Soccer

Euro 2024 Preview: Who Are the Favorites to Take the Trophy?

The UEFA European Football Championship kicks off Friday and will run for a month. Check out our list of the top contenders.

June 12, 2024

It’s time to kick off the battle for European soccer bragging rights. The UEFA European Football Championship — more simply, the Euros or Euro 2024 — begin Friday, Jun 14, with Germany playing Scotland at 3 p.m. ET in the first game of the tournament.

The nuts and bolts of it: Italy is the defending champion, having won in the COVID-delayed Euros in 2021. There are two phases, the group phase and the knockout phase, just as in the World Cup. In the group phase, each team plays the other three teams in their group. The top two teams in each group advance to the knockout phase, as do the top four third-place teams from all groups.

Just like the World Cup, there is the Round of 16, the quarterfinals, the semifinals and the final. Here is the official schedule and the group standings.

And, maybe you already know this, but the results of the Euros have no bearing on World Cup qualifying. That is a separate deal.

The Favorites

England

The Three Lions lost in penalty kicks to Italy in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium three years ago, and two years ago England lost to France in the World Cup knockout round.

Jude Bellingham helped lead Real Madrid to the UEFA Champions League title over Borussia Dortmund on June 1 and will try to help England win their first major international championship since 1966.

England can count on a strong attack with Bellingham, Cole Palmer, Phil Foden and veteran star striker Harry Kane. They’re again one of the favorites, if not the favorite — is Euro 2024 finally where they get it done?

France

Kylian Mbappé returns for Les Tricolores as the best player in the Euros. Manager Didier Deschamps has led the team to the 2018 World Cup title and runner-up finishes in the 2016 Euros and the 2022 World Cup.

Young midfielders Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouameni have helped France bolster a defense that looked shaky in the 2020 Euros.

Germany

The host team Germans haven’t won a knockout game since the 2016 Euros, going out in the group phase in the past two World Cups and losing to England in the Euro Round of 16 three years ago.

But Die Mannschaft has rising stars in Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala and Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz, who are able to create scoring chances. They’ll combine with Arsenal finsher Kai Havertz for a strong attack.

Coach Julian Nagelsmann is coming off victories over France and Netherlands in the spring, and the Germans should be able to dominate a Group A that includes Hungary, Scotland and Switzerland. Also — they’ll be playing in their home country.

Portugal

Yes, he’s back — Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the Euros at age 39. The living legend isn’t what he was, but he did score twice in a friendly against Ireland recently and started nine of 10 Euro qualifiers.

New manager Roberto Martínez has brought a more dynamic and aggressive offense, and only France had a higher xG per match and a better xG difference during the Euro qualifiers. The Portuguese expect to be strong contenders again this year.

Spain

La Roja finds itself in what is arguably the Euro 2024 “group of death,” with defending champion Italy and perennial upstarts Croatia. Albania does offer some relief as a much weaker opponent.

Right-winger Lamine Yamal, 16, is the youngest player in Euro history, and Spain has also promoted Nico Williams, 21, at left wing. Álvaro Morata returns for the Spaniards’ usual press-and-possess style.

But La Roja will need to avoid PK shootout defeats, which they suffered in the 2018 World Cup, 2020 Euros and 2022 World Cup.

Worthy Contenders

Italy

Serie A champion manager Luciano Spalletti hopes to provide consistency for a side that has been feast or famine in recent years — winning the 2020 Euros but failing to qualify for the World Cup in both 2018 and 2022.

The Azzurri have an excellent midfield in Jorginho, Nicolò Barella and Davide Frattesi. Gianluca Scamacca, who led Atalanta to the Europa League title, will be relied upon up top along with fellow forward Federico Chiesa.

Belgium

Center back and fullback are issues for the Red Devils, but they have one of the best attacking combos in international soccer in midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and forward Romelu Lukaku. Manchester City star Jérémy Doku is a threat on the wing, and Amadou Onana and Orel Mangala will help key the attack with their ball-winning ways in the midfield.

Netherlands

The Dutch are in a tough Group D with France and Austria, but are strong at the back with Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt, Nathan Aké, Stefan de Vrij and Micky van de Ven.

New manager Ronald Koeman will likely rely on the veteran Wout Weghorst for lead striker duties at Euro 2024.

Croatia

This Balkan nation of less than 4 million has continuously surprised with deep international tournament runs. The Vatreni lost the 2018 World Cup final and finished third in the 2022 World Cup.

Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic are one of the best midfield combos in these Euros, and rising star Joško Gvardiol leads one of the tournament’s strongest defenses.

Andrej Kramaric, who scored 15 goals for Hoffenheim this season, hopes to bolster a Croatian attack that didn’t create more than one expected goal in five of its seven World Cup matches in Qatar.

Alex Valdes
Alex Valdes is Web Content Manager at Tipico North America. He has written, edited and performed user and site analysis at MoneyTalksNews, NBC Sports, MSN, Bing, MSNBC, as well as newspapers and magazines.
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