Monday, 22 July, 2024

Euro 2024 Group A: Who Are the Contenders?


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The European Championship — also known as Euro 2024 — will start on Friday, June 14, with the opening match seeing host Germany square off against Scotland at Allianz Arena. Let’s get prepped for the action by diving into Group A.

Germany

Germany enters Euro 2024 with a lot to prove, especially after their recent underwhelming performances in major tournaments. As the host nation, they will be buoyed by home support, a factor that historically often leads to overperformance. Their recent history in international competitions has been far from stellar, with group-stage exits in the last two World Cups and an early knockout in the 2020 European Championship. However, hosting the tournament provides them with a unique advantage, as they can harness the energy and optimism of the local fans.

In 2006, Germany demonstrated the potential impact of being the host nation by securing an unexpected third place in the World Cup with a youthful squad. This time around, they will look to bounce back from their slip to 16th in the FIFA rankings, a direct consequence of their lack of competitive matches and poor form in the past year. Indeed, their last non-friendly match dates back to the 2022 World Cup. Subsequently, in 2023, they managed only three wins out of eleven friendlies, reflecting a concerning lack of consistency.

Nonetheless, there have been promising signs under new manager Julian Nagelsmann in 2024. The team went unbeaten in their first four games under his guidance, including impressive victories against formidable sides like France and the Netherlands. The squad boasts considerable talent, especially in the midfield, with seasoned players like Toni Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan likely to add experience and stability. Young stars such as Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala offer creativity and dynamism on the wings, making Germany’s midfield a force to reckon with.

However, a significant challenge for the team will be the absence of a dependable striker. The strategy to rely on midfielders for goals could be a double-edged sword, reminiscent of Spain’s successful but midfield-heavy campaign in 2012. Whether Germany can replicate such success remains to be seen, but they undoubtedly possess the talent and the home advantage to be strong contenders in Euro 2024.

Switzerland

Switzerland has established itself as a consistent presence in international football over the past decade and a half, regularly qualifying for major tournaments. However, breaking beyond the role of perennial participants into serious contenders has remained elusive. Their performance in Euro 2020 marked their most impressive run yet, where they fell to Spain in a dramatic penalty shootout. In the 2022 World Cup, they qualified for the knockout stage only to be blown out by Portugal in the Round of 16.

In the lead-up to Euro 2024, Switzerland’s path was less than dominant, finishing second in their qualifying group with only four wins out of ten matches. This lackluster qualifying performance raised questions about their readiness to make a deep run in the competition.

The strength of this Swiss side lies predominantly in their central defense. Manuel Akanji and Fabian Schar offer a solid and experienced partnership, providing stability and composure at the back. Their contributions will be crucial in navigating the challenges posed by a competitive Group A.

Midfield support is fairly robust, but the real concerns lie up front. The forwards have historically struggled to find the net, and this issue is exacerbated by Breel Embolo’s recent injury woes. Embolo, with 13 goals in 63 appearances for Switzerland, has been a key figure, but his torn ACL has sidelined him for much of the season, reducing his impact.

Enter Zeki Amdouni, who led the Swiss in qualifying with six goals. His ability to continue that form will be critical for Switzerland’s aspirations in Euro 2024. Given their track record and squad depth, the Swiss are expected to advance from the group stages, but their chances of progressing further seem limited. They must overcome offensive deficiencies and improve their consistency if they are to make a genuine impact on the tournament.

Hungary

Hungary comes into Euro 2024 with renewed confidence and an impressive run of form, poised to make a significant impact. In Euro 2020, Hungary found themselves in the daunting “group of death,” facing formidable opponents such as France, Germany, and Portugal. Despite the odds, they secured credible draws against France and Germany, although they fell short against Portugal and couldn’t progress beyond the group stages. This time around, their group, while still challenging, is comparatively less intimidating, giving Hungary a fairer shot at advancing.

Since the Euro 2020 outing, Hungary’s form has seen a notable improvement. Before a setback against Ireland on June 4, they enjoyed a 14-game unbeaten streak, underscoring their resilience and growth as a team. Their recent exploits include back-to-back away victories over heavyweight teams like England and Germany in 2022, with the 4-0 win over England being particularly eye-catching.

Central to Hungary’s resurgence is their captain, Dominik Szoboszlai. At just 23 years old, Szoboszlai has already garnered 41 caps and netted 12 goals for his country. As a versatile midfielder, he provides both offensive creativity and defensive reliability, making him an invaluable asset. Alongside Szoboszlai, center-back Willi Orban stands as the other player in the squad with experience at the highest club level, providing much-needed stability at the heart of Hungary’s defense.

Under the stewardship of Marco Rossi, who has managed the team since 2018, Hungary has developed a cohesive and well-organized unit. Rossi’s long tenure is a rarity in international football, particularly for a team that hasn’t historically enjoyed vast success. His tactics and leadership have evidently borne fruit, as seen in their qualifying campaign.

While Hungary may lack the depth of elite talent to make a deep run, their improved form and resilient mindset suggest they could at least clear the group stages. Szoboszlai’s dynamism and Orban’s defensive solidity will be crucial as they navigate their Euro 2024 campaign.

Scotland

Scotland qualified for their second straight European Championship, marking the first time they have participated in consecutive competitions. Their qualifying campaign went as smoothly as they could have hoped, winning their first five matches, including a notable 2-0 victory over Spain. This impressive run underscored their growing stability and tactical prowess under manager Steve Clarke. In stark contrast to their Euro 2020 performance, where they scored just once in three matches before exiting at the group stage, Scotland has shown significant improvement in their attacking play.

A surprising yet critical figure in their qualifying success has been Scott McTominay. Traditionally a midfielder, McTominay has been pivotal due to his ability to push forward and contribute goals, compensating for the lack of firepower in Scotland’s forward group. His goal-scoring capabilities have been a much-needed asset for the team, alleviating some of the pressure on the strikers.

A tactical challenge for Scotland is the deployment of their two best players, Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney, who both naturally play in similar positions. To maximize their strengths, Tierney often plays as a center back in a back three, while Robertson occupies the left back or left-wing back role. This adjustment has allowed Scotland to maintain a solid defensive structure while utilizing their best talents effectively.

Another key player for Scotland is John McGinn, who is currently in excellent form following a stellar season with Aston Villa. His ability to contribute both offensively and defensively will be crucial for Scotland’s ambitions in Euro 2024. McGinn’s versatility and robust playing style provide the team with essential balance and resilience in the midfield.

Overall, Scotland will need cohesive and outstanding performances from their key players to navigate a challenging group stage. While the odds may be tough, their recent form and strategic adjustments suggest they have a genuine chance of advancing beyond the group stage.

Final Thoughts

As we look ahead to Euro 2024, it’s clear that Group A will be a fiercely competitive and challenging group. Each team has its unique strengths and weaknesses, making it difficult to predict who will come out on top. However, as the betting odds reflect, Germany is the clear favorite to win the group, followed by Switzerland.

Real-time bets and updates on the odds can be found on FanDuel’s Euro 2024 page, providing an exciting way to engage with the tournament. But no matter the outcome, Group A is sure to provide thrilling matches and surprises along the way.

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