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EURO 2024 DDAY – MYEN
Gareth Bale
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FULHAM-WIDE-EN
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Euro 2024 will be Utterly Compelling

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Well, there’s just three days to go until Europe’s top footballers congregate in Germany – some of them are already there – for the start of the summer showpiece.

Euro 2024 has the potential to be many things and, while I’m not expecting any shocks in terms of who eventually lifts the silverware, I do think there will be some very good football and some clashes to savour over the month ahead.

Perhaps the fact that there is not one outstanding nation and that, to certain a degree, all the contenders are flawed, will add to the spectacle.

As Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian aptly put this week: The beauty of international football is that nobody can go out and buy a perfectly balanced squad.

Now I am on record, and have been for some months, as tipping the hosts Germany to be crowned champions of Europe.

Yet don’t just take my word for it.

In fact, look at the Euro 2024 betting odds offered by my knowledgeable colleagues at SBOTOP and they place England and France ahead of the Germans who are third favourites in front of 2016 champions Portugal.

If you are wondering why I’m backing the hosts to deliver Euro 2024 highlights and, crucially, the Henri Delaunay Trophy, it’s because I see a squad with a hungry young manager in Julian Nagelsmann, a legend of the game hoping to bow out on the highest of highs in Toni Kroos, and a squad which comprises the perfect balance of youth and experience.

For a start, playing in front of partisan crowds and a German public roaring them on should provide extra incentive.

Nagelsmann looks to have settled on a winning formula that gets the best out of Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz, as well as Kai Havertz.

Wirtz, Robert Andrich and Jonathan Tah, all of whom are part of Nagelsmann’s squad, were all integral to the superb achievements of Bayer Leverkusen who recently became the first team to end a Bundesliga season unbeaten, while they also won the German Cup and reached the Europa League final.

At the age of 21, Wirtz helped turn the perennial runners-up into invincible Bundesliga champions and it’s hard to think he has already played more than 100 Bundesliga games and is one of the best dribblers Germany have ever had.

No fewer than five members of the VfB Stuttgart team that finished runners-up and qualified for the Champions League are also included in the squad.

And then there are three players who were part of the squad that lifted the 2014 World Cup. Manuel Neuer, Kroos – playing the final games of his career after recently announcing his retirement at the end of the tournament – and Thomas Müller have all featured more than 100 times each for their country and will be able to lead by example for those younger than them.

Add in Pascal Gross who, in only his seventh senior appearance for the national team on Friday night, netted a late winner against Greece to cap another encouraging display in the middle of the park, and you can see why there are plenty of options at the hosts’ disposal.

The warm-up games count for nothing remember.

England lost at home to Iceland but won’t be as lethargic again once the tournament starts.

France, who in theory have the best squad of all, won’t be too fazed by the fact they played out a goalless draw with Canada the other day.

Portugal, meanwhile, lost at home to Croatian side who I have written off as too past their peak to reach the latter stages.

Then there’s Italy, the defending champions, who were comfortably beaten twice by England in qualifying and, while they may be improving under Luciano Spalletti, have been insipid in drawing 0-0 with Turkey and beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in the past week.

Euro 2024: Italy won their 2020 tournament
Italy players lifting the Euro 2020 trophy after beating England in the final

Spain, Holland and Belgium make up the other top eight favourites in the competition and the winners will undoubtedly stem from one of the above.

Yet this is a tournament which has the potential for some beautiful moments from top to bottom and it could be that one of the rank outsiders, such as Slovenia, Slovakia, Albania or Georgia, provide it.

Ok, maybe not the last two, as it is a lot to expect, but they could still have their moment.

Perhaps just being there is the story.

For example, Georgian football has gone from strength to strength through a strategy of growing the game and leveraging UEFA support.

Elsewhere, there will be joy for many at the sight of Jan Oblak playing his first international tournament (for Slovenia), Robert Lewandowski probably playing his last (for Poland) and what will be international swansongs for two modern-day greats in Luka Modric and, arguably the greatest of them all, the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo.

It’s almost time for the talking to stop – although it will continue – and for us all to enjoy a European summer spectacle which can deliver some special memories to last a lifetime.

   

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