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Euro 2020 Group D Preview

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It has been what? Oh yes, 55 years of hurt for the Three Lions. This time we send a bunch of cubs to do what the alpha males haven’t been able to since 66. Are the group D opponents concerned?

The England International Badge showing the three lions on their home shirt - Euro 2020
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Our coverage of each group in the Euro 2020 tournament continues with an overview of Group D. Please see our previous articles on Group A, Group B, and Group C, as well as our tips and tricks guide to succeeding at fantasy Euro 2020. Then join NMA’s mini-league!

Below are the teams in Group D. In this article we’ll analyze each and tell you which players to monitor for your fantasy Euro side.

  • England
  • Croatia
  • Scotland
  • Czech Republic

England

The group D draw is an interesting one, giving England a World Cup semifinal rematch, a Euro 2020 qualifier rematch, and a derby against their longest standing arch rival. The draw is not terrible, but it’s potentially tricky. Croatia’s strong technical players always have the potential to leave England chasing shadows, the Czechs will enjoy their underdog status, and Scotland — well they always give England a game.

Gareth Southgate surprised with England’s World Cup semifinal in 2018, and he has been working to develop his side further towards the FA’s goal of winning the World Cup in 2022. That’s a pretty bold target, but Southgate has some fantastic young players to select from. Phil Foden (20), Marcus Rashford (23), Mason Greenwood (19 but not playing the Euros), Jude Bellingham (17), Jadon Sancho (21), Trent Alexander-Arnold (22), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (23), Ben Chilwell (24), Mason Mount (22), Delan Rice (22), Dean Henderson (24), Luke Shaw and Jack Grealish (25). Veterans Harry Kane (27), Harry Maguire (28), Raheem Sterling and John Stones 26 aren’t over the hill yet either.

It’s a quite young squad of players, many of which are a few years from their prime. Perhaps the lack of experience could be beneficial. Many of these players are unfamiliar with arriving at summer competitions under the pressure of English expectations. Perhaps the lack of bad memories will see these young lions play to their strengths, and naivete can serve as well as courage to play with the freedom they likely need to be successful. Hell, some of the England side even won a penalty shootout in the 2018 World Cup and followed that up winning another one in the League Of Nations a year later. There’s plenty to bring optimism.

While the age of the squad is tipped towards youth, we do have some experience to balance that a little: Henderson, Maguire, Walker and Trippier. Lack of balance in other areas is also obvious with the squad being top heavy towards the attack. Kane remains the only true proven world class player within the squad, but others all have the potential to step up to world class on his day. With the options open to Southgate, it is not impossible for this England side to blow anyone away. Foden and Grealish’s play-making skills plus captain Kane’s link play plus Rashford/Sterling’s raw pace plus Sancho’s dribbling ability plus Kane’s ruthless finishing with either foot or head all adds up to a potent attack.

Without the ball, there’s not the same confidence; in fact it’s pretty much the opposite. In goal we have the biggest issue; Southgate currently seems loyal to Pickford despite pressure to replace him. He was one of the heroes of 2018 and remains an excellent shot stopper. The problem remains with the other aspects of his game. Howlers have become common, and he transmits nervous energy across the back line. Three years on from the World Cup, the expectation was that he would have kicked on with his development, even towards a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Instead Pickford has found himself dropped and rotated at Everton. He now appears to have two main competitors: Burnley’s Nick Pope and Manchester United’s Dean Henderson. Pope didn’t have his best season in 2020-21 with injury issues. Henderson meanwhile began the season as understudy to David De Gea. He does seem to have now won the #1 jersey, but he is very much learning and nowhere near the finished article. So far we have seen a keeper more comfortable in distribution and more vocal than De Gea but still making multiple errors himself and unconvincing overall. By all accounts he has the confident attitude of a top keeper, which showed in his decision to return to the club and battle DDG for the position. Most England fans would prefer Henderson in goal, but his unsure performances as United’s #1 probably put enough doubt in Southgate’s mind to stick with Pickford.

At right back we have lost the wonderful athletic attacking raids of TAA due to injury. However, the ever improving Reece James from Chelsea could follow his excellent showings in the Champions League knockout games and get the spot. Most likely, Southgate will start Trippier or Walker to bring much needed experience to what is likely an inexperienced starting-11. At left back there is a nice race for the starting spot between Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw. Both are coming into their prime, but both are at their first major national-team competition. Shaw has been the better player this season, Man United fans finally seeing the player they thought they had purchased a few years ago. Chilwell seems to have settled as the season has passed, benefiting from Thomas Tuchel’s tactical approach. Chilwell’s brilliant showing in the Champions League final may see him get first chance in England’s starting 11.

In central defense there is a clear problem. Neither Maguire nor Stones has had the most convincing of seasons, but they did improve as it developed. Maguire stumbled out of the gate as he had to deal with the law. Stones sat firmly on the bench. Both lack pace, neither back liking a fast or tricky forward playing up against him or running in behind. Stones spent much of his Manchester City game time acting as a deep play-maker, which will not be his role for the national team. His performance In the recent World Cup qualifier against Poland once again exposed his tendencies, losing concentration and getting caught in possession. Maguire is the clear first choice and without an obvious replacement. Ankle ligament damage means he is a doubt for at least the group stages; if so he’ll be a big miss. There is little convincing depth behind the duo. Joe Gomez missed the club season, so Southgate has gone with Conor Cody and Tyrone Mings. Cody has had his success playing in a back three, and Mings seems to get in by being the only left footed central defender available. Neither distributes the ball well or gives the impression of control in a game. Maguire’s fitness concerns will rightly worry the manager.

Into midfield brings us to the key to the England side, Declan Rice. The side has nobody else who can perform the role Rice does, or at least nowhere near his quality. He breaks up attacks and protects the vulnerable central defense, but he also starts attack moves and is obviously growing with every performance. He also seems a leader type. Such quality defensive midfielders are hard to find. If fit, he is a certain starter, vital to beat any of the more powerful nations. Any decent showing in national colors will see him once again linked to the biggest sides in Europe during the summer transfer window. England will likely line up with three in midfield, one pushing further forward. Rice, Henderson and Mason Mount look the likely trio. Bellingham, Phillips and perhaps Grealish will supplement them. Henderson hasn’t played since February and hasn’t looked the same player this season when he has. He also looks to be unable to play multiple games in a short period, which is exactly what is needed in the Euro’s.

Well-organized, strong defensive sides normally win these competitions. England’s problems in goal and central defence may mean they will need the attacking options, especially against the stronger sides. The lack of balance, the fitness of key players, the uncertainty of our best 11 or best formation won’t help. Southgate is going to need to show a new level to his tactics and decision making.

England are seemingly always hyped up to win the summer tournaments, and this time is no different, amazingly joint favorites with France. From my view, that’s based purely on the potential of the likes of Foden and Co, not based on anything deeper or proven. Outside France, it’s wide open so we do have a chance of course, and perhaps it’s the young legs that will maximize it. It has been a very long club season due the circumstances around the pandemic. Maybe the longer the competition goes, the greater that advantage of youth will show itself.

The normal pattern of getting beaten by the first decent side we face seems possible/probable. Having said that, we surely have to beat a decent side in the knockout rounds at some point don’t we?

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Harry Kane

Despite Tottenham’s problems, England’s best player had an excellent season of goal scoring and goal creation. All eyes will be on him, and many fantasy managers will pick him up for 11.5m. It’s possible England’s diverse attacking options will see the goals and assists shared around so that multi goal hauls are lacking.

Unlike in 2018’s World Cup Kane is expected to deliver, but he has a few off-field issues to deal with. He also pulls deep too often from a fantasy football point of view. Plenty on his plate then, but this is an attacking England team, one that will likely create more chances than in 2018. Still on penalties, and will play when fit, so it’s hard to not pick Harry isn’t it?

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Mason Mount

I think Mount could be underpriced at 7m, so he will be in many teams. He’s an excellent all round player getting better all the time. Adding a few more goals will help him level up. Facing the low blocks of Scotland and the Czech Republic, his late runs into the box could be productive.

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Jack Grealish

Here’s one for the bold fantasy manager at 7.5m. He missed a chunk of the back end of the season for Aston Villa, and he hadn’t yet made himself a certain starter for his country. For me though, he is a potential ace up our sleeve. Fantastic on the ball, almost impossible to knock off, he is a rare thing for an England side: a player who keeps possession. I cannot understate how much not controlling and keeping possession is such a chronic problem for our sides. He is also a man who raises his game to the occasion, also too rare for England players of the past. If I were Southgate, Grealish would be alongside the two Harrys as nailed-on in my starting 11. The problem is the shin injury he appears to be carrying. In the friendly against Austria, he ended with ice packs on them. That may be precautionary, but it’s concerning. Wearing some decent shin pads may help!


Croatia

The 2018 World Cup finalists are going through something of a transitional period. World Cup heroes Rakitic, Corluka, Subasic and Mandzukic all have retired from international football, but there remains plenty of experience and quality. Talisman Luka Modric leads his team, Perisic offers an attacking edge in big games, and central defenders Dejan Lovren & Domagoj Vida will hold the line.

As always, Croatia’s strength is with strong technical players. In central midfield, the remaining duo of Real Madrid’s Modric and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic can dominate a game. Alongside them, the squad has added some promising younger players in Vlasic (23) and Josip Brekalo (22), plus Petkovic (26) replaces Mandzukic up front. Their weakness has been vulnerability on set pieces. Fantasy owners of Stones/Soucek will hope for fantastic points against them.

The group draw won’t concern them at all, and playing the role of underdog in MD-1 against England may suit them. Modric is 35, and while clearly still fit enough to play at the highest level, it has been a long club season. He and some of his older colleagues may suffer tired legs and minds a couple weeks in, but they should start sharp against England. The Czech Republic follows in the second game with the Scots rounding off the group fixtures. Four points or more from the two opening games will be the aim for resting their captain in the third fixture.

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Borna Barisic

Yours for just 4.5m, Barisic has had an excellent season for title winning Rangers. Very attack minded, he could be one more under the radar.

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Nikola Vlasic

At 6.5m, save big over bigger names Perisic and Modric, but you risk picking a young player who isn’t as certain to start or play well. With five goals in 20 international games, he plays for CSKA Moscow and will be in the classic shop window. Loves to dribble, shoots from distance and will be asked to break into the box from midfield.

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Bruno Petkovic

6m and being asked to lead the line in the new look side. With six goals in 13 internationals, he currently plays for Dinamo Zagreb. One more potentially in the shop window, he likes to move into space and cause problems. There’s plenty for him to prove as he comes back from a shoulder issue to replace Mandzukic.


Czech Republic

They may be without players matching the quality from the past, but they still have one of those improving sides. It’s all about organized team plans and work ethic with the current squad, with a couple of players we all know well in Soucek and Coufal giving an example of the side’s mentality.

The Czechs faced England in qualification way back in 2019, losing 5-0 at Wembley in March and beating the Three Lions 2-1 in the October rematch. They will see the competition as part of a process for their side. Maybe their opening game against Scotland will become the battle for third, but having beaten England during qualification, they realistically hope for better.

Expect the fullbacks to bomb forward, the defense to concede chances, and bold improving young players to be a danger with the ball.

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Thomas Soucek

At 6.5m, the West Ham United midfield dynamo will pop up in a number of fantasy sides. At 26 years of age, he is still improving. With seven goals in 33 internationals, he shows us his club goal scoring form continues with his country,

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Patrik Schick

The Bayer Leverkusen striker will set you back 8m, but he comes with 10 goals in 24 internationals. He also had nine goals in 20 league games this season (nine games from the bench) plus three goals in five Europa League games, all noticeable stats. The season before he fired in 10 goals in 15 games playing for Red Bull Leipzig. The 25 year old appears to be finding his feet and is clear #1 choice in attack.

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Jakub Janko

25 year old Sampdoria winger Janko combined brilliantly with Soucek for eight of the side’s 13 qualification goals. A set piece specialist, he offers value at 6m.


Scotland

The old enemy returns to a major tournament after 22 years trying. Under Steve Clarke, the Scots have built a competitive side with no huge star names. It’s teamwork and hard work that is best summed up with captain Andrew Robertson’s attitude and performances. He may not be a big star, but he certainly plays like one.

The side’s top two players are both left backs in Kieran Tierney and Robertson. Scotland works around this by playing Tierney at the left side of a back three and Robertson as a left wing back. They are well stocked in midfield, but with Lyndon Dykes from the 2nd tier leading the line, lacking a forward.

If there is any pressure, it will be in the opening game against the Czech Republic. Maybe the fear of losing with the games to come makes that a tight one. Maybe both sides go for it knowing one win may be enough to make it to the round of 16.

Most eyes and thoughts will be on the must watch derby against England. If there is one game in the competition that wants/deserves a full house of fans it’s this one. It’s like a cup game all on its own part way through a tournament. Should the Scots get ahead, it’s also likely to be a contender for the most dramatic/emotional game of Euro 2020.

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Andy Robertson

At 27 and captain, Robertson is in his prime. A tireless player who will bomb up and down the left hand side, with TAA out we have been robbed of watching the Liverpool showdown. With three goals in 43 internationals he will also offer some assist potential. Setting you back 5.5m, at the time of writing he attracts 9% ownership. There are better options in the game, but he is still a popular pick.

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John McGinn

Injury robbed us of seeing the best of McGinn for Aston Villa, but he seems to be back to fitness now. At 7.5m McGinn has 10 goals in 32 internationals and could be one of those rare players who could benefit from the extra fantasy point for a goal from distance.

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Che Adams

This one has all the marks of a last minute addition to your fantasy squad. At 6.5m, Southampton’s Adams has made the squad at the last minute himself. One goal in three games was enough, and we know he is a player who can run extremely hot and cold. It just could be the England-born forward’s speed and power sees him hot at the right moment. With the substitution rule in the fantasy game, you can roll the dice on him even more so than in FPL.

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COME ON ENGLAND!

— Stall

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Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments!

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Poll

Which team will win Group D?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    England
    (62 votes)
  • 29%
    Croatia
    (30 votes)
  • 5%
    Scotland
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    Czech Republic
    (3 votes)
101 votes total Vote Now

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