Euro 2024 squad check-in: How the big contenders are looking

We are counting down to the start of Euro 2024, with host nation Germany kicking it off on June 14 when they take on Scotland.

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All 24 teams are starting to make their final plans for the tournament, hoping that star players don’t get struck down by injury beforehand and looking to hit the ground running in top form. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of players desperately hoping to break into their country’s squad, which is set to be raised to a maximum of 26 players and has to be named by Friday, June 7.

Here, we take a look at the tournament favourites to see how they are shaping up ahead of European football’s showpiece international event.

Euro 2024: Bracket and fixtures schedule


ENGLAND
Fixtures: Serbia (June 16), Denmark (June 20), Slovenia (June 24)

KEY PLAYERS

All eyes will be on midfielder Jude Bellingham after a stunning first season at Real Madrid, where his deployment in a more-advanced attacking role has seemingly taken his game to new heights. Harry Kane‘s absence up front for last month’s defeat to Brazil and draw against Belgium underlined how much poorer England‘s attack is without him. Declan Rice is the only elite-level midfielder in the squad who is capable of playing a holding role, so any injury to the Arsenal man would be a major blow.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

Gareth Southgate has plenty of big decisions ahead. Winger Raheem Sterling needs a late-season flourish at Chelsea to ensure he is not high-profile casualty; Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford may also be at risk if his slump continues in contrast to younger, more dynamic options excelling at club level.

Full-backs Luke Shaw and Reece James are attempting to battle back from lengthy injury absences to make the squad, while Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi also falls into that category.

Strikers Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins and Callum Wilson are vying for two spots in the squad, at best, alongside Kane. Southgate has been very loyal to defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips in the past but he was left out last month and needs to revive his fortunes on loan at West Ham United.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

The clamour for 18-year-old midfielder Kobbie Mainoo to make the squad grows with each passing week he impresses amid the wider malaise at Manchester United. Cole Palmer‘s case looks irrefutable given he continues to shine so brightly despite Chelsea‘s issues this season — with 25 goals and 13 assists from 42 games — and is tied with Manchester City’s Erling Haaland on 20 goals in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot.

Forward Anthony Gordon is also making a late run as he thrives at Newcastle United, although England’s wide positions are fiercely competitive.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

England’s target is to win Euro 2024 and Southgate will be judged almost exclusively by that measure. Having reached the final of the last Euros only to lose on penalties to Italy, England expected a deep run at the 2022 World Cup before they went out to France in the quarterfinals, and the sheer volume of in-form attacking players at club level only heightens expectation now.

However, history offers two important warnings. Firstly, England have never been beyond the semifinal stage on foreign soil. But perhaps of greater significance is England’s dubious record against elite nations in tournament knockout matches. There is encouragement in beating Germany at the last Euros but defeats under Southgate to Croatia, Italy (on penalties) and France at his previous three tournaments suggest there is still a glass ceiling England have to break at the highest level. — James Olley


FRANCE
Fixtures: Austria (June 17), Netherlands (June 21), Poland (June 25)

KEY PLAYERS

No surprise here … Kylian Mbappé. The Paris Saint-Germain forward, who set to join Real Madrid in the summer, will be France’s most important player again during this tournament, his first one as captain of his country.

We saw in March, in the 2-0 loss to Germany and 3-2 win over Chile, that France without Antoine Griezmann are not the same. The 33-year-old is crucial with his intelligence, work rate, flair and creativity. As did at the World Cup to such great effect, he is expected to play in a deeper midfielder role where he is granted a lot of freedom.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

Kingsley Coman has entered a race against time to be fit to be called up by Didier Deschamps. The Bayern Munich winger was injured last month and faces at least another two or three weeks out — which would give him only a short window to get fit for the Euros.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

Midfielder Warren Zaïre-Emery turned 18 in March and is already a regular at PSG, where he has been a revelation this season. Deschamps gave him his France debut in November against Gibraltar, and he scored too.

Chelsea right-back Malo Gusto, 20, has a card to play. He has impressed Deschamps at times this season with strong performances at club level and made his debut for France in October against Netherlands.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

France are one of the favourites for the competition, along with England and then the rest. They have reached three of the last four finals of big tournaments (Euro 2016, World Cup 2018 and 2022), winning in 2018. They have the right mentality, incredible talent and squad depth — and of course the best player in the world at the moment in Mbappé. I expect them to go all the way. — Julien Laurens.


GERMANY
Fixtures: Scotland (June 14), Hungary (June 19), Switzerland (June 23)

KEY PLAYERS

Even though 34-year-old Toni Kroos has just returned to the national team after reversing his decision to retire from international football in 2021, it was abundantly clear during the most recent friendlies that the Real Madrid star will be the pivotal cog in Germany’s midfield. Everything related to ball possession will revolve around him. Hence, Kroos will probably need the support of a more defensive-minded midfield partner such as Bayer Leverkusen‘s Robert Andrich.

Whether Ilkay Gündogan will be such an important player in Germany’s attacking midfield remains to be seen. Head coach Julian Nagelsmann appreciates the Barcelona star’s talents, but Gündogan could become redundant with Kroos now back in the fold. Other difference makers are two top young prospects: Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz of Bayern and Leverkusen respectively.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

Nagelsmann didn’t select veterans Leon Goretzka (Bayern) and Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) for the March friendly matches against France and Netherlands, stating afterwards that he didn’t intend to make many changes to the squad going into the tournament. It seems that the duo could miss Euro 2024, despite a series of impressive performances for their clubs during the second half of the season. Hummels, in particular, has done a stellar job holding Dortmund’s defence together in recent Champions League games in their surprise run to the semifinals.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

The likes of Waldemar Anton and Deniz Undav have benefited from VfB Stuttgart‘s successful Bundesliga campaign, which will see them return to the Champions League next season. The two were recently selected for the national team for the first time and while they might not become starters during the tournament, they could be valuable as backups in central defence and at striker, respectively.

Another Stuttgart player who looks like he could be a starter is Maximilian Mittelstädt. The left-back has turned his career around following his move from Hertha Berlin last summer, benefiting from manager Sebastian Hoeness’ tactical nous. There is no other German left-back at Mittelstädt’s level at the moment.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

The team are capable enough of winning Group A and advancing to the round of 16. But Germany’s chances of a successful campaign could rise as the tournament progresses, because they have shown they can perform against the stronger nations (such as France) but struggle with the more counter-attacking nations who sit behind the ball. If they can navigate beyond the round of 16 anything is possible, though an overall tournament win on home soil would still constitute a major surprise. — Constantin Eckner


SPAIN
Fixtures: Croatia (June 15), Italy (June 20), Albania (June 24)

KEY PLAYERS

Spain’s standout player is Rodri. The Manchester City midfielder has been in imperious form for his club over a sustained period of time now and is arguably the only genuinely world-class player available to La Roja coach Luis de la Fuente.

There are several players with the potential to reach that level, though, and many eyes will be on exciting young forwards Lamine Yamal (Barcelona) and Nico Williams (Athletic Club) to deliver for Spain in the final third. Atletico Madrid’s Álvaro Morata is perhaps not as fashionable as Yamal and Williams, but he has been the regular striker under De la Fuente, often captaining the side, and has scored 34 goals for his country.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

Barcelona’s young duo Gavi and Alejandro Balde are both expected to miss out with injuries. Gavi, who tore his ACL playing for Spain last November, is perhaps the biggest loss as there are few midfielders with his tenacity and technique. And, when fit, he is a starter.

Another Barça midfielder, Pedri, is fighting to prove his form and fitness before the tournament. He has recently returned from another muscle injury and, if the 21-year-old doesn’t get any knocks before the end of the season, he should make the squad. However, he has work to do to win his place back in the starting XI.

Meanwhile, Ferran Torres (Barcelona), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal) and Ansu Fati (on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion), regulars in the squad at times in the past, are far from certainties to be in Germany.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

At 16, Yamal is already looking like Spain’s best option in attack. He was so good in last month’s friendly against Brazil that he was given a standing ovation by the Santiago Bernabéu crowd. His Barça teammate Pau Cubarsí, a 17-year-old centre-back, has also played himself into contention for a spot in the squad with a string of assured performances for his club.

Elsewhere, Alejandro Grimaldo‘s form for Bayer Leverkusen has not gone unnoticed and he’s making a relatively late run to claim Spain’s left-back spot this summer.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

There is an acceptance in Spain that there are countries equipped with better players than them right now. However, they won the UEFA Nations League last summer and have enough quality to go toe-to-toe with any European side on their day.

Their tournament will be judged on how they perform as much as much how far they go. If they play well but lose to one of the favourites in a tight game, there are unlikely to be many complaints. That said, progress to the quarterfinals is probably the minimum expectation. And even if there is a realisation this Spain side is not a patch on the team that won back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012, winning the competition is not seen as impossible. — Sam Marsden


ITALY
Fixtures: Albania (June 15), Spain (June 20), Croatia (June 24)

KEY PLAYERS

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma captains the side and Italy need him to recreate his Euro 2020 form (which he hasn’t done at club level with Paris Saint-Germain.) Nicolò Barella is the leader in midfield and Alessandro Bastoni should be in charge at the back. Up front, it’s anybody’s guess since the combination of lack of talent and inability to stay fit has really hurt them.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

Midfielder Marco Verratti hasn’t been called up since Luciano Spalletti took over as coach and the fact that he now plays in Qatar for Al-Arabi won’t help him. Winder Federico Chiesa has had a rough season with Juventus and, if there are doubts over his fitness (and there often are), he’s by no means guaranteed to go. Same goes with midfielder Nicolò Zaniolo who, despite being talented enough, hasn’t really established himself as a starter at Aston Villa.

Despite the dearth of centre-forwards, Gianluca Scamacca was left out of the last Italy squad; he’ll be hoping his heroics at for Napoli away at Liverpool in the Europa League, when he scored two goals, will help him make the cut.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

Bologna‘s Riccardo Calafiori has been one of the best defenders in Serie A this season and could well be a late call up having only been capped to under-21 level. Lorenzo Lucca of Udinese isn’t always easy on the eye, but he’s 6-foot-7 and has played regularly this year, scoring seven Serie A goals; many teams freak out when a giant centre-forward comes off the bench. Giovanni Fabbian of Bologna is also a very gifted midfielder who might spring a surprise, though he’s not a regular at club level.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

It’s a tough group with Spain, Croatia and Albania, but Italy expect to advance, given the format where the best third-placed teams go through. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Donnarumma can be a shut-down keeper and that can take you far in a tournament, but they need to get creativity from elsewhere and right now there are just so many uncertainties. There are maybe five teams that are a notch above in terms of talent, so the quarterfinals seems like a reasonable goal. — Gabrielle Marcotti


PORTUGAL
Fixtures: Czechia (June 18), Turkey (June 22), Georgia (June 26)

KEY PLAYERS

For the first time since his breakthrough tournament at Euro 2004, Cristiano Ronaldo will not be the focal point of Portugal’s hopes in Germany this summer. The Al Nassr forward, now 39, remains a key figure for Roberto Martinez’s team by virtue of his ongoing to ability to score goals — Ronaldo is the world-record international goal scorer with 128 — but the depth in the squad means that Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota, João Félix, Rafael Leão and Rúben Dias are all just as important, maybe even more so.

Portugal are also blessed by strength in the goalkeeping department with Rui Patrício (AS Roma), Diogo Costa (FC Porto) and José Sá (Wolverhampton Wanderers) all vying for the No. 1 spot.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

Liverpool forward Diogo Jota was the big concern after suffering a knee injury in February, but the 27-year-old has now returned to action for Jurgen Klopp’s team and should make the plane.

Otherwise Portugal have an healthy squad at this stage, but with six weeks of the season still to play across Europe, Martinez faces an anxious wait to see if all of his players remain fit.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

Benfica midfielder João Neves is the rising star of Portuguese football and a target for Europe’s leading clubs, with the 19-year-old having won five caps since making his debut for the national team in October.

Forwards Goncalo Ramos and Leao have emerged since Euro 2020 and established themselves as key members of Martinez’s squad, with Ramos scoring a hat trick against Switzerland during the 2022 World Cup after replacing the dropped Ronaldo in the round-of-16 tie.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

If Portugal top Group F — they are paired with Turkey, Czechia and Georgia — they are likely to avoid tournament favourites France and England until the final. With such a strong pool of talent, Portugal are arguably underrated as potential winners in Germany, just as they were when beating host nation France in the final of Euro 2016. — Mark Ogden


NETHERLANDS
Fixtures: Poland (June 16), France (June 21), Austria (June 25)

KEY PLAYERS

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong arguably holds the most crucial role in Ronald Koeman‘s squad. In recent matches, his absence due to injury made it very challenging for Netherlands to play their preferred style. Without De Jong, Netherlands couldn’t execute their 3-4-1-2 system as effectively. All eyes were on the Barcelona star for Euro 2024, but he left Sunday’s El Clasico on a stretcher and in tears. Every Dutch fan is eagerly awaiting the latest news on his injury, desperately hoping for his swift return.

Other key players include centre-back Virgil van Dijk and forward Memphis Depay. Captain Van Dijk has rediscovered his form at Liverpool, while Memphis remains the country’s most dangerous striker, but he’s been struggling due to numerous injuries this season.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

If De Jong is only 50% certain of getting some minutes, he’ll head to Germany. But right now it’s unclear how serious his injury is.

Another standout player who might miss out is Joshua Zirkzee. The young striker has bagged 10 goals this season for Bologna in Serie A, showcasing his immense potential and why Bayern Munich scouted him at such a young age. However, he might not be on the plan; not due to injury, but because of Koeman’s choices. Memphis is his top pick as a striker, Wout Weghorst was crucial during qualifying and is the go-to when Netherlands need a goal, Cody Gakpo is a sure pick, and the head coach is leaning more towards Brian Brobbey as his final selection up front.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

Brobbey is certainly making a case to be in the squad. The 22-year-old striker has shone in Ajax‘s most-challenging season in the club’s history. While other players are struggling to meet expectations, Brobbey is stepping up and could very well be one of the two starting strikers for Netherlands this summer.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

If you ask Koeman, he’ll tell you he’s aiming to win Euro 2024 but, deep down, he knows it’s going to be a tough challenge. The Dutch Football Association hasn’t communicated any specific targets, but it clearly expects to advance past the group stage where the team face Poland, France and Austria.

After that, the road to the final will decide if they can go all the way. Netherlands are always considered one of the underdogs, boasting players like Van Dijk, De Jong, Xavi Simons and Memphis. Their success heavily depends on how they perform. However, the last three names haven’t been at their best for the national team or their clubs for various reasons. — Max Toemen


BELGIUM
Fixtures: Slovakia (June 17), Romania (June 22), Ukraine (June 26)

KEY PLAYERS

Will star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne be fully fit and firing for the Euros? After missing all of the first half of the season, the 32-year-old has been outstanding at times for Manchester City since January and Belgium need him at his best. He missed the March internationals through injury as a precaution.

Striker Romelu Lukaku also needs De Bruyne on song. While Lukaku hasn’t had a stellar season at AS Roma, with 11 goals in 29 Serie A appearances, he is still crucial and needs service to carry this Belgium side.

WHO’S IN DANGER OF MISSING OUT

For Thibaut Courtois, it has been a nightmare season. The Real Madrid goalkeeper injured his ACL in August and then suffered a setback last month just as he was about to make his comeback. The latest injury is not as serious but he might run out of time to make the Euros.

UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS

At 19, central midfielder Arthur Vermeeren is the biggest prospect in Belgian football. He moved from Antwerp to Atlético Madrid in January but unfortunately has hardly played, making just three LaLiga appearances.

Zeno Debast, 20, is in a different position as he has been one of the best defenders in Belgium with Anderlecht this season. He has six caps already and coach Domenico Tedesco is a fan of the centre-back.

HOW FAR WILL THEY GO?

This is a new chapter for Belgium, the first tournament for Tedesco and for the post-Eden Hazard era. The golden generation is over now and it might not be a bad thing. There will be no pressure and no expectations on this team. They still have issues and weaknesses, especially defensively, but expect them to have a decent Euros, reaching at least the quarterfinals. — Julien Laurens