They win. A lot. Aiming for a threepeat, and a fourth overall title.
Star player: Sergio Ramos — The Real Madrid star, along with Barca rival Gerard Pique, is a terror in the air at both ends.
Spain will win the whole thing again because until someone knocks them from their continental perch — with all respect to Germany’s World Cup win — we’ll favor their midfield, experience and chemistry.
If an inexperienced strike force fails to take its chances, Spain could be knocked out of the group stage by some tough, battling defensive units.
Bonus fun fact: Spain’s qualifying record since 1996? 45-5-5.
Have been to all six tournaments, with a runner-up and semifinal stops among them.
Star player: Petr Cech (Arsenal) — The Czechs are in a rough patch of late, but the longtime Premier League goalkeeper will come in handy during tournament play.
They’ll succeed as the overlooked team of Group D, with the guile of Jaroslav Plašil and Tomas Rosicky guiding them onward.
But this group could be too much to handle for a team who’s best tournament players are well into their 30s.
Semifinalists in 2008, Turkey has qualified for its fourth tournament in six tries.
Star player: Arda Turan (Barcelona)– Fresh after sitting out the first half of the club season, the Barca man could give Turkey a big edge in the middle of the park.
Buoyed by the steel and skill of midfielders Turan and Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Turkey hits sides with lightning precision to make another deep run.
It’s more likely that an inexperienced batch of goalkeepers will have its share of problems with a very good set of Group D attackers.
Twice quarterfinalists, Croatia has qualified for five of six Euros.
Star player: Luka Modric (Real Madrid). He gets his chance to shine as the clear cut star of the Vatreni, as part of a terrific midfield with Ivan Rakitic.
Their grit and experience will serve them well in Group D, where Spain, Turkey and the Czech Republic provide no nights off. And they’re in-form, too, unbeaten in eight.
It’s going to be very difficult to survive Group D, and that could take the energy out of the group when it hits the group stage.
Who’s going through, who’s going home: Spain and Croatia advance, leaving Czech Republic and Turkey as hard-luck losers.
Marquee match: Spain and Croatia on June 21 should decide the group, and who has a far better path to the final.
Top players to watch:
- Gerard Pique, Spain
- Sergio Ramos, Spain
- Luka Modric, Croatia
- Petr Cech, Czech Republic
- Arda Turan, Turkey