EURO 2016 preview, Group D: Until someone beats ’em, Spain runs Europe

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Spain

They win. A lot. Aiming for a threepeat, and a fourth overall title.

Game schedule

Star player: Sergio Ramos — The Real Madrid star, along with Barca rival Gerard Pique, is a terror in the air at both ends.

[ EURO PREVIEWS: Group A | B | C ]

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.


Czech Republic

Have been to all six tournaments, with a runner-up and semifinal stops among them.

Game schedule

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Petr Cech of the Czech Republic in action during the Group A, UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying match between Netherlands and Czech Republic held at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Petr Cech of the Czech Republic (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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.


Turkey

Semifinalists in 2008, Turkey has qualified for its fourth tournament in six tries.

Game schedule

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10:  Hakan Calhanoglu (L) of Turkey celebrates his goal with his team-mate Arda Turan (R) during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
Hakan Calhanoglu (L) of Turkey celebrates his goal with his team-mate Arda Turan (R). (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)

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.


Croatia

Twice quarterfinalists, Croatia has qualified for five of six Euros.

Game schedule

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MARCH 26:  Luka Modric of Croatia in action during the International Friendly match between Hungary and Croatia at Groupama Arena on March 26, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
Luka Modric of Croatia (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

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:

  1. Gerard Pique, Spain
  2. Sergio Ramos, Spain
  3. Luka Modric, Croatia
  4. Petr Cech, Czech Republic
  5. Arda Turan, Turkey