The 2024 European Championship is not far away, with 21 of our 24 teams confirmed for a place at the tournament.
And, with the group stage draw being carried out this weekend, the anticipation is ramping up further.
There are still seven months until the opening game. A lot can change in that time – and a lot probably will. Nonetheless, it’s always fun to make early predictions.
Here is our ranking of the 21 qualified nations for Euro 2024.
It’s been 13 years since Slovenia last featured at a major tournament, and 23 since their last appearance at a European Championship. They’re back this time, but don’t expect too much from them.
They qualified comfortably enough, with victories over Finland, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland and San Marino. However, they have landed in a relatively tough group and will have to put up some inspired performances to progress to the knockout stage.
Key player: Jan Oblak
It feels bizarre to have Albania this low. From qualifying, they were the tenth-best team, topping their group.
But the draw has not been kind to the Red and Blacks. They will face Spain, Croatia and Italy in the group stage. It will take a major underdog story to make it to the round of 16.
Key player: Armando Broja
Finishing one place below Albania in qualifying was Czechia. They secured their place at the tournament on the final day, defeating Moldova 3-0.
Their recent form isn’t encouraging, and their group is fairly difficult. Although, a fixture against Play-Off Winner C gives them a decent shot at sneaking through to the knockout stage.
Two years ago, they put up an admirable showing, reaching the quarter-finals and eliminating Netherlands along the way. It would be a surprise to see them reproduce this.
Key player: Patrik Schick
Slovakia enjoyed a very promising qualifying campaign. From their ten outings, they picked up 22 points, losing only to Portugal by the odd goal.
Francesco Calzona’s side don’t have much star quality in their squad, but they’re not one to be underestimated. On paper, their group appears relatively favourable – a place in the knockout stage doesn’t seem out of reach.
Key player: Milan Skriniar
When we did our ranking for the World Cup in Qatar, Switzerland were in 12th place. How have they fallen several spots in that time?
Well, their displays at the World Cup weren’t the best, getting battered 6-1 by Portugal in the round of 16. And, from their ten qualifying games, they achieved only four victories, with two coming against 163-ranked Andorra.
Key player: Manuel Akanji
If this list was ranked purely on ability, Austria would have landed a few places higher. They have won nine and lost just one of their last 12 outings, defeating Italy and Germany during that run.
However, Ralf Rangnick’s side have been given a near-impossible draw. During the summer, they will face France, Netherlands and Play-Off Winner A. They’ll put up a stern fight, but a group stage exit could be on the cards.
Key player: David Alaba
If history is anything to go by, Scotland’s time in Germany will be short. They have qualified for 11 major tournaments and have suffered 11 group-stage exits.
But the last year suggests that things may be different this time for the Tartan Army. They were one of the first teams to book their place at the tournament, winning their opening five outings. This included a memorable victory over Spain.
Key player: Scott McTominay
Given their squad, Serbia have somewhat underperformed in recent years. They suffered back-to-back World Cup group stage eliminations and are yet to feature at a European Championship as an independent nation.
But it’s difficult to ignore the quality in their side. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Vlahovic, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Tadic, Filip Kostic, Luka Jovic – this is a team that could pose a threat to anyone on their day.
Key player: Aleksandar Mitrovic
On paper, Romania should be a bit lower down the list. They don’t have any standout players of note, and last reached a knockout stage in 2000.
But it would be unwise to take them for granted. From their last 11 matches, the Tricolours have seven wins and four draws, scoring 21 while conceding just five. And, having been given a fairly decent group, we fancy Romania to reach the round of 16.
Key player: Ianis Hagi
Last time around, Denmark reached the semi-finals, losing in extra time to England at Wembley Stadium. Since then, things haven’t been as positive.
They were hugely disappointing in Qatar, registering just one point and one goal. They topped their qualifying group, but still suffered defeats to Kazakhstan and Northern Ireland.
Nonetheless, the one-time European champions still have plenty of talent in all areas of the pitch. They could be one to watch.
Key player: Rasmus Hojlund
In qualifying, Hungary were one of the strongest sides. They were one of six to remain unbeaten and were just two points off landing in Pot 1 for the draw.
At Euro 2020, the Magyars were drawn into the ‘group of death’ alongside France, Germany and Portugal. They picked up a respectable two points and were just six minutes away from progressing.
They’ve been given a kinder group this time around, facing Germany, Scotland and Switzerland. They will back themselves to make it through.
Key player: Dominik Szoboszlai
In the lead up to the previous European Championship, Turkey were widely touted as dark horses. They proceeded to be the worst team at the tournament, losing all three games with a goal difference of -7.
But recent results suggest they ought to come back stronger. In the last two months, the Crescent-Stars have pulled off impressive away wins over Croatia and Germany, and finished top of their qualifying group.
Portugal will be the favourites to take the crown in Group F. But after that, Turkey look the most likely to progress in second place.
Key player: Hakan Calhanoglu
Having won the competition two years ago, holders Italy are ranked all the way down in ninth. How exactly has this happened?
Well, since their triumph at Wembley, they have been far from their best. They failed to reach the World Cup following a play-off loss to North Macedonia, and only just about managed to qualify for Euro 2024.
This is largely down to the decline of a number of their biggest names. The likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile played vital roles in the Azzurri’s success in 2021, but are no longer the forces that they once were.
There is still quality in their side – they have one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, a strong midfield and forwards capable of doing some damage. But their chances of retaining their crown seem slim.
Key player: Nicolo Barella
Manager Ronald Koeman has been given a second crack at the Netherlands job, having walked out from the position to join Barcelona shortly before Euro 2020. The early signs haven’t been encouraging for the former Everton boss.
In his ten games in charge, he has won six and lost four. This may not sound too bad, but additional context paints a concerning picture – the victories came against Greece, Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar, while the defeats were to France, Croatia and Italy.
The Oranje put up a commendable showing in Qatar, reaching the quarter-finals before being beaten on penalties by champions Argentina. This ought to give them some confidence going into the summer.
There are few sides who wouldn’t be jealous of Netherlands’ options in defence. It says a lot when Jurrien Timber, Micky van de Ven and Sven Botman aren’t guaranteed to even make the squad.
Meanwhile, they also boast some talent in midfield and attack. If Koeman can get things together, Netherlands could be contenders.
Key player: Virgil van Dijk
Many people feel like Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ has come and gone, having seen superstars such as Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany decline and retire. But there may still be life in the Red Devils.
Only a handful of their biggest names remain, but they ought not to be counted out. Thibaut Courtois is still one of the world’s very best goalkeepers, Kevin De Bruyne should return from injury as good as ever and Romelu Lukaku’s goal record on the international stage is nothing short of sensational.
And that’s without mentioning the new generation coming through. Jeremy Doku has hit the ground running at Manchester City, while Lois Openda, Romeo Lavia and Amadou Onana have emerged in recent years.
In a group with Romania, Slovakia and Play-Off Winner B, Belgium will be fancied to progress. And, with a third-placed team awaiting the group winners, quarter-finals should be the minimum expectation for Domenico Tedesco’s men.
Key player: Kevin De Bruyne
Much like Belgium, a number of Croatia’s biggest stars are fading. Luka Modric is 38 now, while Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic, Andrej Kramaric and Domagoj Vida are also in their thirties.
This was somewhat reflected in their qualifying campaign, where they needed a final-day win over Armenia to progress. They got 16 points from eight matches, suffering defeats to Turkey and Wales.
Despite this, Zlatko Dalic continues to guide his team to deep runs in major competitions. They were runners-up at the World Cup in 2018, semi-finalists in Qatar, and were a penalty shoot-out away from lifting the Nations League last summer.
A midfield trio of Modric, Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic is a frightening prospect for any opponent, even at their age. Croatia are not to be taken lightly.
Key player: Luka Modric
Germany are perhaps the biggest unknown quantity of the tournament. Usually, a host nation of their size and history, boasting a wealth of talent in all areas, managed by a highly-regarded coach, would be the clear favourites for the trophy.
And yet, they head into the summer as one of the most out-of-form sides in the competition. In 2023, they have won just three of 11 friendlies, while being beaten by Belgium, Poland, Colombia, Japan, Turkey and Austria. Had they not been given an automatic place, they may not have even qualified with this form.
Not to mention, their recent record at major tournaments is well below their usual standards. Their last knockout win came in 2016, and they were most lately eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup.
It’s simple – if manager Julian Nagelsmann can steer Die Mannschaft back on track, they will be a serious threat. Whether this will materialise remains to be seen.
Key player: Jamal Musiala
After a disappointing World Cup, Spain have bounced back in fine fashion. They defeated Italy and Croatia on their way to Nations League glory and won seven from eight in their qualifying group.
Spain’s side isn’t as glamorous as it was during the Vicente del Bosque era, but they still have a very impressive squad. They hold arguably the best midfield in the world, with Manchester City man Rodri complementing the Barcelona duo of Pedri and Gavi.
The main concern for manager Luis de la Fuente will be the frontline. Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres have both racked up respectable numbers on the international stage, but La Furia Roja lack a clinical finisher. This has cost them in recent tournaments.
But if they can dominate possession and play on the front foot, they should have enough to squeeze most opponents. Spain will have their eyes on the trophy this summer.
Key player: Rodri
This summer will mark 58 years since England’s one and only major trophy. They have edged closer to glory in the last three tournaments, but haven’t quite had enough to get over the line.
At Euro 2024, expectations around the Three Lions are as high as they’ve ever been, and for good reason. This season, Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham have been possibly the two best players in the world, and a supporting cast of Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Phil Foden is also incredibly promising.
There are one or two holes in the starting XI, especially at centre-back and in central midfield. But every national side has its issues – England have arguably the best team at the tournament.
The main question of manager Gareth Southgate is his record against the major nations. In his three tournaments in charge, they have been knocked out in the latter stages by Croatia, Italy and France.
Will England have what it takes to see them through this time? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Key player: Harry Kane
In the last year, no side can match Portugal. They won all ten qualifying games, scored the most goals and conceded the fewest. On top of this, they have a brilliant set of players all the way throughout the pitch.
And there could be some romanticism heading into the tournament. Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be 39 at the time of the tournament, has been written off by many as finished.
But he continues to bang them in for club and country – this trophy would complete the perfect comeback story for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Similarly to England, the manager is perhaps the biggest question mark over Portugal. Roberto Martinez was one of the men who couldn’t bring silverware to Belgium’s ‘golden generation’, and has now been trusted with another spectacularly talented group. This tournament could be redemption for him, or it could be another blot on his career.
The draw has been generous to the Euro 2016 champions. If they top their group, they will not face a group winner until at least the semi-finals. They are sure to be challengers.
Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo
In the last few years, not many nations can measure up to France. Since 2016, they have won a World Cup, Nations League, and reached two other finals. Just under a year ago, they were denied a second consecutive World Cup by the foot of Emiliano Martinez.
It’s not just the star-studded squad, or the proven manager, or the history. Les Bleus have been there and done it time and time again – they know how to get results on the biggest stage.
That said, having a number of the world’s best players certainly helps. Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Aurelien Tchouameni, Mike Maignan, Dayot Upamecano, William Saliba and Theo Hernandez – these are just some of the many French players who are among the best in their positions.
Of course, France’s last European Championship didn’t go to plan, exiting in the round of 16 at the hands of Switzerland.
But there’s little reason to believe this was anything more than a blip. We’ve selected France as our favourites for Euro 2024.
Key player: Kylian Mbappe
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