Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – Spain v Czech Rep
No team in European Championship history has ever claimed three successive titles but Spain’s attempts to three-peat begin on Monday afternoon with a clash against Group D outsiders Czech Republic.
Spain v Czech Republic, Monday 13th June 14.00, ITV
Incredibly, La Roja haven’t tasted defeat in this tournament since 2004 (W9-D3-L0) with Vicente Del Bosque’s boys shipping just a solitary strike in their last nine Euros outings.
But following a disastrous showing at the World Cup two years ago, many pundits are steering clear of the Spanish this summer. La Roja’s shock 1-0 loss to Georgia in their final pre-tournament friendly raised concerns and it’s probably fair to say Spain need to prove themselves on the continental stage once more.
Public perception of the side remains rather gloomy on the Iberian peninsula despite another campaign of Spanish dominance across continental club competition. The physical condition of the squad’s leading players has been called into question and a large number of the group only arrived in camp a week before the competition kicked-off.
Cynical supporters noted the last time Real Madrid met Atletico in the Champions League final was 2014, the same season in which La Roja capitulated at the World Cup. Could there be a correlation there?
Either way, Spain have a habit of starting slowly – failing to win their first match at Euro 2008, World Cup 2012 or at the 2014 World Cup – and pooled together with Croatia, Turkey and the Czechs, the draw could have been kinder to the reigning champions.
However, despite all the negativity, this is still a side that has won nine of their last 12 matches – shipping just four goals – and accumulating eight successive competitive victories whilst leaking a solitary strike.
Spain’s central defensive partnership of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos is as good as any, their midfield monopolises possession and up front Alvaro Morata can answer the doubters by fitting Del Bosque’s system in style.
Against a more defensively-minded outfit, I’d be a little concerned for La Roja in their first fixture. But playing against a Czech Republic unit that’s only kept their sheets clean twice – against Canada and Malta in friendlies – since November 2013, I’m not.
Indeed, no Euro 2016 qualifiers conceded more goals than the Czechs’ tally of 14.
Head coach Pavel Vrba has been widely acclaimed for his part in guiding the Czechs to France but the Lions’ lead admitted a degree of luck also contributed as the side benefited from the Dutch’s self-destruction plus Turkey, Iceland and Latvia taking points off each other.
Ten points in total were garnered through own goals or goals netted inside the final five minutes and although Vrba demands organisation, commitment and energy the former Viktoria Plzen coach is yet to find the magic formula defensively.
Borek Dockal’s inclusion remains a doubt and should the Lions lose one of their key creative hubs, it’s hard to see the underdogs troubling Spain here. The Czechs have a fantastic recent record in the Euros – W7-D0-L3 at the group-stage, scoring in each game – but I fear they’ll meet their match on Monday.
Still, I’m not expecting the Spanish to come flying out of the traps.
Interestingly, the Czechs conceded 17 of their 23 competitive goals since Euro 2012 after half-time.
So Draw-Spain stands out in the Half-Time/Full-Time market at 14/5.
However, I’m going to follow the more consistent trends and back Spain to win 1-0 (9/2) and 2-0 (11/2) in the correct score market. It was an avenue that proved profitable in five of La Roja’s last six qualifying successes as well as six of their past 10 major tournament wins.
Spain to win 1-0 @ 9/2
Spain to win 2-0 @ 11/2
*Prices correct at time of publication.