The second international tournament out of 3 this summer will begin in France, which is EURO 2016. This tournament generally is considered one of the best tournaments around the world, on par with the World Cup in the eyes of many, as it has most of the top teams in the world.
Croatia played extremely well against Turkey that saw them secure their first 3 points of the tournament and now take on a Czech Republic team who were frustrated by Spain for the longest time. Croatia coming into this game will have seen that holding on to possession and moving the ball around, will frustrate their opponents and give an opportunity for their forwards to run in and score. Croatia look extremely good on the wings with Perisic and Srna in particular creating plenty of chances on either flanks, but the finishing was extremely poor in front of target; and that is something that they will need to improve upon. Defensively, Corluka gave his blood (many teams) and sweat to keep things tight at the back along with Vida; and I expect the Croatians to keep it extremely tight at the back. Croatia’s scoring forward has been good, netting in 8 straight games and I expect Manduzkic to find the back of the net after missing some good opportunities last time around.
The Czech Republic looked extremely flat in their last game, and manager Pavel Vrba stated that the team will be more attacking starting with this game. They will continue to rely in Necid, Rosicky and Gabre Selassie to attack for the chances up front. While the Czechs have been inconsistent to deliver up front, they have delivered goals from all over the pitch. However, the Czech defenders Sivok and Hubnik have been in front of Petr Cech but they conceded once again in their game against Spain, as they have done in 22 out of their last 23 games, showcasing the struggles they are having to keep it tight that would help them secure the result. The Czechs have one of the oldest squads in this tournament, while not having too many players who play at high levels at club football, mean they will continue to struggle against a lively Croatian squad.
Croatia know that a victory will secure their spot into the next round, and will continue to try and keep things tight at the back and attacking the Croatian defence. The Czechs have continuously conceded and I expect their leaky defence to see Croatia Score and I am backing Croatia to win this encounter against the Czech Republic.
Italy to beat Sweden @ 1.97 (888Sport) – 2.5 points
Italy v Sweden – Over 10 Corners @ 1.90 (888Sport) – 2 points
Italy come into this encounter after giving a young Belgium side a proper lesson in how to play team football. The Italians have a team that is not built up of many great players, but showcased that if they play together they can beat any opposition. The Italians continued to rely on their Juventus back 4 of Bonucci, Barzagli, Chellini and Buffon who continued to deliver on the strong clean sheets, which is now their 3rd in succession at international level and 4 out of their last 5 games at club level. The defence has even extra cover at the back with De Rossi adding that foil from midfield. The offensive firepower from the midfield including Giacherrini, Eder, Candreva and Parolo will need to give enough support to Pelle & Eder up front to deliver the goods. I think Eder might be replaced for El Sharaawy to give this team more pace against this Swedish defence. The Italian firepower has found the back of the net in 20 out of their last 21 games; so we can expect them to score a goal and then sit back and defend and attack on the counter, much like they did against Belgium.
Sweden managed to secure a draw in this encounter with Ireland, despite being quite attacking against them for most of the game. The Swedes rely a lot on Zlatan Ibrahimovic who managed to create an own goal out of nothing to help the team draw level with the Irish after going 1-0 down early on. Zlatan had to continue drop into midfield, while the wingers of Sweden like Larsson and Frosberg didn’t deliver enough service to the forwards in order to score. They lacked a lot of quality to deliver a positive result, and I think they will continue to struggle against the strong Italian defence. The Swedish defence were shown to be considerably slower, and had to concede a lot of corners as a result and Italy will come to attack with pace, which might be a struggle for them. The Swedes have conceded in 7 out of their last 10 games including against sides like Ireland, Czech Republic, Turkey, Estonia and Denmark, this does not bode well for them against a better scoring Italian outfit.
The Italians showcased in the last game, why they are a team to worry about and why Antonio Conte is a top manager. The way the Italians set up to keep things tight at the back and attack on the counter, showcases the struggles that the Swedes will have especially since the Belgians were treated to a proper lesson. For this reasons, I am backing Italy to beat Sweden in this 2nd round encounter.
Spain – Clean Sheet v Turkey @ 1.80 (Bet365) – 3 points
Turkey -1 Asian Cards @ 1.75 (Bet365) – 2 points
The Spanish showcased against Czech Republic that they can keep a clean sheet solidly and hold over 67% possession to frustrate their opponents. The Spanish outfit back 4 of Juanfran, Pique, Ramos, Alba and De Gea have shown to be and extremely containing outfit, who get the ball out of the back and play it to the midfield 3 of Iniesta, Fabregas and Busquets to create the opportunities for the front players. With Alba and Juanfran bombing forwards, Busquets sits back to give extra cover to Ramos and Pique, which sees them keep things tighter at the back. Spain have now won their last 9 competitive fixtures without conceding a single goal, and conceded just 3 goals in their European Qualifying campaign.
The Turkish showcased their struggles last time around Croatia where they were absolutely lacklustre attacking forward, and that showcased the struggles that they have had. They barely threatened the Croats and despite having good possession in the last 10 minutes in the game, they had absolutely no idea what to do with the ball. Arda Turan will be taking on many of his team mates in this game, who will know exactly how to contain him, which will be a worry for Fatih Terim especially after the poor performance by him in the last game. The Turkish will look to change things around, but will not have much possession in this game while taking on Spain, which might get them quite frustrated. That frustration will see them pick up bookings against this frustrating Spanish play as well as in general because the Turks tend to get hot headed when things are not going their way.
I am backing the Spanish to keep another clean sheet tonight as they have done in their last 9 competitive fixtures, and the Turkish struggles forward will certainly help this cause.
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