The 17th edition of the UEFA 2024 European Football Championship gets underway in Germany with numerous countries having legitimate claims to become the new champions of the continent.The hosts start proceedings in Group A with a game against Scotland in the Allianz Arena in Munich. Manager Julian Nagelsmann has already courted controversy in the German press by his squad selection.

He did not find room for the in-form Borussia Dortmund trio Mats Hummels, Karim Adeyemi and Julian Brandt which surprised many.

Hummels was particularly upset about the omission telling the press, “It’s bitter for me as an individual because I’m currently one of the five best defenders in Germany”.

However, there is reward for the duo from Xavi Alonso’s very successful Bayer Leverkusen side Robert Andrich and Florian Wirtz who will be part of the squad and Toni Kroos is also included despite announcing his retirement from club football with Real Madrid.

With Serge Gnabry injured, the Germans will rely heavily on strikers Kai Havertz and the evergreen Thomas Müller for their goals.

Scotland have quietly been moulded into a respectable footballing outfit by Steve Clarke and with the ‘Hampden faithful’ converging on mainland Europe they will have amongst the biggest support in the tournament.

John McGinn ran the show in a pre-season friendly for Aston Villa against Valencia last year and they have La Liga representation with Kieran Tierney who played for Real Sociedad last season. The squad looks a bit lightweight in the forward department so finding the net could be a big issue for the Scots.

Hungary finished third, in the second ever European Championship that was played in Spain in 1964. Anything remotely close to that achievement would be a resounding success, but just advancing from the group stages would satisfy many of their supporters.

Dániel Gazdag is an interesting inclusion. The former Honved player now plays in the MLS with Philadelphia Union and scored against England in the UEFA Nations league when the Eastern Europeans thumped the Three Lions 4-0 at Molineux in 2022.

Switzerland complete the teams in Group A and they will need positive contributions from their star players Granit Xhaka (Leverkusen) and striker Noah Okafor (AC Milan) if they are to reach the knock out stages of the competition.

Group B pairs Spain once again with Croatia. The current European champions Italy are also part of the four teams with Albania completing the line-up.

Valencia’s poor season is highlighted by the fact there are no Mestalla based players in the squad of 26 for Spain. Hugo Guillamón did not do enough to convince the manager of a place and José Luis Gayà is unlucky with injury.

Another crucial player missing is Gavi from Barcelona. He tore his ACL whilst on international duty last October and has still not recovered to be in contention for selection. Reflecting on the injury at the time the Spanish coach, De La Fuente commented “The dressing room is like a funeral parlour. This is the hardest moment I have experienced in Football.”

Foios born Ferran Torres is in the squad and will hopefully get some playing time, but most fans will have their eyes on the Barcelona teenage sensation Lamine Yamal, to see if he lives up to all the hype and expectation.

At the other end of the age scale, Luca Modric will once again be pulling strings in the Croatia midfield. Osasuna’s Ante Budimir and Mateo Kovačić  of Manchester City are other players to follow with interest.

Defending champions Italy have quite a different look to the team that won the tournament last time out. A big miss will be Marco Verratti.

His decision to leave Paris Saint Germain to sign for the Qatar side Al-Arabi did not go down well with the Italian Football Association and the division between the two parties seems to have worsened recently. Verratti’s former team mate in France, the goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma may be called upon more than in 2020 and his form could be a major factor in how far the Azzurri progress.

Albania will do well to avoid being the ‘whipping boys’ in what was a nightmare draw for them. Iván Balliu of Rayo Vallecano may be a name LaLiga fans recognise. The majority of their squad ply their club trade in Italy and they are managed by the former Arsenal and Barcelona player Sylvinho.

The third group that was drawn out put the countries of Slovenia, Denmark and Serbia with England together.

Gareth Southgate fuelled the back pages of the English tabloids with the decision to not take Jack Grealish and the warm-up game at Wembley against Iceland did not go to plan as it ended in a single goal defeat and with John Stones limping off at half time.

With Harry Maguire also not on the plane to Italy, there are serious concerns about the depth of the defensive pool. Despite another fruitless season, trophy-wise, Harry Kane has had a wonderful start to life in Germany. He will be key to any trophy triumph on what is now considered his home soil.

Serbia are likely to have a former favourite at Valencia (Nemanja Maksimović) at the heart of their midfield, and he should be joined by Nemanja Gudelj of Sevilla in the starting line-up. Maverick striker Aleksandar Mitrović will be expected to supply the goals.

Their Balkan counterparts Slovenia are also dangerous opposition for England. In Atlético Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak they have one of the best shot stoppers in the world. Sampdoria’s Petar Stojanović and RB Leipzig’s Benjamin Šeško are also in Matjaž Kek’s squad, and his team are more than capable of causing an upset at some point in the group stages.

There is no Daniel Wass for Denmark but the Manchester United duo of Christian Eriksen and Rasmus Højlund do figure and they would grace any teams starting eleven at the Euros. A repeat of their 1992 tournament win seems unlikely but expect them to go deep in the competition.


Group D consists of Poland, Netherlands, Austria and France. Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski returns to Germany with his country after many fantastic years at club level with Bayern Munich and he will be key to any kind of progress for the Poles.

A resurgent Dutch team is great for football in general and a strong run in the competition would please a lot of football purists.

Virgil van Dijk, his former Liverpool team mate Georginio Wijnaldum, and Memphis Depay will be crucial players for Ronald Koeman, and the late call up for Joshua Zirkzee could prove a master stroke by the former Valencia coach.

Austria will do well to advance from this group but could prove to be the spoilers for the other countries. Andreas Weimann (West Brom) Konrad Laimer (Bayern Munich) and Marko Arnautović (Inter) are names that could have an impact on the tournament.

France are quite rightly one of the pre-tournament favourites and in Kylian Mbappé they have one of the best players in the world right now.

Antoine Griezmann has tasted World Cup success but he has never won this event. He was the top goal scorer in the 2016 competition when his country lost out to Portugal in the final. If Griezmann and Mbappé strike up a good on-field relationship, then it will be hard to stop Les Bleus taking the trophy back to Paris with them.

The penultimate group finds Belgium, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine clumped together.

The Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco has sensationally dropped Thibaut Courtois. It is a gutsy call by the former Leipzig manager and we will soon find out if it was the right one, but a team with Kevin De Bruyne in the side with supporting staff like Vertongen,Witsel and Jeremy Doku is capable of beating any team in this tournament on their day.

Slovakia had a disappointing 2020 Euros and will hope to advance past the group stages this time around.

The Newcastle keeper Martin Dúbravka is likely to see plenty of action, whilst Leo Sauer is a teenager who is beginning to establish himself in a very exciting Feyenoord side that have just won the Eredivisie. A good tournament could see the youngster bag a deal with one of the top European clubs in the not too distant future.

Romania are an enigma and could be troublesome to other countries if they can find any semblance of consistency.

Horațiu Moldovan is the understudy to Oblak at Atlético but should get minutes in the Euros to impress after his winter transfer from Rapid Bucharest.

La Liga companians Andrei Rațiu (Rayo) and Ianis Hagi (Alaves) are included in the 26, with Tottenham defender Radu Drăgușin arguably being the stand out player.

Ukraine will be determined to put on a show to improve the morale in their beleaguered country. Valencia striker Roman Yaremchuk is likely to spearhead the attack in Germany before returning back to Club Brugge in July.

The last four teams to enter the competition are Turkey, Georgia, Portugal and the Czech Republic.

The Turks are capable of beating any of these teams but have a self-destruction button when it comes to discipline that they will have to control. Italian coach Vincenzo Montella seems a strange coach to harness the squad together but to date he has done a good job.

Cenk did not make the team unfortunately for Valencia fans but Arda Gülar from Real Madrid is included. Nearly half the squad either play for the Istanbul clubs Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray or Besiktas emphasizing the rejuvenation of Turkish football at this moment in time.

Mamardashvili is likely to be between the sticks for all three of Georgia’s matches unless something drastic happens. If Levante’s Giorgi Kochorashvili can get a similar amount of playing time it will add further interest to their progress for football fans in the city.

Portugal, as ever, will be looking for inspiration from Ronaldo. João Cancelo can also bring some stability to his club career with a solid showing. The target of several Premier League clubs João Neves can show the watching world what the fuss is all about. It could also be a breakthrough tournament for João Félix.

Finally, the Czech Republic. The West Ham duo Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal have done well for their club in European ventures in the last couple of years and would love to replicate that success at international level.

The Leverkusen forwards Patrik Schick and Adam Hložek will torment any defence and manager Ivan Hašek could have in his hands, one of the dark horses in the competition.

So, time to settle down and enjoy a month of wholesome football with some classic matches! Let us hope for tournament winners who are worthy Euro 2024 Champions.


Report by John Howden

Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’

Football Image by ‘Freepik’

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