some “fans” and their pyrotechnic inspired protests. A game that looked certain to be closed out with little fuss was delayed when flares and firecrackers, one of which looked dangerously close to causing real harm to a steward, were thrown onto the pitch. Since then a fine for £77,000 has been issued to the Croats.

The hold-up in the action not only knocked Ivan Rakitić and his pals from their rhythm, but also provided the added on time necessary for Tomas Necid to convert a 96th minute penalty and drag the Czech Republic to restore parity. Coach Ante Cacic agrees saying “We suffered a complete meltdown on the pitch because of a handful of irresponsible individuals and if the game had gone on for any longer, we might have lost it”. Prior to this the Croatians looked just as good as any side we have witnessed; calm in possession, strong and composed at the back and sharp in attack.

Prediction: Croatia 1 – 1 Spain

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Luka Modric will be a big loss

This could be one of the most exciting games we have witnessed, with both sides virtually assured of their passage to the knock-out rounds, the liberation from pressure may allow a carefree, attacking performance. A win for Croatia and they will leapfrog their Iberian opposition, claiming the title of group winners. That, though, will be complicated with the absence of talisman Luka Modrić who sustained a slight knock against the Czechs and is unlikely to be risked. The little midfield schemer has illuminated this tournament, ghosting around his more physically imposing foes, as hard to grasp and confine as smoke. Former Tottenham defender Vedran Ćorluka is also a doubt as his head wound refuses to heal at a rate that satisfies the team medics. Spain will likely rotate their squads (at least that will be the hope of Pedro) which may level the playing field somewhat. My one gripe is that the Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic has looked a little off the pace, if the towering front man could play as well as we all know he can then his nation can be considered real contenders.

Although I like Croatia, and enjoy watching them play, I am reticent to throw all my weight behind them. Facing a Spain team that looks like they have relocated their mojo is an ordeal savoured only by the mad. I will be a slight optimist however and predict an enthralling 1-1 draw.

Final group standings:

  1. Spain
  2. Croatia
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Turkey

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Czech Republic (Scott Brotherton)

Last time out

Well first of all a huge thanks to the Croatia ‘fans’. The flare-throwing, friend-punching idiots stopped the game dead with their antics at 2-1 and provided just the momentum switch the Czechs needed to snatch a 2-2 draw late on.
In truth there was really no promise whatsoever until the final 20 minutes of the match. Two Czech Republic mistakes – both giving the ball away sloppily – gave the Croatians what seemed like an unassailable lead through Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic. Then substitute Mil

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Milan Skoda made a big impact off the bench for the Czech’s

an Skoda managed an excellent headed goal just eight minutes after coming on to surprise everyone. The Czech strike force had finally made an impact at the tournament, and it made another when Tomas Necid rifled home an 89th minute penalty after a ridiculous Croatian handball gifted them the chance of a point.

Milan Skoda was probably the real surprise in this game and the striker must have earned himself a start against Turkey. With a pretty poor choice of forwards, manager Pavel Vrba started David Lafata up front against Croatia after Tomas Necid failed to impress in the Spain opener. Skoda did more in 23 minutes from the bench than these two did in a whole game. He was a nuisance and harried the defence, especially when the Czech Republic changed to a more direct approach. The long balls play to their strikers’ strengths and Vrba may have found a key going forward.
In the three behind the lone striker, Jiri Skalak of Brighton was rather quiet on the right after replacing Theo Gebre Selassie for more attacking power. And still the mystery of Borek Dockal continues. The four-goal Czech top scorer in qualifying hasn’t appeared yet and, though he was injured, it was expected to clear up for Spain and certainly by the Croatia game. Perhaps there is something else going on behind the scenes, with no one any the wiser on Dockal’s status. However, the big blow came with the loss of captain Tomas Rosicky for the rest of the Euros. The injury prone captain suffered a thigh injury in the last game and his country will now be without their influential and irreplaceable leader.

How I will watch it

At home with a big blackboard and a rocket scientist to work out all of the third-place permutations.

Prediction: Czech Republic 2 – 0 Turkey

Without Rosicky this could be a struggle but Turkey are surely completely demoralised after their hammering by Spain. With the Turks on zero points and with nothing to play for, I see the Czechs overcoming them and snatching second spot from the unlucky Croatians.

Final group standings:

  1. Spain
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Croatia
  4. Turkey

Turkey (Jack Rodway)

Last time out

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Arda Turan has received a lot criticism

Another game and another underwhelming performance from Turkey, A 3-0 defeat this time. To be fair to the Turks when Spain play in the way they did they can give anyone a hiding. But this said, Turkey hardly made a tackle and allowed the Spaniards to do as they pleased. The lack of a goal threat must certainly be a worry for any fan of the Turkish national team, in both games they have rarely looked like scoring. Their big players haven’t turned up in this tournament – with Fatih Terim substituting Calhanoglu at half time – and the fans have started to turn against their team. Arda Turan was given dogs abuse during the game by the Turkish faithful. I have never heard a set of fans turn against one of their own to the extent that the Turks did on Friday.

How I will watch it

I’ve tried my hardest to get behind Turkey, I really have, but they have just been so poor to watch. This however, will not put me off supporting my adopted team, as I will most likely be watching them for the last time at Euro 2016. I’ll be bidding farewell to Turkey…and probably never have to write about them again. It’s been emotional.

Prediction: Czech Republic 2 – 1 Turkey

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The Czech’s will be a threat even without the injured Tomas Rosicky

With their minus four goal difference, even a win for Turkey would more than likely not be enough to see them through to the last 16. The Czech Republic on the other hand have a massive opportunity to qualify. There is far more riding on this game for the Czech’s – so, for the third game in a row I’m going to have to bet against Turkey. Even without the injured Tomas Rosicky, the incentive that the Czech Republic have should be enough to see off the Turks. On the positive side I have predicted that Turkey will score their first goal of the tournament. Every Cloud.

Final group standings:

  1. Spain
  2. Croatia
  3. Czech Republic
  4. Turkey