Euro 2024 is now just 90 minutes away

EURO OlyBet 25.03.2024

As Albert Einstein once determined, time is relative – the rate at which time passes depends on the frame of reference. The Allianz Arena in Munich will not host an European Championship game for another two months, but for six nations, the Euros are now an hour and a half away. This is make-it-or-break-it time.

The Germans have certainly felt how relative time can be, as they have been waiting for a bit – as hosts, they qualified for the tournament in 2018, more than 2,000 days ago. Lionel Messi was still at Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo had just joined Juventus. Germany had not yet failed at both the EURO 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.

The next group of teams qualified in 2023, some five years later. Belgium, France, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Turkey, Austria, England, Hungary, Slovakia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Croatia and reigning champions Italy will all return from 2020. Romania and Albania last competed in 2016. Slovenia and Serbia (!) will make their first appearance since 2000.

Who will not be there, you ask? Norway, so no Erling Haaland or Martin Ödegaard again; Sweden, who contested every EURO tournament since 2000; Russia (for obvious reasons); Finland and North Macedonia, of the teams that were there four years ago.

And the games will begin on June 14th, and the champion will be crowned… wait. Is that not just 21 teams? Well, yeah. Three spots are still up for grabs – until Tuesday, March 26th at least. So who are the teams still fighting for the last straw and will they eventually be the Three Musketeers or the Three Stooges?

All final games listed below will be held on the evening of Tuesday, March 26th. The results of the semi-finals, held on Thursday, are also listed.

Path A: Wales – Poland

  • Wales – Finland 4-1
  • Poland – Estonia 5-1

Source: Imago Images

Wales have done rather well in the last eight years. After reaching the semi-finals at EURO 2016, they qualified for EURO 2020 and then in 2022 their first World Cup since 1958. But their heydays might be behind them, as Gareth Bale has retired (to concentrate on golf) and Aaron Ramsey, their captain, now plying his trade in the Championship at 33 years of age and struggling with injuries. This is a wildly unbalanced squad.

Poland seem to have a little more on paper (Wojciech Szczesny, Piotr Zielinski, and Robert Lewandowski to name a few), but stumbled through the qualifiers and narrowly edged Moldova to reach the play-offs. They might be on the up as they are undefeated in their last five games, and have also not lost to Wales since 1973 (overall record 7W 1D 1L).

Who are we rooting for: No hard feelings towards Wales, but without Bale, the star power and charisma are just not there. This might be the last chance for Robert Lewandowski, however. The 35-year-old Barcelona striker has scored 82 goals in 147 appearances for his homeland and, should they make it through the group stage, Poland could be an awkward opposition to face for the favourites.

Group: Netherlands, Austria, France

Path B: Ukraine – Iceland

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina – Ukraine 1-2
  • Israel – Iceland 1-4

Source: Imago Images

Ukraine were already on the ropes. Having gone behind to an own goal against Bosnia, they scored in the 85th and 88th minute to secure an emotional away win. They are the highest-ranked team (24th in the latest FIFA ranking) of the six and narrowly came third behind England and Italy in the qualifiers. Interestingly, they have been to the last three European Championships, but just one World Cup (in 2006) ever.

Remember when Iceland made it to EURO 2016? Everyone loved them. The island country, home to just 400,000 people, knocked out England and made it to the quarter-finals! They reached the 2018 World Cup too, but after that, things have not looked that good. But here they are. The 4-1 vs Israel looks solid, but it came after a) going behind b) a red card for Israel c) an 80th-minute penalty missed by Israel that would have made it 2-2.

Who are we rooting for: Ukraine, for mostly political reasons. As Russia was excluded from qualifying for invading Ukraine, EURO 2024 would give Ukraine a platform to fly their flag high and remind people that all they want is peace (and their country back). And, well, they do look quite interesting on paper. In a wide-open group, they could go for it.

Group: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania

Path C: Georgia – Greece

  • Georgia – Luxembourg 2-0
  • Greece – Kazakhstan 5-0

Source: Imago Images

Georgia is the only team who could make their tournament debut in 2024, but… They have only beaten Cyprus (in the qualifiers) and Luxembourg to get this far. They lost to Spain 1-7 in September. Do they deserve to be here? If they make it, Kvaradona – Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – will be the man to do it. They would be just the third former Soviet state (after Latvia in 2004 and Ukraine) to make it to the final tournament.

Against Greece, it could go either way. They have not been to a final tournament since the 2014 World Cup and most of the squad has no experience with such games, but they have done well since September. In the semis vs Kazakhstan, they sailed to a 4-0 lead by half-time. And they have a perfect record vs Georgia (7W 2D 0L), having last met in 2021.

Who are we rooting for: Both, honestly. Every tournament needs a newcomer and Georgia certainly fits the bill, but for the purpose of nostalgia, Greece’s success would give us a chance to reminisce over their fantastic and unexpected 2004 triumph (which will celebrate 20 years, mind you). Why not repeat it?

Group: Turkey, Portugal, Czech Republic


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