After the opening weekend of action sprang few surprises, we turn our attention to the next round of games and this time it is the turn of Spain, the champions of the last two European Championships. They face off against a determined Czech Republic side.
Spain: Casillas, Juanfran, Piqué, Ramos Alba, Busquets, Silva, Fàbregas, Iniesta, Nolito, Morata
Czech Republic: Čech, Kadeřábek, Sivok, Kadlec, Gebre Selassie, Darida, Plašil, Dočkal, Rosický, Krejčí, Necid
Spain may feel that they require a third win in a row to make up for their disappointing World Cup, after going out in the group stages which included a 5-1 thumping at the hands of the Netherlands. In their hunt for the title Spain have made some surprising omissions from their final 23 man squad including the likes of Diego Costa, Juan Mata and Isco. Injury has also denied them the services of Real Madrid full-back Dani Carvajal. With Xavi no longer available to them it is up to the rest of the squad to step up and prove that Spain are still the all-conquering force they were in 2012. That said there is still a considerable amount of talent within the Spanish squad, notably Andres Iniesta, he will be anxious to see Spain retain their trophy in what is probably his final international tournament at age 32.
Despite nine wins out of a possible ten during qualification, defeat to Slovakia has shown that Spain are beatable and is a team can show enough resolve and defend well as a unit then Spain can be beaten. Czech Republic will need to take note from that game and believe that can get a result from Monday’s game. The Czechs still have a couple of well-known faces of their own with veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech and former Arsenal teammate Tomas Rosicky familiar names to all English fans.
The Czechs have a couple of well-known faces in their ranks, especially if you are an Arsenal fan, veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech and former Arsenal teammate Tomas Rosicky are two of the country’s biggest stars. However, with a largely ageing squad, the second oldest in the competition, the Czechs may struggle the deeper they progress into the tournament.
However, the Czech’s certainly made the case that age is not a bad thing because of the experience it brings with it in qualifying. They were placed in a tough group with the likes of Iceland, Turkey and the Netherlands, who they managed to beat twice and dump out. They topped the group suffering only two defeats to Turkey and Latvia. The Czech’s will be looking to draw on the spirit of the old Czechoslovakia, who won this tournament in 1976, the country also reached the final in 1996 competing under the banner of the Czech Republic, when they open their campaign on Monday.
For this reason, I do not believe the Czech’s can be written off. They are a dogged side and coupled with Spain’s undoubted quality on the ball I believe that neither side would have wanted to open their Euro 2016 campaign against the other.
In conclusion despite the doggedness of the Czech Republic and their ability to always give 100% at a major tournament I feel this current crop of players may be past their peaks. This will make them unable to live with the fast paced, attractive, free-flowing football their Spanish counterparts are capable of. This game will give a good early indication of the Group D winners as I fully expect both these sides to qualify from this group. On the day, Spain will have too much for the Czechs but they still have enough to advance beyond the group stage.