Is this finally England‘s time?
With Harry Kane in blistering form, Jude Bellingham Europe’s most talked about young player and a settled side with proven tournament experience, Gareth Southgate‘s side will rightly be among the Euro 2024 favourites.
World Cup semi-finalists in 2018, Euro 2020 runners-up and quarter-finalists at last year’s Qatar World Cup, England have comes agonisingly close to the glory that eluded them since 1966.
They qualified with ease for the finals in Germany, meaning the upcoming qualifiers with Malta on Friday and North Macedonia on Monday are completely without pressure.
But Southgate will want to not only continue the winning momentum but ensure a first-place finish in their qualifying group and top seed status in next month’s Euro draw.
So how are England’s principal rivals looking as we approach the final international football of 2023?
England secured their place at Euro 2024 when they defeated Italy at Wembley last month
With their team of many talents, England are regarded as the favourites to win Euro 2024
The countdown to Euro 2024 in Germany is well underway with the ball launched this week
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Euro 2020 – lost to Switzerland in last-16
Qualified on October 13, top of Group B
It’s a sign of France’s strength in the international game that pushing them close in a World Cup quarter-final was seen as a sign of progress by England.
The 2018 world champions and 2022 runners-up boast a fearsome squad and they’ve made light work of qualifying with six wins from six.
Their squad just oozes class with big game players from the biggest teams – Dayot Upamecano, William Saliba and the Hernandez brothers at the back, Real Madrid stars Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield, then the devastating Kylian Mbappe up front.
Didier Deschamps has a nice blend of experienced figures who’ve gone the distance at tournaments – Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud are well over a century of caps – and a whirring conveyor belt of emerging talents like Warren Zaire-Emery.
Are there weaknesses? Mbappe’s future may prove to be a distraction next summer if once again his long-mooted move from Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid sparks endless speculation.
The only other way they could fail is with another bout of squad infighting during the tournament. It’s happened before but this France side are a formidable prospect and rightly considered among the favourites to lift the trophy.
France will surely provide England’s principal competition at the tournament next summer
Any speculation over Kylian Mbappe’s future could prove a distraction for the French squad
Euro 2024 winner odds
England – 4/1
France – 9/2
Germany – 6/1
Spain – 7/1
Portugal – 9/1
Belgium – 12/1
Italy, Netherlands – 14/1
Odds courtesy of Sky Bet
Euro 2020 – lost to England in last-16
Qualified as hosts
Hosting a tournament is terrific but not having to qualify for one can be problematic. Germany crashed out of the World Cup after the group stage and then suffered some shocking friendly results.
Hansi Flick became the first Germany coach ever to be sacked after a dreadful 4-1 loss to Japan in September, their fourth loss in five games.
Caretaker Rudi Voller picked up a morale-boosting win over France and now Julian Nagelsmann has been entrusted with delivering a competitive Germany side for their home tournament.
But their squad just never seems to change very much. Their latest selection features 11 players over the age of 30 and just one under-25.
It may well be that, inspired by fervent home crowds, the likes of Thomas Muller, Ilkay Gundogan and Mats Hummels can fight the dying light and go all the way.
Some are banging at the door – like Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz and Karim Adeyemi – but the old guard are proving stubborn to budge.
Maybe Nagelsmann can enact a reset for Germany but at the minute it seems to be a case of just presenting a capable side to avoid embarrassment.
Not too many will fear them after what has been a less-than-ideal preparation.
Germany may have home advantage but their build-up to the Euros has been a shocker
Julian Nagelsmann replaced Hansi Flick in the hotseat and will aim to turn things around
Euro 2020 – lost to Italy in semi-finals
Qualified on October 15, top of Group A
When Luis Enrique stepped down following their World Cup exit to Morocco, Spain appeared to be in a state of flux.
There were misgivings over the appointment of under-21 coach Luis de la Fuente ahead of a more prominent name, something amplified when they lost to Scotland in March.
But they’ve since qualified for Euro 2024 with ease and won the UEFA Nations League to restore faith in the national side.
Spain’s team is infused with some seriously talented youngsters like Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati, Lamine Yamal and Alejandro Balde, making them an exciting prospect.
They’re not as good as the vintage 2008-2012 teams but the presence of Manchester City lynchpin Rodri in midfield and captain Alvaro Morata up front serves as a reminder of their quality.
Will this tournament come a little too soon for the youngsters to excel? Potentially. But we can expect Spain to be there at the business end with great promise for the future.
Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring for Spain against Scotland in last month’s qualifier in Seville
Euro 2020 – lost to Belgium in last-16
Qualified on October 13, top of Group J
Portugal qualifying record is astonishing. Eight matches, eight wins, 32 goals scored and just two conceded.
But that counts for little given the ease of their group – stuffing 15 goals past Luxembourg and eight past Bosnia certainly doesn’t mean they’ll shine next summer.
Nonetheless, they have momentum and you’d anticipate Roberto Martinez preparing a competitive team.
As usual, all the talk will be around Cristiano Ronaldo in what will surely be his final tournament given he’ll be 39 by next June. He has scored nine goals in qualifying, taking his international record to 127 goals in 203 games.
His sulky reaction to being dropped at the World Cup derailed Portugal’s whole campaign so Martinez has a balancing act to perform.
Eventually, the baton has to pass to Diogo Jota, Joao Felix, Goncalo Ramos and Co. It’s certainly true that Portugal have a side packed with quality, with Ruben Neves, Bernardo Silva, Matheus Nunes and Bruno Fernandes also there.
But can they deliver when it really matters? And will Ronaldo be help or hindrance?
Cristiano Ronaldo hugs Portugal coach Roberto Martinez, who has kept him in the team
Euro 2020 – lost to Italy in quarter-finals
Qualified on October 13, top of Group F
Belgium’s qualifying campaign has been totally overshadowed by the tragic shooting of two Swedish fans in Brussels ahead of last month’s game.
They’d already booked their place prior to that and Belgium’s recovery under Domenico Tedesco following a shocking World Cup campaign has been solid enough.
With no more burdensome talk of a ‘Golden Generation’, perhaps Belgium can spring a surprise.
A number of the players are still there – they’ll hope and pray Kevin De Bruyne is free of injury and Romelu Lukaku continues his good start at Roma. Leonardo Trossard is doing well at Arsenal and Manchester City’s Jeremy Doku a nod to a fresh generation.
The Red Devils needed a bit of a refresh and Tedesco is overseeing that with some new faces being given a chance.
Belgium may not have enough to go all the way but they should perform far better than at the World Cup.
Manchester City star Jeremy Doku will be important for Belgium at next year’s tournament
Euro 2020 – winners
Not yet qualified, currently third in Group C
The defending champions find themselves in a spot of bother even trying to get to the tournament.
Beaten home and away by England in Group C, they find themselves in a tussle with Ukraine for second spot.
Next up, it’s North Macedonia, who beat them in the 2022 World Cup play-offs, and then the Ukrainians in what may well be a winner-takes-all clash.
They’ll get into the play-offs whatever but Italy have bad memories of such high pressure games.
So it’s all far from convincing for Luciano Spalletti’s side, who played well in the first-half at Wembley but wilted when England turned it on.
None of their forwards provide enough goals – Gianluca Scamacca and Ciro Immobile have just one each in qualifying – and an astonishing 58 players have been called up in the past 12 months, suggesting nobody knows who their best team is.
Assuming Italy make it, perhaps the dark horse status may alleviate some pressure and play to Italy’s advantage. But as it stands, they look in transition with no clear direction forward.
Italy lost to England last time out and could find themselves facing the play-offs once again
Euro 2020 – lost to Czech Republic in last-16
Not yet qualified, currently second in Group A
The Dutch will secure their qualifying place if they beat the Republic of Ireland on Saturday but evidence is scant they can challenge next summer.
Ronald Koeman came back for a second spell at the start of the year after Louis van Gaal guided them to the World Cup quarter-finals, losing on penalties to eventual winners Argentina.
A four-goal drubbing by France in Paris was an inauspicious start and the Netherlands also flopped on home turf in the Nations League finals. France also won in Amsterdam last month.
So there is once again a feeling that the Netherlands are in a state of flux.
They certainly don’t want for quality on paper – captain Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, Matthijs de Ligt and Jurrien Timber in defence, Frenkie de Jong and Ryan Gravenberch in midfield, and Cody Gakpo, Donyell Malen and Memphis Depay in attack.
But forging all this into a coherent whole that can test the very best opponents remains a challenge for Koeman heading into next summer.
The Netherlands have been defeated home and away by France during Euro 2024 qualifying
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Source From: Football | Mail Online
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