Euro 2024 updates: Italy get a scare, teen Yamal leads Spain

Euro 2024 is underway! Our daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads.

Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Germany all the way up to the final on July 14.


The lead: Italy get a scare, which may help their Euros run

DORTMUND, Germany — A 2-1 win for Italy over Albania won’t necessarily cause the rest of Europe to sit up and take notice, but this was a tricky test navigated well by Luciano Spalletti’s side.

Italy had the Inter Milan double act of Alessandro Bastoni and Nicolò Barella to thank as it was their first-half goals that got Italy the three points in a hostile atmosphere. But the first flurries of the champions’ title defence started with an unwanted piece of Euros history.

Dortmund’s stadium was painted red with thousands of Albania’s fans outnumbering their Italian counterparts, and the crowd erupted after just 23 seconds when Nedim Bajrami scored the quickest goal in men’s European Championship history, giving Albania a surprising lead.

This is a new-look Italy side — most of the team that won the tournament three years ago are either retired, injured or been moved — and they looked like strangers for the opener, as Federico Dimarco‘s loose throw-in was pounced on by Bajrami, who flashed a fierce shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a roar to match the decibels produced by the walls of red in Dortmund as the fans celebrated Bajrami’s goal, but with the north terrace still covered in thick black and red smoke intermingled from flares, Italy found their feet and from there took control.

Barella, who missed their warmup friendlies with a muscle strain, was the chief orchestrator, dictating play and constantly pressing and prodding away at the Albania defence. Italy only needed a sniff of a chance to put Albania under pressure, Lorenzo Pellegrini firing wide, and then it was Bastoni who equalised, nodding in a brilliant Pellegrini cross at the far post after 10 minutes. They went ahead through Barella’s wonderful first-time effort six minutes later, just reward for the pressure Italy were putting on Albania’s defence.

The Italians could’ve added more: Gianluca Scamacca had a shot saved by Brentford‘s Thomas Strakosha, while he also managed to turn a neat, dinked effort from Davide Frattesi onto the post.

The second half was less convincing from Italy. Though they dominated possession, they lacked a cutting edge. Federico Chiesa flashed one shot wide on the hour mark but that was all they mustered. Despite having all the ball, it was Albania who gave Italy a late scare as Rey Manaj flicked an effort just wide.

You can see Spalletti’s stamp on this team — players interchanging at-will, and a quick-moving fluidity allowing Barella to sit in the middle while options presented themselves in front of him. Barella was an injury doubt for this match, but how thankful they must be to have him available. He has this ability to drift in and out of play, filling in when Riccardo Calafiori heads forward like a 2024 version of Leonardo Bonucci, keeping the team compact at the back.

Barella is the orchestrator — telling his teammates to push forward, or pull back, depending on the tempo of the match, and from there, Italy build. And then there’s his ability to finish with that wonderful first-time winner. Around him, Dimarco, bar the error, was lively on the left, and links well with Pellegrini while you can see Scamacca was playing with a tonne of confidence up front. The new-look centre-back partnership is building familiarity with Calafiori winning just his third cap alongside Bastoni.

This was, as Donnarumma put it prematch, a huge “banana skin” for Italy. Albania’s fans were immense — 50,000 or so have travelled to Germany for the tournament — and Croatia and Spain will be in for similar treatment next up. For Italy, they have got their title defence off and running with a win.

It wasn’t a vintage performance, but it’s the type of victory that is essential for settling nerves and laying down foundations to build from with Barella the chief architect. — Tom Hamilton

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Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Two generations lead Spain to success

BERLIN — Spain right-back Dani Carvajal, 32, is almost old enough to be the father of 16-year-old winger Lamine Yamal, who plays in front of him in Luis de la Fuente’s 4-3-3 formation. Sixteen years separate them and when they combined for Spain’s third goal in the 3-0 thrashing of Croatia on Saturday — a Carvajal finish from a stunning Yamal cross — it perfectly summed up what this Spain team is all about: a mix of youth and experience, speed and control, technical ability and power.

Carvajal became Spain’s oldest goal scorer at a European Championship, while Barcelona prodigy Yamal made history as the youngest player to ever take part in the tournament. It was also only the second time in the history of the Euros that two players from Barcelona and Real Madrid have combined for a goal.

Spain were the more aggressive and efficient team in both boxes and went 2-0 up through Álvaro Morata and Fabián Ruiz inside 32 minutes. They rode their luck on a couple of occasions, including a penalty miss by their opponents in the second half, and had less expected goals (1.91 against 2.48), less shots (11 against 15) and less possession (43% to 57%) than Croatia. For whatever reason, Croatia just weren’t able to fire and star midfielder Luka Modric was so disappointing that he came off after an hour.

Spain won’t mind though. They are not like former Spain teams who had sterile possession and not much else; they are more direct, with a great balance in midfield with Fabian, Rodri and Pedri. Even Morata answered his critics with a goal. However, the captain came off injured in the second half, as did Rodri, which casts a shadow over an otherwise impressive performance as Spain wait to learn more about the fitness of two of their key players — Julien Laurens.

Switzerland start in style

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Can Switzerland hold a top performance for 90 minutes?

Ale Moreno reacts to an impressive win for Switzerland over Hungary to kick off their Euro 2024 campaign.

COLOGNE, Germany — Kwadwo Duah scored his first international goal in only his second appearance as Switzerland made the perfect start to their Group A campaign with a 3-1 win over Hungary. The 27-year-old, born in England and eligible to play for Ghana, was called up for the first time for pre-tournament friendlies against Estonia and Austria and has just 45 minutes of international football under his belt. But he needed only 12 minutes (plus a long VAR check for offside) to put Switzerland ahead in Cologne after a fine pass from Michel Aebischer.

Aebischer himself got a second with a thunderous shot during a dominant first half for Switzerland, who then had to weather a Hungary fightback after half-time. Barnabás Varga got a goal back after a sublime cross from Liverpool midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, but Hungary couldn’t take advantage of a nervy ending and fearsome support from their fans to force an equaliser, and Switzerland substitute Breel Embolo made the result safe with a third goal in stoppage time, calmly lifting the ball over Péter Gulácsi despite losing his leg-strapping in the process.

Switzerland have reached the knockout rounds of the past five major tournaments, but fans arriving in Germany have been downplaying their chances at Euro 2024 after a stuttering qualifying campaign that saw Murat Yakin’s team win just four of 10 games. Captain Granit Xhaka has been forced to answer questions about reports of a rift with Yakin over some of the tactics used in qualifying, but there was nothing wrong with the Swiss performance against Hungary in the first half.

For their part, Hungary, a popular pre-tournament pick as a surprise team to do well, were poor in the first 45 and their much-improved second half deserved Varga’s goal. Switzerland, though, always looked dangerous on the break and will take confidence into their next games. — Rob Dawson

Russian flags on show in Germany

Political and/or discriminatory symbols are banned inside stadiums during Euro 2024, but the presence of a number of Russian flags in the crowd during Germany’s 5-1 win against Scotland in Munich prompted anger on social media.

Russia have been banned from international tournaments by UEFA since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but their national flag is not a prohibited symbol. UEFA sources have told ESPN that flags and banners are allowed unless they carry forbidden or discriminatory symbols that would constitute a criminal offence in Germany, including racist, xenophobic, politically radical or National Socialist symbols.

One of the Russian flags inside the Allianz Arena carried the name of Belgorod, the Russian city recently hit by Ukrainian attacks, but that, as a place name, would not infringe any of the regulations on banned symbols.

Ukraine play their first game of Euro 2024 against Romania in Munich. As of March 2024, over 1.1 million Ukrainian refugees were living in Germany, which has now taken in more people from the conflict than any other European nation. — Mark Ogden

Germany steps up security ahead of high-profile matches

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German authorities step up presence for ‘high-risk’ Poland-Netherlands fixture

Watch the view from the streets in Hamburg, Germany as local authorities step up their presence for what’s been classified a high-risk fixture between Poland and Netherlands.

Sunday’s game between the Netherlands and Poland in Hamburg has been classed as a high-risk fixture by the German authorities and the intense security was in evidence on Saturday as thousands of supporters gathered in the port city’s Reeperbahn district.

Several roads into the area were closed by roadblocks and armoured police were visible by their heavy presence.

Both the Dutch and Polish domestic leagues have been troubled by violence among supporters in recent seasons and although the atmosphere was good natured in Hamburg, local police patrolled in vans alongside two larger vehicles and a vehicle carrying a water cannon. — Mark Ogden


Stat of the day

For the second straight day, a team had a three-goal lead at half-time in a Euro 2024 match. Prior to this edition, a team had led by 3+ goals at the half only twice in European Championship history (France vs. Iceland in 2016; France vs. Belgium in 1984).

Now Spain (3-0 vs. Croatia) and Germany (3-0 vs. Scotland) join the list. — ESPN Stats & Information.


Match previews for June 15

Group D: Poland vs. Netherlands (Hamburg; 3 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET)

Odds (via ESPNBET): Poland +475, Draw +300, Netherlands -180

Poland must end a 12-game winless streak against Netherlands dating back to 1979 if they are to make a perfect start to their Euro 2024 campaign. And Michal Probierz’s team have the added the difficulty of trying to do so without captain and talisman Robert Lewandowski.

The Barcelona forward will miss the Group D opener in Hamburg due to injury, and although Probierz says the 35-year-old is making progress with his muscle problem, he will not be risked and the next game against Austria is the most likely return for Poland’s 82-goal all-time top scorer.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman is aiming to win the European Championship as a manager, having done so as a player in 1988, and is expected to start with Memphis Depay up front, with the Atletico Madrid forward now just six goals behind Robin van Persie (50) in second place as the all-time top scorer for the Oranje.

Netherlands have their own injuries to overcome, with influential midfielders Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners ruled out of the tournament, but the Dutch will hope they have enough strength in depth to get them through. — Mark Ogden.

Group C: Slovenia vs. Denmark (Stuttgart; 6 p.m. local / noon ET)

Odds: Slovenia +400, Draw +250, Denmark -135

Slovenia have intermingling generations of present and future greats in their squad, but it remains to be seen whether they have enough about them to get through a tough group with their resolute 4-4-2 formation. There are familiar names: Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak in goal and veteran striker Josip Ilicic, who is back in the squad after a two-year absence. There’s also Benjamin Sesko, one of the most sought-after young strikers in Europe, who is leading the line after signing a new contract with RB Leipzig last week.

Also keep an eye on Panathinaikos playmaker Adam Gnezda Cerin and Sesko’s partner up front, Andraz Sporar. This is Slovenia’s second crack at the Euros, after playing in 2000, and Portugal fans will know their threat after they beat Roberto Martinez’s side 2-0 in March.

Denmark will be looking to emulate their feat of reaching the semifinals in Euro 2021. That campaign started with Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest in their group opener against Finland, but the Manchester United playmaker featured at the Qatar World Cup just a year later and is again in the squad for this competition. There are still familiar names from that run: Kasper Schmeichel, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Simon Kjaer, to name a few, but there’s also excitement around some of the younger members of the squad.

Manchester United striker Rasmus Højlund, Sporting CP‘s Morten Hjulmand and Club Brugge’s Andreas Skov Olsen are all in good form and should impress. With Serbia and England also in Group C, both teams will be looking to get off to a good start in Stuttgart. — Tom Hamilton

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Euro 2024 preview: Betting favorite England faces Serbia in Group C

Check out the most noteworthy stats ahead of the Euro 2024 clash between England and Serbia.

Group C: Serbia vs. England (Gelsenkirchen; 9 p.m. local / 3 p.m. ET)

Odds: Serbia +550, Draw +340, England -220

It is time to find out whether England can live up to their favourites billing. Gareth Southgate’s side begin their Group C campaign in Gelsenkirchen with many expecting a strong showing from a team able to boast such a rich array of attacking talent, including Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden.

They aren’t alone in that, however, as Serbia will start Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic up front in a strike pairing that will test England’s weak point in defence. Only Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martínez scored more goals than the 16 goals Vlahovic managed for Juventus in Serie A this season, while Mitrovic bagged 28 goals in 28 games for Al-Hilal and only Cristiano Ronaldo scored more in the Saudi Pro League.

Both sides will hope the occasion passes without incident off the pitch, given this fixture has been deemed “high risk” by police chiefs amid concerns of clashes between England fans travelling en masse and a few hundred Serbia supporters the authorities believe are intent on causing trouble. Low-alcohol beer is being served in the vicinity of the stadium in a bid to avoid fuelling any aggression. — James Olley


Betting tip (via ESPN BET)

I know this isn’t exactly going to rock the betting world, but I just can’t get beyond Harry Kane scoring against Serbia. So where can we find some value in that? Let’s go Kane to outscore Serbia +200. — Dan Thomas


One big read

We’re analysing every VAR decision made throughout all 51 games at Euro 2024. After each game, VAR expert Dale Johnson takes a look at the major incidents to examine and explain the process in terms of VAR protocol and the Laws of the Game.

We could be in for a long tournament.

Euro 2024 VAR review: Every decision in Germany analysed


And finally…

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‘I’m more handsome than Kylian!’ – Thuram jokes after reporter’s gaffe

Marcus Thuram fires back with a joke after a journalist accidentally calls him Kylian Mbappe.

France striker Marcus Thuram expressed his concern on Saturday about the rise of the Rassemblement National, the country’s right-wing populist party, before the French elections at the end of June.

Thuram — who was named after Jamaican political activist Marcus Garvey — said he wanted to transmit a message of unity and urged the public to vote in order to deny the political party’s rise and attempt to win the upcoming general election.

The Rassemblement National received 31.4% of the country’s votes in last weekend’s European Union elections, the largest share of all French parties, prompting President Emmanuel Macron to unexpectedly dissolve the country’s parliament and call a snap poll.

Marcus Thuram said he and his France teammates were shocked after seeing the EU election results after their draw with Canada last Sunday.

“The situation is very, very serious,” Thuram said in a news conference on Saturday. “We were all shocked in the dressing room after the game against Canada last weekend when we saw the results [of the European elections]. It is the sad reality of our society today. Every day on television in France there are messages to help this party being successful.

“We have to tell everyone to go and vote. As citizens, you or me, we have to fight to stop the Rassemblement National winning. Everyone has to do what is right. I am standing in front of you, and I am saying things as they are.”

Thuram also showed his lighter side after a journalist mistakenly called him Kylian. “I’m more handsome than Kylian,” he said. “I don’t look like a Ninja Turtle!” — Julien Laurens