Great football doesn't take a break and neither do we, so here is Ali's review of group D at the 2016 European Championships in France, alongside predictions for the teams going into the round of 16.
A personal favourite of mine, Croatia have been the stand out side of the tournament to date. Winning a tough, competitive group including reigning champions Spain was an achievement in itself, but to do it stylishly and to beat the Spanish without key man Luka Modric was even more impressive. The midfield axis of Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Rakitic has dominated games and created chances for the attacking stars. Mario Mandzukic is yet to really fire but Ivan Perisic has been arguably the best player at the tournament so far, scoring the winner against Spain that sealed Croatia's place at the top of group D. A loss of concentration after their clash with Czech Republic was interrupted by flares cost them full marks, but if they can maintain their defensive solidity for 90 minutes they will have no problems defeating the Portuguese in the next round. A team with plenty of stars and a strong team spirit are always dangerous and Croatia could be the team to watch with their exciting attacking play and fear of nobody.
Spain will feel like they threw away a first place finish against Croatia, particularly given the controversial nature of Sergio Ramos' penalty miss. After tearing Turkey apart (a very poor Turkey, admittedly) and beating the Czechs in particularly Spanish style they will have gone into the Croatia match expecting to top the group and get a nice tie against Iberian rivals Portugal. Instead they will be up against the Italians in what will undoubtedly be the best match up in the round of 16. Defensive frailties were once again exploited by the Croatians and the idea that a team could take the game to them seemed alien to the Spanish players as they failed to cope with the intensity and skill of the Croatians. That doesn't bode well for the Italy match but with an attacking style and a little more focus defensively they will be expecting to compete.
The Turkish somehow managed to give themselves a chance of qualifying (a slim chance which came to nothing as a result of the late Irish miracle against Italy) with a win in the last game against Czech Republic. Unfortunately the 3-0 defeat to the Spanish put their chances of qualifying in serious doubt and they couldn't overcome that despite their surprise final game win. They competed well with the Croatians in the first game and could have taken something from that game. Their side is scattered with talented young players and they will undoubtedly come back strongly in qualification for the World Cup in Russia, but this will be seen as a failure despite being drawn in a group of dark horses and the reigning champions.
After a spectacular last minute comeback draw against Croatia the Czechs must have entered the final game with serious hopes of beating a woeful Turkish team and advancing into the round of 16. The woeful Turkish team disappeared between the Spanish game and the Czech game and the Czechs couldn't capitalise on their chance of getting through to the next round. This tournament will go down as a failure for them and a reluctant goodbye will now likely be said to Tomas Rosicky, one of the best and ultimately unluckiest players in recent Czech history. The captain was a big miss for the final game after picking up yet another injury, as his leadership and inspirational qualities were missing as his country crashed out.
This is where it all begins. Our resident analysts study the unrecognised players and examine the matches that are of interest across Europe.