MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) runs the rule over Tuesday night’s Group D concluder between Czech Republic and Turkey.
Czech Republic v Turkey | Tuesday 20.00 | ITV4
Czech Republic and Turkey lock horns on Tuesday night knowing a win is essential if either nation has designs on reaching the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
With just one point between the pair, a stalemate would not suffice in Lens. So with Croatia and Spain sealing the top-two places in Group D, we should – in theory at least – be treated to an entertaining shootout with progression on the line.
Czech Republic snatched a point against Croatia in their last outing deep into stoppage-time. Having struggled to contain the Croats and mount any sort of response to a 2-0 deficit, the Lions somehow escaped with a share of the spoils.
The Lions failed to land a single effort on-target in the first-half whilst facing 10. Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic had given Croatia a comfortable advantage but with Luka Modric leaving the field and Czech coach Pavel Vrba responding with a double attacking substitution, the underdogs smelt blood.
The Czechs hit back through Milan Skoda’s header before Tomas Necid smashed in a penalty for handball in the 93rd minute. The fightback occurred amidst fighting and flare-throwing from the Croatian support, causing the Saint-Etienne encounter to be held up on more than one occasion.
Nevertheless, Vrba is determined to see the positives in his team’s display and has promised an all-out attacking approach here. Vrba said, “We’ll play for everything in the last match. It wasn’t going well, but we’ve given ourselves a spark of hope to get out of the group.”
That’s encouraging news for goals backers. Czech Republic have scored in 16 of their past 20 fixtures but also failed to keep a single clean sheet during qualifying and recording just one shutout in their last 24 internationals – a friendly against Malta.
A huge 17 of those 24 encounters have featured at least three goals and although talisman Tomas Rosicky is absent, I’d expect the goals to flow. The final group games of European Championships since 1992 have seen Over 2.5 land on 59% of occasions and it really is win or bust for both sides.
With that in mind, plus fact the last nine meetings between these two proud nations have producing a whopping 31 goals – on each occasion featuring at least two goals – Over 2.5 Goals should be considered at 5/4 with Bet365.
Turkey were victims of a masterful Spain performance in Nice when going down 3-0. It’s been the standout display of the competition thus far, as La Roja became the first team to score more than twice in a Euro 2016 match.
The Crescent Stars found it impossible to suppress their opponents with Spain’s one-touch, fluid football dominant and, at times, unplayable.
Turkey had been heavily criticised for their poor display in their opening loss to Croatia, and the match against Spain unfolded as many had predicted. Fatih Terim’s men were unable to live with the defending champions and failed to fire.
Terim had named an attacking line-up, choosing Burak Yilmaz, the top scorer in their squad with 20 international goals, but there was little Turkey could do without the ball and they wasted the opportunities they did have – Burak and Olcay Sahan should have done better when in good positions.
The Turkish head coach and captain Arda Turan were heavily criticised following the Croatian loss and midway through the second half, Crescent Stars supporters booed Turan again. With Hakan Calhanoglu also struggling to find his feet, fans have grown frustrated.
Although Turkey failed to land an effort on-target against Spain, the Crescent Stars should find more space and opportunities in their final fixture. Anything but a convincing win is likely to be enough to earn a spot in the Last-16 but Terim and his troops will know a good showing is essential.
Against an ageing and unimpressive Czech defence, the Turks should be capable of making a positive impact here. Surprisingly rated as underdogs here, the Crescent Stars have found the back of the net in 15 of their last 18 games and whilst qualification looks a tall order, I’d want Turkey onside for this encounter.
Czech Republic v Turkey – Turkey to win and Over 2.5 Goals (9/2 Unibet)