Kickoff Countdown: Your Ultimate Guide to Euro 2024

June 14th, 2024 Cam Hughes


What a season it has been. The Premier League has seen controversies, points deductions and a record amount of goals. The Champions League has been incredible yet again. However, it's now time that all of our attention and excitement turns towards international football, and more specifically, The European Championships.

Every two years, the supporters of each nation competing in a major tournament get this wave of optimism as they all believe that this tournament could be the one where their country goes all the way and lifts the trophy.

What can we expect from this tournament?

This tournament feels a bit different to previous years. Previously, the European Championships have had a feel that any one of the major nations could win it. Maybe even a dark horse could sneak in under the radar and take the trophy home. This competition has had famous Cinderella stories over the years. Denmark won the competition in 1992 having actually failed to qualify for the tournament originally. Greece won the 2004 Euros seemingly out of nowhere. Of course, who could forget Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal going all of the way in 2016 despite not winning any of their group games. This year however, feels like it is going to be one of two countries, England or France.

These are - on paper - the two best squads heading into the competition. They are also the two teams that have consistently won knockout games of football in the most recent tournaments. France brings their experience of reaching finals and winning the World Cup in 2018. It also feels like England have been building up to this tournament since Gareth Southgate took the job in 2017. Therefore, it feels like it could be now or never for Southgate and this England squad.

Will football come home?

On paper, it is difficult to argue that there is a more talented squad heading into this tournament than England's. Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham could both end up being Ballon D'Or contenders, especially if England do go on to win this tournament. Phil Foden won the PFA Player of the Year Award. Declan Rice has had a season where he has cemented himself as one of the top midfielders in Europe, whilst simultaneously justifying the massive price tag Arsenal paid for him at the start of the season. However, the one lingering question about the squad continues to be, is the defence good enough? Unfortunately, the answer is probably no at the moment. England may have to win games by outscoring their opponents, rather than playing defensively and staying in games. This would be a complete contradiction to how Southgate has approached previous tournaments; so let's wait and see how he lines the team up.

France are the second favourites for the tournament. They have the widely accepted best player in the world currently in Kylian Mbappe. They also have an array of talent in Antoine Griezmann, AurelienTchouameni, Eduardo Camavinga, Ousmane Dembele and many more. It is frightening how many good players France have. However, they face two issues. One of which is something they share with England. Are they good enough defensively? It remains to be seen but in William Saliba, it looks like they have a world class centre back on their hands. However, it is hard to argue that the rest of the back 4 in the France team could be considered world class. Their other issue is the experience in the squad. If you look at the squad that won the 2018 World Cup, not many of the key players from that tournament will be available to France this summer. Paul Pogba had a huge influence on that squad but finds himself unavailable. Hugo Lloris captained that France side in 2018 and he is no longer the France number 1. Therefore, can France adapt their style and still find a way to win, because at the moment, it feels a little bit like if you stop Mbappe, you stop France.

Who else could win it?

Germany are the hosts for this tournament and strangely, nobody is really talking about them as contenders to go all of the way. It is rare for Germany not to be considered to win a major tournament, as they have proven over the years they have a winning culture. For them to not be considered as contenders going into a home tournament is almost shocking. It does, though, make sense why. In their last three tournament appearances, they have gone out in the group stages of both World Cups and lost in the round of 16 to England at the previous Euros. There is this lingering feeling though, that tells me, never write off this Germany team. Toni Kroos is back in the fold having come out of international retirement and this will be the swan song of his career. Kai Havertz has also found form and they have wingers with incredible pace and guile. They will of course be a threat at this tournament.

Italy are the holders of this tournament. However, it felt like they got all of the blood out of their stone three years ago. That team that consisted of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci won a tournament in possibly the most unfashionable way we have ever seen. This does show though, there is more than one way to win an international tournament and the Italian football team has always seemed to find a way, even when it has looked extremely unlikely.

Then there are the other key nations. Spain, Portugal and Belgium to name a few. Spain have had quite the drop off since they went on that run of winning three major tournaments in a row. Although they still possess an array of talent, I struggle to see them progressing all the way through the tournament and upsetting teams such as England or France.

We say this every tournament but this feels like it has to be Cristiano Ronaldo's last major tournament, and who would put it past him to do the spectacular and go all the way with his Portugal team. They have some world class players that have won some big trophies at club level; but I struggle to see them winning this tournament.

Belgium are still ranked extremely highly in the world rankings, but in a similar comment I made about France, it does feel like if you can stop Kevin De Bruyne, you can stop a lot of Belgium's threats. I would be surprised to see them make it past the quarter final stage.

Final Prediction:

After weighing up the squads of each nation and looking at the form of the players heading into the tournament, it would take a very brave person to predict anyone other than France or England winning this tournament. I, personally, do expect England to win the tournament, but this could be that fan optimism taking over as it tends to before each tournament. The key game will come when the two teams meet, likely to be in the semi-final of the tournament. The winner of that game would see themselves as heavy favourites to go on and win the whole thing. However, what I can say, no matter what happens, it is sure to be another summer of incredible football and unforgettable moments that fans across the continent cannot wait for.


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