It is time to make some Euro 2020 Group D predictions, with a summer of football fast approaching.
This is the fourth in a series of articles that will predict the outcome of all UEFA Euro 2020 groups. Group D consists of hosts England and Scotland, accompanied by the Czech Republic and World Cup finalists Croatia.
Euro 2020 Group D Predictions as England Battle It Out Against Scotland
England the Front-Runner
Croatia ended England’s run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but the Three Lions have now surpassed them, with a marginal victory against Croatia at Wembley in the 2018/19 Nations League. Since then, the Balkan side has gotten worse, losing to Slovenia and scraping past Cyprus 1-0 in World Cup qualifying.
England look likely to convincingly repeat that victory at the Euros. Despite a relatively disappointing Nations League campaign, England’s performance was the best out of any Group D team. Their squad is also the strongest in the group and home advantage in all matches further cements England’s status as group favourites. At least 22,500 spectators (mostly English) will be a big boost for the players, particularly after being accustomed to playing without fans.
Scotland to Defy the Odds and Become Group D Runners-Up
England should beat Scotland at Wembley, but the Scots can compete with both the Czech Republic and Croatia, especially in Glasgow.
Scotland defeated the Czechs home and away in the Nations League, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the first fixture in Prague, the Czechs were forced to use what essentially was their C team after a Covid-19 outbreak plagued their squad. That, along with a Ryan Christie penalty, assured Scottish victory. However, even after the Czechs were back to (almost) full force, Scotland still reigned supreme at Hampden Park, winning with their only shot on target.
Meanwhile, the Czechs had six shots on target. But stats like that are very common when teams obtain an early lead as Scotland did. So it’s not to say that the Czechs were better or that Scotland’s triumph was undeserved.
Additionally, the Scots will be beyond motivated playing their first major tournament since 1998 in front of home fans. Though not at full capacity, around 12,000 fans (mostly Scots) at Hampden Park should give them the boost they need.
Scotland should manage at least a draw against the Czechs, if not win. The Czechs are a decent away side, but this decency will likely only extend to granting them a draw against Scotland at best, not a win. The Czech Republic is a rising side with a bright future, but they need a little more time and are unlucky to play two away matches in this tournament.
Small Margins Favour Scotland
Something that bodes well for Scotland is Croatia’s poor away record; they have failed to win an away match since September 2019.
This can be partly explained by the quality of the opposition, facing the likes of Portugal, France and Sweden. But this record is still not to be ignored, since they also failed to defeat Wales, Azerbaijan and Hungary away in Euro qualifying. This is not to mention their recent loss to Slovenia in World Cup qualifying. Coincidentally, September 2019 was also when Scotland suffered their most recent home defeat – 4-0 against Belgium. An impressive streak.
Also, Croatia has never beaten Scotland over their four competitive matches.
Most patterns break at some point and Croatia can definitely win against them, but it’s still worth noting. Scotland’s rise in combination with Croatia’s apparent decline, home advantage and motivation of finally playing in a major tournament again is enough to favour Scotland as group runners-up by the smallest possible margin.
Croatia and the Czech Republic Evenly Matched
We all remember Croatia’s cinderella story at the 2018 World Cup, but that golden generation has started declining. It’s difficult to compare Croatia’s and the Czech Republic’s Nations League performances since they played in different divisions.
Croatia barely stayed in League A, courtesy of a Marcus Danielson own goal. Their sole win was at home against Sweden. The Czech Republic won their League B group comfortably, despite losing to Scotland.
The Czechs obtained two fewer points than Croatia in their opening three matches in World Cup qualifying, but the former faced tougher opposition. Regardless, the difference between their performances, if it even exists, is too minuscule to base conclusions on.
We have to look elsewhere to distinguish them. One such place is Elo ratings, where Croatia and the Czech Republic are ranked 18th and 27th respectively.
However, this small difference – in combination with their recent results – means they are basically evenly matched. Stats and rankings can go out the window on the day of the match.
Despite Croatia’s seemingly superior squad, they are about on the same level as the Czechs. It feels odd to disregard a team that played in a World Cup final less than three years ago in this fashion, but paradigms can change rapidly in football.