Saturday, July 20, 2024
HomeSportsEuro 2024 Power Rankings: France top; Germany below England

Euro 2024 Power Rankings: France top; Germany below England

Euro 2024 kicks off Friday when 24 teams will have the chance to get their hands on the iconic trophy. But how likely is each one to win the tournament?

The question seems simple enough, but it mixes in all manner of elements: Star quality, squad depth, national confidence, weaknesses, tactical approaches, injuries and — perhaps most importantly for those below the top eight — bracketology, too. Some nations have landed in really sweet spots with regard to a potential pathway into the round of 16 (or beyond).

Who are the favourites? Who’s got no chance? We’ve ranked all 24 teams in Germany this summer. Let’s dive in.

This will be Albania‘s second European Championship, having qualified once before in 2016. They faced France in the opener that year and nearly pulled off an almighty shock, holding the hosts until the 90th minute before Antoine Griezmann broke the deadlock.

They’ll need some more of that opening night spoiler energy if they’re to make any waves at Euro 2024, as they’ve landed in a group with three heavyweights: Spain, Italy and Croatia. Under manager Sylvinho, Albania have tried to move toward a more attacking style, but they’ll probably have to revert to the more-defensive approach of old given the calibre of their opponents. They have some experienced defenders, and a real talent in midfield in Kristjan Asllani of Internazionale, but this group looks borderline impossible to navigate for them.

Romania are an intriguing, spritely team and, despite the fact they haven’t won a game at a European Championship or World Cup since 2000, they will fancy getting something from a Group E containing Belgium, Slovakia and Ukraine.

But they face two serious issues. First, a severe quality deficit compared to the rest of the finalists, as very few of their players play in a top league. Second, a few of their key performers have struggled for minutes at club level in 2024, suggesting a lack of sharpness. Romania will be free to play a counter-attacking style and try to catch their opponents on the hop, but there’s no realistic hope of them stringing together a fairy-tale run deep into the competition.

On paper, Georgia have all the pieces to enchant us with a fairy-tale run: First-ever appearance at the finals? Check. Good goalkeeper (Giorgi Mamardashvili)? Check. Rigid five-man back line? Check. A true difference-maker in attack (Khvicha Kvaratskhelia)? Check. And some fine talent sprinkled across the midfield to boot.

This team will defend as if their lives depend on it, then give the ball to Napoli winger Kvaratskhelia who will dribble, dribble and dribble some more — no one completed more dribbles than him (44) during qualifying. It’s a plan that depends on Kvaratskhelia’s execution in the final third, not unlike Wales‘ Euro 2016 effort with Gareth Bale. It would be magical if Georgia could pull this off, but the reality is that it will be tough for them to repeat over and over, especially in a group containing Czechia, Portugal and Turkey.

Slovenia are one of the most traditional-looking teams heading to the tournament from a tactical perspective, playing a stout 4-4-2 formation that relies on difference-makers at both ends of the pitch.

Up front, they have RB Leipzig striker Benjamin Sesko, who this week shunned the interest of multiple top clubs in order to stay at the Bundesliga outfit and continue honing his craft. The 6-foot-5 frontman is pretty much the leading light of this team, adding a dash of quality to an otherwise workmanlike outfit, ready and willing to make tackles and launch counters. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak of Atlético Madrid is a star between the sticks and should be kept busy, too.

Slovenia scored more and conceded fewer than Denmark in qualifying but only took a single point in fixtures between them, and they will meet them again in Group C. Serbia are even tougher opponents and England one step further, meaning their overall chances look slim.

Czechia really are anyone’s guess. Ivan Hasek was only appointed as coach in April after Jaroslav Silhavy’s decision to quit at the end of qualifying in November.

Hasek, who captained the side in the 1980s and ’90s, before coaching them in 2009, leads them into the tournament now, but he had just two tune-ups to put his stamp on the team before facing Portugal in the group opener.

That makes them almost impossible to rank. All we can do is measure their squad quality against their group opponents, and a conservative assessment places them below Portugal and Turkey, but above Georgia. In ranking them 20th, we’re noting their top-level quality (Patrik Schick, Adam Hlozek, Tomás Soucek, Vladimír Coufal) but questioning their readiness for a tournament run.

Given their undoubted star quality in certain positions, you may be shocked to find Poland ranked so low, but even top European footballers such as Robert Lewandowski, Piotr Zielinski and Wojciech Szczesny have failed to bring this national team to life over the years. They were shocking to watch during the 2022 World Cup group stage and no better during qualifying for Euro 2024, having to settle for the playoffs despite being in a group with Albania, Czechia, Moldova and Faroe Islands.

Lewandowski is the difference-maker so many nations crave, but his record of six goals in 18 Euros/World Cup games is poor. Having only scored three in eight qualifiers, it’s hard to believe the 35-year-old striker’s fortunes will change this summer — especially considering he’s an injury concern and could miss one or two group games. His natural replacement, Arkadiusz Milik, is injured too. As a result, it’s unlikely Poland will do much against Austria, Netherlands and France in Group D.

The local sentiment around this Serbia team is one of genuine fear and embarrassment, which is a huge shame given this is a stage they’ve been longing to return to for 14 years. Qualifying performances were poor — manager Dragan Stojkovic admits as much — and while things did perk up a little with a 3-0 friendly win over Sweden this month, it’s tough to take too much from that.

There are huge concerns around a defence that conceded eight goals in three games at the 2022 World Cup. That unit looks no better and is now about to face England’s Harry Kane, Denmark’s Rasmus Højlund and Slovenia’s Sesko, which is a truly torrid run of opposing strikers. Serbia obviously have quality, but the balance of the team is off and there’s very little confidence in them overall.

Slovakia are among a handful of teams hopeful of playing at least four games in Germany this summer. Qualification from Group E is achievable and would mean everything to them. They’ll lean on a mean defence in their attempt to do it, with Paris Saint-Germain‘s Milan Skriniar, FC Copenhagen‘s Denis Vavro and Feyenoord‘s Dávid Hancko an underrated, stout group. Up front, Boavista striker Róbert Bozeník is a threat, while midfielder Stanislav Lobotka is a quality signal controller for both Napoli and his nation.

Is that enough to pip Romania and then tussle with Ukraine for qualification to the knockout rounds? Almost certainly, and then anything else is a bonus.

Hungary enter Euro 2024 as one of the most settled teams, which certainly counts for something — after all, the winners of the last edition, Italy, were similarly set and composed. That’s not to say the team will be lifting the trophy on July 14, but in a group containing Scotland and Switzerland (as well as hosts Germany), they’ll be eyeing qualification.

Manager Marco Rossi will use a stern, experienced, physical back three; flying wing-backs who cover loads of ground; and a familiar midfield partnership to break up play. Then he’ll give Liverpool‘s Dominik Szoboszlai and SC Freiburg‘s Roland Sallai the freedom to roam, get on the ball and make the difference.

It could well be enough to carry them into the knockouts, which would be a tremendous showing.

Scotland open the tournament against hosts Germany on Friday and will look to cause a stir. Given how stubborn a team they have proven to be under manager Steve Clarke, it’s not out of the question that something special happens. Beyond that, they’ll fancy themselves to get a win against one of Switzerland or Hungary, drawing upon a brilliant goal-scoring midfield powered by John McGinn and Scott McTominay.

A knockout berth is well within reach of the Scots — something they have never achieved in their history. Anything beyond that might seem fanciful, but they won’t care if they secure it.

Many have been surprised that manager Murat Yakin remains in charge of Switzerland; the case for sacking him was there to be made after they won just four of 10 qualifying games against Romania, Israel, Belarus, Kosovo and Andorra. But they’ve pressed on with him regardless, hoping the natural order will restore itself: Switzerland have made the knockout rounds in every tournament they’ve entered since 2014 and have landed in a workable Group A that includes Hungary and Scotland.

In Granit Xhaka, Manuel Akanji and Yann Sommer they have some of the best players heading to Euro 2024, but the question is whether Yakin can patch up the side’s fragile confidence levels and get them going again.

After the fiasco of Euro 2020 — in which Turkey were tipped to go far but went on to lose all three group games and concede eight goals in the process — it’s natural to treat this team with caution three years on. But it’s undeniably an exciting crop of players, headlined by Hakan Çalhanoglu of Inter Milan and spruced up by several attacking starlets including Real Madrid‘s Arda Güler.

Turkey finished top of a qualifying group that included Croatia and Wales, and they’re threatening to play some pretty vivacious attacking football. No one is predicting much this time around, but they should expect to finish second in Group F and set up a thrilling round-of-16 tie with France.

Ukraine squeezed into Euro 2024 via the playoffs, so you might be surprised to see them ranked above 12 other nations, many of whom qualified automatically. There’s a good reason for this, though, and it’s based on bracketology.

Simply put, Ukraine have landed in a group ripe for qualifying: Belgium, Slovakia and Romania. Second place is there for the taking, and that could set up a round-of-16 game against Austria or Netherlands.

Admittedly, Ukraine’s qualifying results (P8, W4, D2, L2) don’t exactly inspire confidence, but their unique circumstances must be considered, and playing in neutral venues due to the ongoing war with Russia is never going to extract your best form. This is a good squad that has a desire to win and, in Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mykhailo Mudryk and Artem Dovbyk, has a series of potential difference-makers.

Will it be a repeat of Euro 2020, where an emotional roller coaster like no other (after Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch in the opening game) saw Denmark reach the semifinals? Or a repeat of the 2022 World Cup where they fell flat? It is difficult to say.

Much of the team has remained the same over the past four years, meaning that many of the players are 30-plus years of age and unable to replicate the intense style they thrilled us with in 2021. That threatens to make them just a little too old and slow to be a significant threat in Germany, but there’s always something to be said for experience at a major finals.

Denmark are expected to qualify from the group, probably in second place behind England, but in doing so they’ll set themselves up for a tough run of opponents — possibly starting with Germany in the round of 16. That keeps them outside of the top 10 in this ranking.

It’s rare that you find perfect managerial fits for nations, but Ralf Rangnick and Austria feel like just that. Thanks to his Red Bull background he has played a part in so many of the players’ careers he now directly manages, so it feels right he’s the one who has been tasked with leading them into the European Championship.

Rangnick will have them pressing harder than any other team at Euro 2024, utilising a midfield full of energy to create turnovers and then share the goals out. That makes Austria’s lack of a proven scoring No. 9 striker less of an issue but perhaps won’t fully mitigate the crucial loss of their best player, Real Madrid defender David Alaba, to injury.

Landing in a group with France and the Netherlands is tough, but they have it in them to pip Poland to third and perhaps even beat the Dutch to second. If they do finish second, they’d land a very friendly round-of-16 tie (likely Slovakia or Ukraine), meaning that there could be a surprisingly clear path opening up for this team to have a run. Austria are definitely one to keep a close eye on.

Be it over fitness or form, the Netherlands seem to have question marks all over the pitch as they head into this tournament. How sharp will talisman Memphis Depay be? How will the left flank look? Can RB Leipzig midfielder Xavi Simons replicate his club form for his country? And on the eve of the tournament, an absolute bombshell dropped: Central midfielder Frenkie de Jong is injured and can’t participate. How will they cope?

That’s a lot of questions to have hanging over your head, which probably explains the local pessimism. But this is a team that boasts Virgil van Dijk, Denzel Dumfries and Cody Gakpo — that’s true star quality — and if Memphis can find fitness, it will start to look pretty dangerous once again. The Netherlands’ easiest fixture (Poland) comes first, perhaps giving them a little bit of time to figure things out.

Despite Croatia’s recent international success, the European Championship remains a bit of a bleak spot for them, and they’ve never even won a knockout game in four attempts. Will 2024 be fifth time lucky?

Some would argue they’re caught between two generations; others could say they boast a nice blend of youth and experience. It’s up to manager Zlatko Dalic to mix in the fresh faces responsibly and, perhaps, manage the minutes of the old guard. Luka Modric will lead them out, aged 38, but he is unlikely to last the full 90 minutes, as he did so only five times for Real Madrid in 2023-24.

There isn’t much room for error — not with Spain and Italy in the same group — and there are questions over whether this team can genuinely run such an intense seven-game gauntlet to the finish.

Italy and Croatia were both in the running for seventh but, in the end, we gave a respectful nod to the defending champions — although they failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, were forced into a managerial change last year and have suffered worse than anyone with regard to injuries, with the defensive line hit particularly hard.

That said, they are unbeaten this calendar year. In Gianluca Scamacca they have a striker in fine form, while the midfield unit led by Nicolò Barella (when fit) is both tremendously energetic and packed with quality. Italy have the strength to beat anyone on their day, but they just don’t feel as overwhelmingly strong as the nations ranked above them.

Belgium are one of the toughest nations to gauge (and therefore rank), as while some pre-tournament excitement has been building around them, it’s not necessarily coming from their supporters. Perhaps that’s because anyone who looks at a team sheet and sees the names Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Jérémy Doku can’t help but get excited. And remember that Lukaku scored 14 goals in qualifying, breaking the record.

Unfortunately for Belgium, there’s problems at the other end of the pitch. Perhaps that’s gone under the radar a little as they only conceded four during qualifying, but things aren’t as rosy as they might seem. First off, you don’t get to play Azerbaijan and Estonia at the Euros — the opposition is a lot tougher than that. Second, Thibaut Courtois, arguably the world’s best goalkeeper, is fit again after spending most of the season recovering from injury for Real Madrid but has been left at home after a public spat with Belgium’s manager, Domenico Tedesco. Third, the defence is better than it was at the World Cup in 2022, but it is still creaky and wants to lean on veterans Jan Vertonghen and Axel Witsel.

When Belgium face the best, will they stand up defensively or collapse? Will they simply outscore their opponents? Their ceiling is unclear, but they do promise to be tons of fun.



Can Spain’s new-look squad compete at Euro 2024?

Sam Marsden assesses Spain’s provisional squad for Euro 2024.

Spain won three straight international honours between 2008 and 2012, but they have largely disappointed since then and have left us asking the same question over and over: Can you make your possession count?

The answer in 2018, 2021 and 2022 was no. They played better football than Russia, Italy and Morocco, respectively, but lost to each on penalties. But then in 2023, they won the UEFA Nations League by beating Croatia, which reacquainted them with success and could give them an edge this summer.

In measuring Spain against the rest of the top five in this ranking, there’s not an awful lot in it, but they end up fifth because they’re in the toughest group alongside Italy and Croatia. Of all the teams in this top tier, there’s probably the most scope for things to go wrong early on.

Is it all coming together for Germany, just in time? They had a wretched 2023, losing five of nine friendlies and winning two, but since the turn of the year the mood has perked up significantly — particularly after beating France and Netherlands in quick succession in March.

The emotional power of Toni Kroos‘ final goodbye before he retires could be enough to give them the extra edge. Add that to the home-crowd advantage; the talent of the likes of Ilkay Gündogan, Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz; and the fact that, for the most part, problematic positions of left-back and striker have sorted themselves out, and rivals will be wary.

Sentiment among the fans remains somewhat reserved — likely due to the fact their past three tournament performances have been disastrous — but given what’s happened since March, this is a team that we need to take seriously.



Is it time for England to deliver at a major tournament?

Gareth Southgate speaks to James Olley ahead of England’s opening game against Serbia at Euro 2024.

As has often been the case over the past three decades, England’s big question is not one of quality, it’s one of mentality. Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden are world-class attackers who will undoubtedly lead the Three Lions safely through the group stage, but when the knockout rounds hit and it’s time to face up against a team like France, can they get it done? And will a defence short of top names hold up?

England’s unbeaten qualifying campaign proves they can handle anyone from Italy to Malta, from a quality perspective. What we don’t know, though, is whether the last few years of England’s players winning Champions League titles (with Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City) has changed the mentality of this team in a way that will allow them to finally overcome a true giant.

This, plus the upheaval and uncertainty in the back line, holds them back when compared to a couple of other nations.

Portugal made light work of their qualifying campaign, winning 10 games out of 10, scoring 36 goals and conceding two. It should be noted, though, that it was a really weak group; for context, the team that finished second, Slovakia, is ranked 17th in this piece.

Still, you look at the squad and can’t help but be impressed: Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, Rúben Dias and João Cancelo all started eight or more qualifying games and remain at the heart of this team, then a series of other extremely talented players fill in the gaps as manager Roberto Martínez sees fit.

Portugal boast loads of goals, creativity and some great defenders, while physicality runs through the spine of the team. Plus, there’s added tactical flexibility nowadays. Those are all the ingredients you need to win a tournament, and the hype they are generating is well justified.

But for a handful of adjustments, France head into Euro 2024 looking like the same force that came within a penalty kick of winning the 2022 World Cup. They’re still tactically disciplined, physical, stacked with quality and boasting one of the world’s best forwards in Kylian Mbappé. With that in mind, they’re still favourites in our eyes.

Didier Deschamps’ men will need to shake off the disappointment of a quarterfinal exit at Euro 2020, but you get the impression that, with Olivier Giroud back in and Karim Benzema back out, this team will hum a more familiar tune. That tune — a cautious one that doesn’t always excite — isn’t universally popular, but it has proven to be devastatingly effective.

France are not without their injuries and issues — veterans Hugo Lloris and Raphaël Varane have departed the scene, while Lucas Hernández is injured — but Les Bleus‘ incredible depth means they still look formidable, and their tournament record since 2016 marks them out as the team to beat.

Source link

- Advertisment -
Google search engine

Most Popular

Recent Comments