Photo: Imago
Photo: Imago

EURO 2024: a group-by-group look

EURO OlyBet 05.06.2024

Congratulations to Real Madrid, the UEFA Champions League 2024 winners. With that settled, it is time to move on to the European Championships, which will kick off in Germany on the 14th of June and entertain us for the next month.

Us fans have been treated recently. Major football tournaments usually happen every two years (or 24 months), but with EURO 2020 postponed by a year and the 2022 World Cup held in winter time, there were just 17 months between the two tournaments; we now meet again after saying our goodbyes 18 months ago in Qatar.

With another football party just around the corner, what should we expect? This will be the third EURO tournament with 24 teams, so a friendly reminder about how open this can be: four of the six third-placed teams will also advance, like Portugal did in 2016 before winning it all.

Group A (Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland)

Toni Kroos. Photo: Imago

Who will go through? All eyes will be on hosts Germany, but Die Mannschaft has not been up to standard in the last three major tournaments (two group stage exits and a Round of 16 appearance).  They have played nothing but friendlies since the World Cup, but the group stage could prove to be a good test with Switzerland, Hungary, and Scotland all capable of causing (different) problems. Switzerland is experienced in a situation like this, so they could well be second.

Who are the players to watch? A 34-year-old Real Madrid midfielder returning from international retirement for one last hurrah before hanging his boots up for good? It will be a tough ask from Toni Kroos to replicate the magnificence of Zinedine Zidane anno 2006, but if anyone can do it, the German can. All he needs to do is go one better (and avoid headbutts when possible). Elsewhere, this could be a breakout tournament for 23-year-old Hungarian midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai.

Which matches not to miss? The opening game often sets the tone for the tournament. With Germany taking on Scotland, massive pressure will be on the hosts. Scotland vs Hungary in the last round has the feel of a game where both will need to win.

Group B (Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania)

Luka Modric. Photo: Imago

Who will go through? This will most likely be a three-way battle between reigning Nations League winners Spain, defending champions Italy, and Croatia, who have two sets of medals from the most recent World Cups (silver in 2018 and bronze in 2022). But for each of them, something does not quite feel right, with none of the three arguably boasting a world-class striker (sorry, Alvaro Morata – prove us wrong).

Who are the players to watch? Plenty of talent around the pitch though. Rodri of Spain and Manchester City could well be the most influential player in the world at the moment; Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is one of the best in his trade. And Luka Modric is still there for Croatia at 38, passing the baton to Joško Gvardiol, who is 16 years younger.

Which matches not to miss? The games vs Albania make this group intriguing. The Balkan side conceded just four goals in qualifying and topped their group ahead of Poland and Czechia, so could they spring a surprise going up against teams without players who can unlock a defence single-handedly? Plus Spain vs Italy, a classic in the second round on June 20th could have so many variations depending on how the first games go.

Group C (Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England)

Harry Kane. Photo: Imago

Who will go through? England might well have the most attacking talent in the world, with Bundesliga top scorer Harry Kane expected to lead a line in front of Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham, and Phil Foden. But could defensive issues ruin another chance? Denmark could be past their best while Serbia and Slovenia will be hoping to reach the next round. England should be comfortable while Denmark will probably have enough.

Who are the players to watch? There are plenty of interesting players on show here. Can Christian Eriksen still be the spark for Denmark? Can the experienced attackers of Serbia shine despite playing in the Middle East and Turkey? Jan Oblak will be a one-man-wall for Slovenia while the tiny nation will hope 21-year-old striker Benjamin Šeško can make a big splash.

Which matches not to miss? With England expected to dominate, a first-round match-up of Slovenia vs Denmark could tell us the direction for the rest of the group. Likewise, Denmark vs Serbia in the last round could be a nail-biter.

Group D (Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France)

Kylian Mbappe. Photo: Imago

Who will go through? Even though this is possibly the most balanced of the six groups, France still stands out. They have arguably been the team to beat since EURO 2016, having reached three finals in four tournaments (the one blunder a freak loss to Switzerland). They lack experience in defence with Hugo Lloris’ and Raphael Varane gone but have plenty of everything up front. The Netherlands and Poland look interesting on paper, but there are question marks over both.

Who are the players to watch? The Netherlands might have the best defensive line of the tournament led by Virgil van Dijk, but they will be up against France talisman Kylian Mbappe and Poland legend Robert Lewandowski. Unfortunately, Austria will be missing their A-category star David Alaba through injury.

Which matches not to miss? Netherlands vs France in the second round on June 21st will be a classic while Poland could surprise Netherlands in the first round if Oranje turns up a bit rustic. And, well, can – or should – we count out Austria? They are a very organized side capable of causing problems.

Group E (Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine)

Artem Dovbyk. Photo: Imago

Who will go through? Although most of their Golden Generation is now gone, Belgium continues to produce talent and can still rely on some key players like Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to keep them in the talk. It should be smooth sailing in the group for them, with Ukraine looking good too (and playing with a chip on their shoulder).

Who are the players to watch? Is the best goalkeeper in Europe watching from home? Thibaut Courtois’ is back from injury and started the Champions League final, but was left out of the Belgium squad – without a worthy replacement available, to be honest. His Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Lunin deputised for much of the season at Real Madrid while striker Artem Dovbyk finished as the top scorer of La Liga with 23 goals to his name.

Which matches not to miss? Ukraine vs Belgium will be played in the third round, so everything could be settled by then, but they could also face elimination at that stage. Belgium should have enough class, but Ukraine can wobble if they do not get a result vs Romania in the first round.

Group F (Turkey, Georgia, Portugal, Czechia)

Cristiano Ronaldo. Photo: Imago

Who will go through? Did you honestly expect to see Cristiano Ronaldo (39; 206 games, 128 goals) and Pepe (41; 136, 8) line up again? This is a deep Portugal squad poised for another deep run, and what a story it would be. Behind them, Turkey has a talented roster (with an eye on EURO 2028, perhaps?) while Czechia has historically been good in every other EURO tournament. They were in 2020, so…

Who are the players to watch? Georgia will be the only newcomer of the tournament, relying on Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to deliver. The Turks will hope Arda Güler will forget his so-so debut season at Real Madrid and deliver on his promise at just 19. And who will step up for Portugal? Remember, it is the first tournament under Roberto Martinez for them.

Which matches not to miss? Turkey vs Georgia will be a test of capabilities for the latter, while Portugal vs Czechia is probably not the ideal way to kick things off for either. This group feels like there will be twists and turns, which could well culminate with Czechia vs Turkey in the third round of matches.


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