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Who Are The Prime Contenders For The Euro 2024 Crown?

The excitement is palpable for Euro 2024, as the wait for Europe's most prestigious tournament is almost over. In less than one day, Germany will face off against Scotland in Munich in the opening match. The big question is: who will come away with the title of "European champion"? There are many competitive teams, but only one nation can be left standing to hoist the Henri Delaunay Cup on July 14. Let's take a look at which squads have a shot.


France

It should come as no surprise that France is seen by many as the team to beat in Euro 2024. This French side has been the class of Europe over recent years, and no European squad has been as successful as them over the last four major tournaments. In fact, only once over that span have they failed to make the final. There is reason to believe they will be just as dangerous this year. Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, and Kingsley Coman are rumored to be starting against Austria and making for an attack that few opponents can rival.


In truth, there are not many weaknesses to be found with the French national team on paper. However, there are some concerns. The midfield, talented as it is, has looked ineffective in recent matches, and some of the defenders are out of form. These are minor issues compared to those facing other teams, and as long as France is consistent, they will go far.


Germany

The Germans are not just a favorite because they are hosts, although that does help. For the first time since 2016, it appears that Germany has a competitive roster. The trio of Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, and Toni Kroos are looking to close out their international careers on top, and they will be getting plenty of help from some unexpected sources. Kai Havertz has revitalized his career at Arsenal and makes an attack that felt toothless not too long ago pack a real punch.


Younger stars like Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz will undeniably make an impact. There are late bloomers like Pascal Gross and Max Mittelstadt as well, who will be crucial to Germany's success if they hope to go far. Germany will live and die, though, depending on how they attempt to balance their midfield. The team's captain, Ilkay Gundogan, has been subpar in recent matches for Germany but keeps seeing the field. Germany has the squad to win it all, but they also have the instability that can lead to an embarrassing exit.


England

The three lions have somehow never managed to win a European title (though they did get quite close last time). This feels like a tournament that head coach Gareth Southgate has to win. There has been some debate about his roster selections, with Jack Grealish and Harry Maguire being left at home, but it is undeniable that he will be bringing a stacked team to play in Germany. Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, John Stones, and Declan Rice will all feature in the starting XI for England. There are plenty more stars that will see the field and a number on the bench as well.


It would be naive to say that there is nothing wrong with this team, but from a distance, it does look like something special. Closer examination does raise some questions, though. Can England find an addequite left back in the absence of Luke Shaw? Will Stones be able to stay healthy? Does Southgate have a tactically sound plan for the midfield? As cliche as it sounds, England's greatest hurdle will always be England. Whether they can finally get past that pesky mental roadblock that always gets in the way remains to be seen.


Spain

Spain might not quite fit into the category of "favorite,” but they have a sneaky good team that is going under the radar. They will certainly have one of the most fun teams to watch in Euro 2024. The team’s trio of youngsters (unfortunately Gavi is injured), Pedri, Lamine Yamal, and Nico Williams, will have the eyes of the world focused on La Roja. Leading that attack is Alvaro Morata, who seems to get quite a bit of flack but, more often than not, performs admirably for his national team.


The team will be looking to have a strong showing after underperforming at the 2022 World Cup. Since then, Spain has lost just twice and was able to best Croatia in penalties to win the 2023 UEFA Nation’s League finals. Spain’s ability to turn some heads will depend on finding the right starters at defense. The national team’s youth movement has really evolved their midfield and forward positions, but the defense lags behind. There are promising prospects on the way, but for now they will have to make do with a defensive core that will be sorely missing some of its veterans from previous tournaments.


Portugal

The Euro 2016 champions are looking to add to their trophy cabinet. Sure, they have had some recent struggles, but it’s hard not to like Portugal. They have a well-rounded team that can go toe-to-toe with any opponent. It also helps that Group F is not exactly the group of death with Czechia, Georgia, and Turkey. Portugal has a strong defense that is helmed by Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo. In the midfield, there are stars like Bruno Fernandes and the underrated Joao Palhinha. Then, of course, up top, there is Cristiano Ronaldo. This is one of the most complete national teams in the world.


The issue is that the ideal starting XI has not really had the chance to mesh together. Portugal will be trying to figure things out on the fly. If they do, though, they are not a squad anyone will want to face. The other thing about Portugal that gives pause is the two elder statesmen of the team. Ronaldo is 39, and one has to wonder how he will hold up in these high-pressure games. Then there is Pepe, who is 41, and while he is not expected to start, it is questionable how much he has left to give as a sub. There is a lot that can go right with a roster like this, but success is far from guaranteed.


Netherlands

The Netherlands national team is almost always quality, but they have not won a European championship since 1988. Will 2024 be the year they end the drought? It looked much more promising just a few short days ago before it was announced that Frenkie de Jong would be out with an injury. Even still, it would be a mistake to write off the Dutch. They might not quite be on the level of these other teams, but they are close enough in quality that on any given day, they could come out victorious.


The team has an elite defense headed by Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt that will cause headaches for their opponents. The issue will not be keeping the ball out of their own net. If they want to go far, they are going to need to find ways to create opportunities and then capitalize on them. Will Joshua Zirkzee be given a chance? How will Xavi Simons handle the pressure? Can Cody Gakpo find his form? These are all questions the Dutch will have to answer if they hope to shock the world.


What's Next?

Euro 2024 kicks off tomorrow with just a single match (Germany vs. Scotland), but starting on June 15, there will be at least two matches a day through the end of the group stage. The tournament will run through July 14, when it concludes with the final in Berlin. In the meantime, anything can happen.


Any one of these teams could walk away as champions, or it’s possible that none of them will. Maybe a country punching above its weight, like Austria or Hungary, will do the impossible like Greece did in 2004. That’s the beautiful thing about a tournament like this—you never really know how it’s all going to play out.


Read More Soccer News From Stadium Rant Here: Soccer News



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