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EURO 2024 Preview: Festival Of Football To Kick Off

Photo Credit: UEFA

Hosts Germany will get the tournament underway versus Scotland in Munich, beginning a month of football to determine the next European champions.

Julian Naglesmann's side will be hoping to deliver on the heavy expectation to keep the trophy on German soil when the tournament concludes in Berlin on July 14th. But there will be plenty of other nations also vying for the trophy.

The Top Contenders

As already stated, Germany will have feverous home support backing them, hoping they can go all the way. Coupled with a vibrant young manager and a talented crop of players, they are rightly right amongst the favourites. But, their record in the past three major tournaments has been disappointing, with two group stage exits and last 16 defeat to England at EURO 2020.

Didier Deschamps France will of course be very highly fancied by many. The second ranked team in the world, have arguably the world's best player in their ranks with superstar Kylian Mbappé. Les Bleus reached the final of the World Cup in 2022, having won the trophy four years earlier in 2018.

Portugal, spearhead by one the greatest players of all time Cristiano Ronaldo, are more than capable of adding to their 2016 triumph. Their squad boasts the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernando Silva and Joao Felix to name a few.

Belgium, Croatia, Spain & Netherlands and defending champions Italy are all within the top 10 of the FIFA rankings and there is no doubt that they all have the potential to win the championships.

Then of course, there is England who get their campaign underway on Sunday evening against Serbia. Without a major trophy since 1966, with a nation desperate to celebrate footballing success, the Three Lions certainly have the ability to go all the way.

A lot of hope will rest on England's attacking talent to carry the team all the way, with Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham expected to lead the charge, spearheaded by all-time leading scorer Harry Kane. This is Gareth Southgate's fourth major tournament as manager and has reached at least a quarter-final on each occasion. He will be hoping that this current group of players are now ready to make history and go all the way.

Group Of Death

Group B has the most eye-catching fixtures scheduled for the group stage.

Spain, Croatia and Italy have been drawn alongside the perhaps unfortunate Albania, who are appearing in their second European championships.

The Spanish are far removed from the glory years of 2008-2012, but still have real world class quality in their 26-man squad with Manchester City's Rodri anchoring the midfield.

Croatia captained by Luka Modric are always among the dark horses for the title and reached the World Cup final in 2018, where they overcame England in the semi-final, before falling to France in the final.

Luciano Spallettil takes the Italian's into Germany as defending champions, having taken the reins from Roberto Mancini. 'The Azzurri' will hope to repeat their recent triumph, but will be well pushed to make it out of such a competitive group. 

Spain and Croatia will get the group proceedings underway Saturday evening at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. 

The Debutants

EURO 2024 will see only one nation making its debut in the competition, despite the format being extended from 16 to 24 teams since 2016. 

Georgia have reached their first ever major finals as an independent nation, having overcome Luxemburg and 2004 champions Greece to make it to Germany. 

The nation are currently ranked at 75th in the world and are managed by former Bayern Munich defender Willy Sagnol. They will compete in Group F, alongside Turkey, Czechia and Roberto Martinez's Portugal. 

Ones To Watch

Florian Wirtz (Germany)

A star of Bayer Leverkusen's remarkable double winning season, including going unbeaten in the Bundesliga.  The 21-year old creative attacking midfielder can sparkle in attack and provided 18 goals and 20 assists for Xabi Alonso's side this season.

He has been a mainstay in the national team since the arrival of Julian Nagglesmann and his creativity in the set up alongside Jamal Musiala makes for a potent German attack. 

João Neves (Portugal)

The 19-year old defensive midfielder is tipped by many to shine throughout the summer. Plying his trade at Benfica, the youngster is only 7 caps into his international career. and is attracting interest across the continent. He has most recently been lined with a £100m move to Manchester United.

An excellent reader of the game and a combative holding midfield player, he is also very accomplished in possession and extremely comfortable on the ball. 

Jude Bellingham (England)

An obvious choice of course, as the England man has now established himself as a household name in world football.

Following his summer transfer to European giants Real Madrid for £88m, the mercurial talent played a pivotal role in helping Carlo Ancelotti's side to a La Liga and Champions League double. Being deployed in the more advanced 10 position, Bellingham made 36 goal contributions during the season (23 goals & 13 assists). 

He has already demonstrated his strength of character and mentality for the big occasion and with so much now expected of him when representing the Three Lions, can the Birmingham born superstar deliver when his country needs him most. There is no doubt that he has the ability and the mindset to set the tournament alight. 

Feature Interview:

On Thursday (June 13th) morning, former Norwich City, Chelsea and Celtic striker Chris Sutton, who also made 1 appearance up front for England in 1997, spoke with Ian James and Paul Marsh on Express FM about the upcoming tournament and England's chances of success.

Jake Smith will have all of the reaction to the opening few games of the 2024 UEFA European Championship with Paul Marsh and James Wilson on the next instalment of The Football Hour, Monday the 17th of June from 6pm!

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