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Europe is our playground

It seems almost pointless to look at who the contenders to win Euro 2024 might be, given that it’s a foregone conclusion that England will triumph, and football will come home. But life is about enjoying the journey, not reaching the destination, so let’s have a look, shall we?


Germany have home advantage, but surprisingly few teams have won the men’s Euros as the host nation – only France (1984), Italy (1968) and Spain (1964). This year’s hosts hadn’t won a knockout game at an international tournament before last night since Euro 2016, and lost 6 times in 11 games in 2023, including 3 consecutive losses for the first time since 1985. Julian Nagelsmann took over after Hansi Flick was sacked last September, and at 36 is their second youngest coach. He’s less than 3 years older than Toni Kroos, who came out of international retirement in February in the hope of securing a fairytale end to his career. You just won the Champions League, Toni, don’t be so bloody greedy. The emphatic 5-1 win last night will have boosted German hopes, but lads. Come on. It’s Scotland.

If nothing else, the Bayern Munich fans who sang “It’s coming home”, “is this a library” and “you’re shit and you know you are” – all in English – at Old Trafford deserve to enjoy themselves. And if you’re a fan of Germans appropriating English football songs, here’s some lads from Berlin doing a rave version of Ten German Bombers to wreck your head.


France are obviously a lot of people’s favourites, having so narrowly missed out on winning the 2022 World Cup, but they’ve always got it in them to implode. Their captain, Mbappe, won the 2018 World Cup as a teenager, won the Golden Boot at the last World Cup and set a new record for most goals scored in World Cup finals, scoring a hat-trick. He died on his arse at the last Euros, though, failing to score in all 4 of France’s games and missing the crucial 5th penalty v Switzerland, sending them out of the competition in the round of 16. It may be an omen for France that the final is on July 14th. Bastille Day. La fete nationale francais. Le quatorze juillet. Didier Deschamps’ job is probably safe whatever happens.

Who knows what Italy will turn up? They might win it, they might go out in the group stage without winning a game. Barella has had an excellent season for Inter, but Italy have often looked weak defensively, as they did in both qualifying games v England. They’ll certainly miss master of gamesmanship/cheating bastard Giorgio Chiellini, who was arguably the most important player in their Euro 2020 victory. Taking the piss out of Spain captain Jordi Alba before the penalty shootout in the semi-final, picking him up like he was a rag doll, was hilarious. Getting away with only a yellow card for trying to pull Saka’s shirt off his back in the final, not so much.

Netherlands suffered a massive blow just before the tournament with Frenkie De Jong being ruled out with injury. Virgil Van Dijk is obviously a key player for them, both defensively and playing it out to their wide players, but they’ve often looked weak at the back against strong teams. They conceded 6 games over the 2 qualifying games against France, and in the Nations League last June, they conceded 3 against Italy and 4 against Croatia. And, being the Netherlands, there’s always the possibility that they all hate each other. Speaking of which…


There’s a convincing argument to be made that Thibaut Courtois is the best goalkeeper in the world. He’s just won another La Liga AND another Champions League, but he didn’t make the Belgium squad. Tedesco said he was “not ready for the Euros”, which seems plausible, as he’s only played 5 games this season after rupturing his ACL in August. But he didn’t concede in any of those 5 games and won 2 medals. It’s likely that he wasn’t picked at least partly because he stormed out of the Belgium camp last June, when Lukaku was made captain in Kevin De Bruyne’s absence.


It’s not exactly an insult losing out to Lukaku. He’s Belgium’s all-time leading scorer, he’s the second highest-scoring international European men’s goalscorer of all time (behind Cristiano Ronaldo), and he scored 14 goals in 8 appearances in qualifying for Euro 24, breaking the record for goals scored by a player in a European qualifying campaign. It’s not like Courtois was overlooked in favour of Amadou Onana.

Speaking of the Incredible Sulk, Ronaldo will be hoping to score in his 6th successive Euros. Given that he’s essentially retired, Bruno Fernandes is more likely to be Portugal’s main threat. Bernando Silva’s had an irritatingly good season at Man City as well. I’m sure ole Ronnie will be perfectly happy to let them both take the spotlight. It’s a team game after all.


I got Albania in the sweep at work. I’ve promised to get a tattoo of the Albanian flag if they win it. They’re in Group B with Spain, Italy and Croatia, so I’ll be amazed if they win a single game.


In Latics news, Mark Shelton has left for Barnet. It never really worked out for him here and it’s good news for all involved but no need to @ him and be a complete dick about it, yeah? The more shit you give him, the more likely it is that Barnet will do the double over us and he’ll get a hat trick at our place. Don’t be a dick. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.


We probably didn’t learn much last night, other than maybe don’t play someone who only has 8 caps and hasn’t played regularly for his club all season against Germany in Munich. Poor Anthony Ralston. Fully expect a cagey performance and narrow win for England against Serbia (and hope against hope for no unpleasantness in the stands), a draw against Denmark and the tabloids calling for Southgate to be sacked, and then us looking like world beaters against Slovenia and everyone being fully convinced that it’s coming home. Which it is. KTMFF.

Written by Arlene Finnigan

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