One team controls the ball, while the other knows where to put it. With both two-time defending champion Spain and 2012 finalist Italy trying to build on opening victories in group play, both teams have favorable matchups that could see them secure passage to the round of 16 with wins Friday.
Spain is playing Turkey, with its tiki-taka offense again set to suck the life out of an opponent before finding that crease in a defense that leads to goal. La Furia Roja, however, would like to avoid the drama from the first match as they did not break down the Czechs until Gerard Pique scored on 87 minutes.
Italy, fresh off its tactical masterclass in disposing of pre-Euro group favorite Belgium 2-0, looks to avoid a letdown against a Sweden side which disappointed in a 1-1 draw versus Ireland. While Zlatan Ibrahimovic contributed to the equalizer by forcing an own goal, he will expect more of himself and his teammates as they seek a vital three points.
Lastly, Croatia squares off against the Czech Republic, in which a victory by Croatia would see it through to the knockout round. Luka Modric’s wonder goal on the volley deflated the Turks, and the talented midfielder will try to break down a stubborn Czech side ably led by another superb field general in Tomas Rosicky and a standout keeper in Petr Cech.
These picks cover the matches for June 17, using a 4-4-2 formation and salary cap of $90,000 as part of Fan XT’s Daily Fantasy rules for the European Championships.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon, Italy ($7,130). After a commanding performance that put Italy atop its group, Buffon will try to keep the Azzurri rolling against Sweden. The Juve keeper marshalled his defense so well he only needed to make two saves against a Belgian side oozing with talent. His price tag here makes him a value pick among the six keepers in action.
Defenders: Andrea Barzagli, Italy ($7,190). Like Buffon, Barzagli turned in a standout effort against Belgium, and the fact Italy’s entire backline is on that same Juventus wavelength with their keeper makes Barazagli a high-value pick that offers cap flexibility.
Leonardo Bonucci, Italy ($8,880). While it seems like a high price to pay for a defender, consider that Bonucci assisted on Italy’s first goal and provided another two passes that were Pirlo-esque that created scoring chances for the Azzurri. He’s at the heart of the central defense and will have plenty of touches, and chances to go forward given Sweden’s lack of a high press.
Darijo Srna, Croatia ($7,310). Srna is going to be playing this match with a heavy heart following the passing of his father last weekend. He returned to Croatia for his funeral Monday and flew back to France with the team Wednesday. The veteran wing back is expected to be available to face the Czech Republic, and he could definitely make the difference on a match that could go either way.
Caner Erkin, Turkey ($7,690). Taking the Fenerbahce wide back is a bit of a gamble given how Spain likely will have possession of the ball for potentially 70 percent of the match. Still, there are points where Turkey can hit on the counter, and it likely will go through Erkin wide since Spain is so good at keeping the ball in the middle of the park.
Midfielders: Andres Iniesta, Spain ($9,190). Given the price tag on some of Spain’s players, Iniesta is a bargain as the maestro of the two-time defending champion’s midfield. And anyone who doubts the 32-year-old is lacking playmaking skills need only to see his inch-perfect cross that Pique headed home for the match-winner. This will be another match where he pulls the strings.
Tomas Rosicky, Czech Republic ($7,090). Still the architect of the Czech offense, a valued playmaker such as Rosicky is a steal considering the ball will go through him with virtually every advance. Considering the Czechs should easily surpass the 32 percent possession they had against Spain, Rosicky is a low-risk pick with high-reward potential.
Luka Modric, Croatia ($10,130). Rosicky’s low price tag allows the selection of his Croatian counterpart with the high cost. But then again, after that sublime volley that accounted for the match-winner versus Turkey, there really is little argument the Real Madrid man isn’t worth every penny of that price tag.
David Silva, Spain ($9,380). Silva was dangerous enough on corner kicks to take another shot at him against a side Spain should, on paper at least, control large strtches of the match. The Manchester City winger was part of a group that completed 617 passes against the Czechs. That number may actually increase against Turkey.
Forwards: Manuel Nolito, Spain ($7,940). Though equal in value to Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Nolito is the play here because anything Ibra does will take points away from Buffon. The Celta Vigo forward is still finding his sea legs with the national team, but even if he only plays 60 minutes in this match, there should be multiple opportunities for Nolito to hit the back of the net.
Graziano Pelle, Italy ($7,690). Pelle put in a hard day’s work against Belgium and was rewarded at the end by scoring the Azzurri’s second goal in second-half stoppage time to seal the three points. Given the dip in talent level going from Belgium’s back line to Sweden’s, Pelle’s intellect and industry should find him on the receiving end of crosses and pinpoint passes with the chance to score a goal for the second straight match.
By Chris Altruda