Euro 2024 ultimate preview: Can England win it all?

Football Friday June 14, 2024 By: Harry Howes

The wait is over – today’s the day. 24 nations across Europe are gripped with football fever as Euro 2024 is about to kick off.

The first match takes place tonight, with hosts Germany taking on Scotland, and we’re then set for wall-to-wall football action for a month, with the final taking place on Sunday 14th July.

England will be desperate to be there as they look to heal the wounds of coming so close last time out. But it won’t be an easy ride, with plenty of competition looking to stop them in their tracks.

Can England end 58 years of hurt?

They’ve got a very good chance! While on paper many believe France have the best squad, England remain the bookies’ favourites. The Three Lions reached the final last time out as a penalty shootout defeat to Italy broke the nation’s hearts.

But since then, their key players have gone from strength to strength. Young stars from Euro 2021 like Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Declan Rice have developed into world class talents. Meanwhile, England stalwarts like Harry Kane, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Jordan Pickford have retained their class.

Kane will be playing the tournament on home soil having enjoyed a stunning debut season at Bayern Munich, scoring 44 goals in all competitions as they reached the Champions League semi-final. Meanwhile, Bellingham took no time in finding his feet at Real Madrid. After dazzling at Borussia Dortmund for three years, the 20-year-old scored 23 times in a more advanced role as Real won La Liga and the Champions League.

Gareth Southgate has often been accused of picking his favourites and ignoring players in form but that couldn’t be further from the truth this time. He threw up a shock as Marcus Rashford was left out of the preliminary squad after a disappointing season for Manchester United. And then when the final squad was announced, Jack Grealish and James Maddison were notable omissions.

Their loss is the gain of others, as the likes of Eberechi Eze, Adam Wharton, Anthony Gordon and Kobbie Mainoo have been rewarded for their spectacular club form in recent months. England now have a genuinely quality squad, with a balance of formidable world beaters, reliable stars and exciting wildcards.

They’ll have every confidence of going all the way – the only question mark will be whether Southgate adopts a bold attitude when it comes to his team selection. He’s been guilty of a negative set up in the past but when you have a side packed with quality, you need to be on the front foot and controlling games, which certainly wasn’t the case in England’s final friendly against Iceland.

But with their opening game just a few days away, football fans up and down the country are starting to get excited and if you listen carefully, you can hear the faint sounds of ‘It’s coming home’ starting to build momentum.

England’s group games

●    England v Serbia – Sunday 16th June, 8pm
●    England v Denmark – Thursday 20th June, 5pm
●    England v Slovenia – Tuesday 25th June, 8pm

Who are England’s main challengers?

It goes without saying that France are among the biggest threats. Long gone are the days when the French would collapse at international tournaments and crash out in the group stages. Their exciting young squad won the World Cup in 2018 before reaching the final again in Qatar 18 months ago, where they couldn’t quite beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

Yet despite their strengths, they’re not invincible and they were shocked at the last Euros when neighbours Switzerland held them to a 3-3 draw before knocking them out on penalties.

In any case, Didier Deschamps boasts an incredible array of talent with a winning mentality. Kylian Mbappe is among the clear favourites to claim the Golden Boot (if he can shake off his illness) and as well as his young teammates, he’ll also be backed up by the experience of Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, who both seem to age like a fine wine.

Elsewhere, Germany may not be the formidable side they were 10 years ago when they won the World Cup in Brazil. However, they’ll fancy their chances at winning on home soil in what would be their first Euros triumph since 1996.

They’ve entered a new era under Julian Nagelsmann and they’re looking to the future, with exciting youngsters like Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz ready to take the mantle from old guard Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Manuel Neuer, who are surely entering their final tournament for Germany.

Euro 2024 may also be the final time we see Cristiano Ronaldo grace this competition. The 39-year-old helped his side to glory in France eight years ago and he’ll be desperate to go out with another piece of silverware. The Portuguese squad is littered with notable attacking stars, including Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Joao Felix, while veteran defender Pepe is still holding firm at the back.

Meanwhile, Spain will also be looking to challenge. Their days of winning tournaments before they’ve even started are in the past, but they still boast a strong squad. However, these competitions often throw up a shock with a big nation going out in the groups and Spain find themselves in the traditional ‘group of death’ alongside Croatia and Italy.

Who are the dark horses?

It seems bizarre that the holders of the trophy can be considered outsiders but Italy aren’t particularly fancied to retain their crown. They went all the way last time out, beating England on penalties in the final. However, their squad lacks the ‘X factor’ it once had, with no standout star like Ronaldo, Mbappe or Kane that can win them a game out of nowhere. Saying that, they always seem to find a way to grind out a route to the latter stages.

Elsewhere, Croatia and Belgium will always pose a threat, with talismen Luka Modric and Romelu Lukaku regular stars in this competition. The Netherlands will fancy their chances with Virgil van Dijk at the back and although Memphis Depay struggled at Manchester United all those years ago, he always shows up for his country.

Finally, Denmark are a genuine overlooked outsider. They reached the semi-finals four years ago, narrowly losing 2-1 to England in extra-time after taking the lead at Wembley. Their squad is full of recognisable Premier League talent and we’ll truly see what they’re made of when they face England in the group stage.

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