The Ultimate Euro 2024 Preview

With less than 48 hours until the 2024 European Championships get underway as Germany wish to start in winning ways in a bid to become the first team to win the trophy on home soil since France in 1984. A festival of football is set to ensue in Western Europe, and without further ado, Here’s how I see Euro 2024 unfolding.


The Group Stage


Group A


4th: Scotland


The Tartan Army should by no means be frowned out or underestimated this summer, boasting a squad with a number of top-flight stalwarts both North and South of the Border. However, I see them as merely the worst of a ‘good bunch’ in Group A, and the loss of Lyndon Dykes may leave them overly reliant on goals from afar. The burden falling on the likes of Scott McTominay and John McGinn, with Lawrence Shankland and Che Adams yet to establish themselves on the international scene.


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3rd: Switzerland


Ranked 19th in FIFA’s World Rankings, many will fancy the Swiss to have a strong tournament. Murat Yakin’s outfit have a clear ‘spine’ stretching from Yann Sommer, a head of experience at one end, to the youthful Noah Okafor leading the line. Interspersed with seasoned mainstays in the Premier League such as Newcastle’s Fabian Schar and Manchester City’s Manuel Akanji and those performing particularly well continentally; the likes of Bayer Leverkusen’s Granit Xhaka and Bologna’s Remo Freuler. The Swiss promise to be a strong outfit, and arbitrarily, it was a toss of a coin between themselves and the nation I have in second.



2nd: Hungary


Evoking the 1950’s ‘Aranycasapat’ (The Golden Team), I foresee Hungary beating above their proverbial weight and progressing as second place in this challenging group. An enormously impressive display in qualifying left Hungary unbeaten and this form may well transpire into the preliminary stages of this year’s European Championship. The success of the Hungarian side this summer will hinge on a few rather young but incredibly talented emerging talents; Liverpool’s pre-eminent Dominik Szoboszlai, Bournemouth’s electrifying Milos Kerkez and a particular one to watch is SC Freiburg’s Roland Sallai.


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1st: Germany


As hosts, if Germany fail to progress (or even win) this group, it would be seen universally as a drastic failure given the resources at the hands of Julian Nagelsmann. The sheer abundance of talent, particularly in attacking areas, should be sufficient (to say the least) to bypass this group with no notable complications on the long way. The key to the fluidity of their progression lies in the fluidity of those leading the line for Germany. The two ‘Ramdeuters’ in Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, and their interconnection with false 9, Kai Havertz.


Group B


4th: Albania


Albania enter the tournament as the last-but-one in terms of World Rankings, ‘beaten’ only by Georgia. Unfortunately, despite how incredible it would be to see Albania progress from a widely regarded ‘group-of-death’, I think they lack the overall completion that the established nations that join them have. I fear that star man Armando Broja will be left isolated and deficient of service, and therefore it is tough to see Albania progressing.


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3rd: Croatia


I have chosen Croatia, but truthfully, these teams have chopped and changed enormously in my estimations and I believe you could make a valid case for any of the top three in this group to be in any order. However, when push-comes-to-shove and a decision has to ultimately be made over who will not be granted automatic advancement into the knockouts, I kept coming back to Croatia as the team to miss out narrowly.



All three of these teams have a myriad of talent, however I fear that the attacking firepower which the likes of Mario Mandžukić (admittedly still anathema to the England fan such as myself) has diminished and in tournament football, which so heavily hinges thereon I see Croatia as being closely edged out by one of the pre-tournament favourites and the current holders…but in which order?


2nd: Italy


A new look Italy, with Luciano Spalleti at the helm, represents a new era for Gli Azzurri. Boasting the attacking artillery of Juventus forward Federico Chiesa, Europa League champion and Atalanta striker Gianluca Scamacca and Inter defender Alessandro Bastoni, a rejuvenated Italy appear equipped to challenge, like they did in 2021, to ascend to the peak of European international football.


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However, the losses (via injury) of Giorgio Scalvini and Nicolò Barella leave a significant void. Moreover, drawing on and extrapolating from their 3–1 loss to England (a theme that may be repeated later) in qualifying, I see Italy in a slightly lower tier of prowess than the group of clear favourites of which Group B’s winners are one.


1st: Spain


Under the stewardship of Luis de la Fuente, I am expecting to see a much more direct, transitional and expressive team than that of their last appearance at the Euro’s, which whilst to some extent was successful, was also at times stale. De la Fuente is frequently compared, in terms of his path to international management as the ‘Spanish Gareth Southgate’. By my reckoning, that’s an enormous compliment to Luis, not a universal point of view for England fans albeit.



Nonetheless, the comparisons arise due to De la Fuente’s success with the age-grade Spain teams before finally taking over the senior team. As quintessentially Spanish, the peak of their powers lies in the middle of the park, with Pedri and Rodri two of the finest midfielders worldwide. Moreover, the squad is bulked out with a plethora of talent at every position, and there is good reason as to why many oddsmakers have them within the top 5 pre-tournament favourites.


Group C


4th: Serbia


After a really poor World Cup campaign for Serbia, who finished at the bottom of their group and only picked up one point in the process, by estimations are low to say the least. Aleksandar Mitrović’s exodus to the Saudi Pro League makes me question the sharpness of their leading goal threat and I worry significantly that Dragan Stojković is set for yet another underwhelming tournament at the Serbian helm and the validity of his role will come under scrutiny. Superficially, I’d argue they appear one of the worst teams defensively tournament-wide.



3rd: Denmark


Identical to Serbia, who they closely surpass in my estimations, the Danish team had a miserable time at the 2022 World Cup recording a solitary point. Consequently, their prowess on the international stage, buoyant after such a strong and inspiring run in 2021, is rapidly deteriorating.



This tournament will be furtherly indicative of this, characterised by their group-stage elimination here, failing to secure one of the so-called ‘lucky-loser’ spots. Albeit, I think Rasmus Højlund will be a shining light in what will otherwise be a relatively dysfunctional unit compared to the Denmark of old. Due to the configuration of the groups, I think Denmark will be one of two ‘unlucky losers’ who do not progress despite finishing 3rd in their group.


2nd: Slovenia


This is perhaps the most arbitrary of all my predictions. Nevertheless, my call on Slovenia lies in the hands of two key performers at opposing ends of the pitch. One of which being the outstanding and established Jan Oblak and the other being RB Leipzig’s budding world-beater, namely Benjamin Šeško. However, arbitrary these claims may see, the data points to Slovenia as strong fashioners of good goalscoring chances, with 122 shots in 10 games of qualifying.


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Moreover, short-run positive output gaps in terms of xG are often key to overcoming the minuscule margins that tournament football are synonymous with. Whereby, Slovenia’s current over-performance (in qualifying) netting 20 from a mere expected 13.6 bodes well for them to pull of this upset and finish as group runners-up.


1st: England


Being English, of course, I have a predisposition to be overly optimistic about how the Three Lions will perform each and every summer. In fact, I think the 7-year-old me in 2014 thought that the team who could not defeat minnows Costa Rica, were going to win the tournament.


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I’d like to think now that my analysis is matured and bipartisan, and yet simultaneously I feel England are clearly the best team in this group by quite a significant margin. I believe we boast true world class ability at each and every position (excluding our non-existent left backs perhaps!) and that this group should not prove particularly straining.


Group D


4th: Poland


Poland, quite like Albania, albeit not to the same extent, fall in a group where fortuitously three teams of distinctively higher quality fall above them and there is very little they can do to mitigate this.


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3rd: Austria


To be transparent, I have been undecided between 2nd and 3rd, and I am still not totally convinced. However, I chose Austria to finish 3rd as I believe that where the Netherlands have a defenisve embarrassment-of-riches, consisting of the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Jeremie Frimpong to name a select few, the Austrians lack this assured defensive solidity. However, this can be counterweighted by Ralf Rangnick’s aggressive, suffocating Gegenpressing  which should create chances aplenty for midfield threats such as Marcel Sabitzer and Christoph Baumgartner who fit the system perfectly.



2nd: Netherlands


Quite simply, I implore you to read the 4th and 5th lines of the paragraph above…. In all seriousness, despite my reservations in Ronald Koeman as the returning coach. The squad, including the particularly proficient defence aforementioned, boasts unrelenting talent in every area. If Koeman can play his cards right, the hypothetical link-up play between Xavi Simons and Joshua Zirkzee should shine through this summer and be a precursor for the formula to get the best out of the Netherlands in years to come.


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1st: France


In the same way that perhaps Poland are a ‘tier’ below Austria and the Netherlands in categorical terms, I’d suggest that this France team under Didier Deschamps is a clear-cut tier above those in the group; not dissimilar to my view on England, in relativity. Teetering on cliche, it is not untrue to say that a squad made from those omitted by France this tournament would delve pretty far into the latter stages of the tournament. The likes of Kylian Mbappe, William Saliba and Antoine Griezmann’s talents are self-explanatory and need no introduction. They should top this group seamlessly.



Group E


4th: Slovakia


Slovakia will be aiming to emulate the success I have predicted for their Slavic counterparts, Slovenia. However, I see them falling significantly short in their pursuit. A distinct lack of ‘firepower’ upfront and Hellas Verona’s Ondrej Duda the sole standout player in midfield, I fear that despite the defensive ability of Milan Škriniar and Dávid Hancko, Slovakia will struggle to outscore their opponents and in doing so will succumb to bottom place in their group.


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3rd: Romania


By the same token that eliminated Slovakia by my estimations, is the reason I have Romania narrowly progressing. Where Slovakia lack firepower, the capability of Ianis Hagi (son of Romanian legend Gheorghe Hagi), Dennis Man and Florinel Coman should provide a youthful rejuvenation to Romania, which will be sufficient to push them into the round of 16, likely the byproduct of an emphatic win over the Slovaks.


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2nd: Belgium


I believe that many-a-forecaster would have the innate presupposition to put Belgium top instinctively. To be fair, it’s the most likely outcome. However, it’s not the outcome that I believe will occur. This will be Domenico Tedesco’s first major international tournament with Belgium and I see them as a somewhat unquantifiable entity. Draws against Sweden and Austria (albeit in an unbeaten qualifying campaign) our indicative that they are not an insurmountable force.


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The defensive solidity that Belgium once prided itself on is unrecognisable and despite the enormous amount of talent in the squad, with the likes of Loïs Openda standing out. There is something that tells me, perhaps whimsically, that the group will not be plain sailing for Kevin De Bruyne & co, although they will still progress.


1st: Ukraine


I think this represents the first out-and-out ‘upset’. On paper, Belgium are the far superior team. However, I like the matchups between Ukraine and Belgium in what will prove to be the decisive game for the group. Ukraine have an exhilarating array of expressive attacking forces and I think the self-autonomy they are granted under Serhiy Rebrov will prove fundamental in releasing breakthrough star Mykhaylo Mudryk to prove himself on the international stage.


In conjunction with the emerging centrepiece of the Ukraine attack Girona striker Artem Dovbyk, who recorded 32 goal involvements in 36 matches in La Liga this year, if he can remotely recreate his efficiency for his nation. Furthermore, Ukraine are similarly secure at the other end of the pitch.



The multidimensional choices in defence include Bournemouth’s strong, progressive Ilya Zabarnyi and the jack-of-all-trades Oleksandr Zinchenko, as well as a gifted shotstopper in Anatolli Trubin (who has developed significantly since I wrote my report on him), pushed competitively by Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin . If not this tournament for Ukraine, then the future is bright in the footballing realm.


Group F


4th: Georgia


As the worst ranked team in the competition bar none, the odds are stacked substantially against them. Unfortunately, I see no fairytale story and I fear it could be a long tournament for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and those around him as they fundamentally lack the quality that others possess.


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3rd: Turkiye


Discerning between Türkiye and Czech Republic was a tough decision to make. For me, the difference lies in the fact that whilst the likes of Arda Güler are signs of prosperity for the former, at this moment in time. I question how much of a threat they are going forward. Moreover, a recent 6–1 thrashing at the hands of Austria does not fill me with confidence for Turkey to progress in the top 2; as they are winless in their last 6 under Vincenzo Montella. Nevertheless, by virtue of the format, they progress to the round of 16.



2nd: Czech Republic


Where Türkiye lack established attacking threats, Czech Republic boast league-winning invincible Patrik Schick who had a remarkable Euro 2020 and whilst he has played second-fiddle to Victor Boniface. His goalscoring proclivity in an international shirt is irrefutable.


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Supported by domestic teammate Adam Hložek, the synergy between the two, should be already formulated and this should reap rewards for them. I expect them to be involved in high-scoring shootouts with those below them, but ultimately, their quality prevailing to propel them out of the group.


1st: Portugal


Under the perspicacious management of Roberto Martinez, Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ failed to achieve any significant trophies, a marked disappointment. Therefore, questions lie over whether history will repeat itself, this time at the helm of the 2016 champions Portugal, as always, are spoilt with choices in every position.


So much so that Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best to ever do it, is by no means a guaranteed starter in the team, in fact recent results have been more favourable without him than with his involvement. I believe that Portugal given their innate, individualistic ability should progress from a relatively tame group with relative indifference. The team’s (and the head coach thereof) true levels will be shown come the knockout rounds.



In order to prevent any confusion, the top two go through from every group automatically and the 4 best performing 3rd placed teams go through. For me, these will be (in this order):


  • Turkiye
  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Switzerland


and thereby eliminated are:

  • Croatia
  • Denmark


Round of 16


Germany V Slovenia


Here Slovenia fall to a much more diversified range of talent, in a very one-sided affair. Nevertheless, they should be enormously proud to progress from a group that very few (including the bookmakers and analysts) would see them coming out the other side of.


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Hungary V Italy


A similar story for Hungary, as it was for Slovenia. Although, I think this game will be a closer one than that above. Italy’s universal talent will tell and Hungary will fall victims as the holders’ take one step closer to retention.


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Spain V Romania


Once again, like the two prior, it is tough to not side (in a knockout game) with the side of greater overall quality. Spain will control the game-state from start to finish and will win comfortably, likely keeping a clean sheet in the process.


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England V Türkiye


It may seem I am picking the ‘favourites’, and that’s because I am. Ultimately, one of the best squads in the world should overturn Türkiye with relative ease. By this point, Baddiel, Skinner and Lightning Seeds will have invariably netted sufficient royalties to see them through to the next tournament cycle.


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Portugal V Switzerland


This will be a closer game than perhaps any that precede this affair. Switzerland will channel their inner pragmatist and hold on for dear life against the offensive onslaught of Portugal. However, in a war of attrition, I see Roberto Martinez’s Portugal progressing, as he begins to configure his best eleven, likely at the cost of Cristiano Ronaldo.



Netherlands V Belgium


This is a make-or-break game for both nations to some extent. Where domestic expectations will be mammoth and the pressure of the encounter will be intense. Here Belgium’s difficulty in the group transpires into the knockout rounds and the whole will appear less than the sum of their parts and the burden will fall predominantly on Tedesco as the ‘championship window’ closes ever-so-more for the Belgians.



Ukraine V Austria


By contrast, neither of these nations will have the presupposition of knockout success this summer in the hearts of those at home. I’d foresee this being an open affair, as Rangnick’s press meets the free-roaming Ukrainians. A high scoring and expansive game of tournament football, which in its essence is conveyed oxymoronically will be edged ever-so-slightly by Ukraine with a winning goal from Dovbyk adding to his tally.


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France V Czechia


Unfortunately, for those in the Czech Republic , they have pulled the proverbial short-straw. France will, in simple terms, overpower a relatively helpless Czech Republic and will progress to the quarter-finals avoiding the deja-vu of a banana skin defeat emulating the RO16 by Switzerland in Euro 2020.


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Quarter Finals


Spain V Germany


Two of the best teams in the competition clash in this quarterfinal matchup. It is hard to differentiate the levels of quality between the teams, and insofar it is a marginal clash. One of the predominant margins involved is the home-field advantage that Germany will have throughout this tournament, but will particularly shine through in the knockout games. The Germans will be afforded a greater degree of expression compared to a Spanish side which may be, contrastingly, inhibited and the hostility may lead to Germany being able to control the game-state.


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Portugal V Netherlands


Two teams who are enormously individualistic in their talent, here it is important that the respective coaches, both of whom are susceptible to a degree of dogma, had ought to embrace the quality of each and every player and as is frequently needed in tournaments; create a situation where the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Here, I think, Roberto Martinez will edge Ronald Koeman, given perhaps he has more resource to hand, will be able to overcome the Dutch, in a battle of the ex-Everton managers and edge towards replicating the heroics of 2016.


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Ukraine V France


Here I believe ends the fairytale story of Ukraine. The clear ‘dark horse’ from my predictions ultimately succumb to one of the finest squads created in international football since the turn of the century. Ukraine, will likely approach the game in an expansive, avant-garde way. This deserves applause, however, I fear they will be architects of their own downfall and will be super-ceded by an inherently better team who will be able to expose their more expansive style in a patient, coherent manner.



England V Italy


Once again, taking away my bias, I still truly believe that England are the best squad in this tournament and therefore I believe they will avenge the loss from the final in 2021 at Wembley and propel themselves towards their first ever European Championship in a bid to go one better than last time out. Tactically, the vast array of attacking talent; Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden & Cole Palmer will be intolerable for a growingly frail Italian defence.



Semi Finals


Germany V Portugal


Once again, I believe the home advantage of Germany will prevail in a close encounter. Perhaps, Germany as the more synergistic of the two sides will have reached a cohesion that perhaps the overly individualistic Portugal may struggle to cope with comparatively. Unlike earlier stages, it may not be that Germany are the better team, however, given the conditions and given the composition I believe Germany will turn better.



France V England


France were responsible for the fall of England from the 2022 World Cup, with an infamous Harry Kane penalty all-but confirming the elimination. Here, I see Gareth Southgate’s pragmatism paying off and like they did with Italy, once again enact their revenge on those who had previously got the better of the Three Lions.


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Germany V England


So by my estimations, ultimately, it will be a rematch of the Euro 2020 Round of 16 at Wembley, in the final on June 16th at the Olympiastadion. I anticipate a cagey affair, quite like that day in 2021, with late and infrequent goals. Whereas Germany, being on home soil, had been able to enhance this every time and defeat those prior, I think England will prove the exception to this consistent rule throughout the tournament.



The difference maker I believe will be Jude Bellingham, a boy nurtured on German soil in Dortmund, who will act as the dual-way protagonist and I believe quite like Opta’s supercomputer that this year Harry Kane will eventually lift a trophy in Germany, albeit not the one he may have had his eyes on the rest of the year, and England will win their first trophy since the 1966 FIFA World Cup.


By: Max Nicholls / @maxnicholls14

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / John Berry / Getty Images