Euro 2024 updates: Mbappé, France have room for improvement

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 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: Mbappé, France have room for improvement

DÜSSELDORF — After a tense week, torn between the preparations for these Euros and the difficult political context back home in which he sent a clear message to the nation, Kylian Mbappé was just too excited for this tournament to finally start. So who better than his dad to bump into when he walked onto the pitch 80 minutes before their match against Austria to feel the atmosphere and touch the grass in Düsseldorf? Wilfried Mbappé is in Germany to commentate on matches for French television and both father and son had a lovely moment together. Then it was back to business for Kylian.

Business that was ultimately taken care of. France left the Düsseldorf Arena as 1-0 winners, and that victory was as narrow and hardfought as the scoreline suggests.

This competition is the 25-year-old’s first as French captain, and he admitted in his news conference on Sunday that this was his dream. The extra pressure that comes with the captaincy didn’t faze him against a good Austrian side, but his lack of match fitness after a tough end of the season with Paris Saint-Germain — one in which he didn’t play much because of his departure to Real Madrid — showed.

Yet, even though he wasn’t at 100% of his physical ability, he was still the most influential player for Les Bleus. His first chance early on forced a great save by Patrick Pentz. His second one just after the break should have been a goal — Mbappé rarely misses a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. After the ball was sent through by Adrien Rabiot, who was excellent in midfield with the returning N’Golo Kanté, the new Galactico missed the target by only a few inches. Had he been sharper and more prepared, the outcome would have been different. It’s now 18 shots in his career at the Euros (2020 and 2024) and Mbappé is yet to score in the competition.

In between those moments, he dribbled and crossed from the right-hand side, a ball that was deflected into the Austrian goal by Maximilian Wöber. It was a goal that gave France the lead and eventually a narrow but deserved win.

At the end of the match, one of the longest hugs Mbappé gave was to William Saliba. Both come from Bondy, in the northern suburbs of Paris, and it was the first Euros game for the Arsenal centre-back as a starter. Mbappé had been present to help him and advise him like a friend, a captain and a teammate would do.

Against Austria, Saliba was good and solid. This French team, like its talisman, has started the tournament without much magic but with discipline, seriousness and structure. And a win. Mbappé and France can now focus on going up a gear or two toward their ultimate goal of winning this Euros on July 14. — Julien Laurens

– Euro 2024: Landing page | Schedule | Rosters | News
Team previews | Predictions for every team (ESPN+)

Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Belgium’s World Cup hangover lingers into Euros

FRANKFURT — For the second major tournament running, it looks like Belgium‘s dreadful luck in front of goal could cost them dear. They fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in Frankfurt on Monday, but they had enough chances to win this match five times over.

At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Belgium exited the tournament at the group stage with a single goal to their name. Two years on, and despite Kevin De Bruyne saying on Sunday that Belgium “can’t focus on positives or negatives from the past, the team is sharp and ready to start this tournament,” their misfortunes in front of goal were blatant once again.

It wasn’t for want of trying, but luck deserted them. Romelu Lukaku had the ball in the back of the net twice but both goals were ruled out after VAR checks; first for offside, and secondly, for handball, after the microchip in the ball detected the ball brushing the right arm of Loïs Openda for what Belgium hoped would’ve been their equaliser in the 85th minute.



ESPN FC Live crew debate Belgium handball controversy

Gab Marcotti and Shaka Hislop discuss the handball decision against Loïs Openda for Belgium’s disallowed goal.

How Belgium lost this, only they know. Despite time and time again getting themselves in good spots, they failed to capitalise. Their wastefulness was alarming: Leandro Trossard looping one effort over the bar with Martin Dúbravka stranded, Lukaku suffering a heavy touch on two one-on-ones, and having another shot saved brilliantly at close range. De Bruyne worked and worked but just couldn’t find the answer.

Slovakia, in turn, were brilliant to watch. Delightfully opportunist, but well organised and prone to some stray passes at the back that Belgium failed to capitalise on. Ivan Schranz’s seventh-minute goal came off the back of a Belgium error at the back — they were their own worst enemies.

This is an exciting Belgium team, make no mistake. Domenico Tedesco has given them licence to attack — they finished the match playing in a 3-2-1-4 formation — but for all the thrills of Jérémy Doku and second-half substitute Johan Bakayoko, who had a shot cleared off the line thanks to brilliant defending from Dávid Hancko, they still couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net. With Romania and Ukraine to come, Belgium are far from done, but the spectre of Qatar’s failings will be hanging over this team if they continue to play with such profligacy. — Tom Hamilton

Romania emerge as one of Euro 2024’s surprise packages

MUNICH — “No Romania, no party,” sang the thousands of Romania supporters, in English, on the sweat-soaked metro journey to the Allianz Arena. That was how the day started. It ended with mass celebrations as Edward Iordanescu’s team joined in the festivities after securing just their second-ever win at a Euros — their only previous victory was against England at Euro 2000, the last time they won a game at any tournament — by steamrolling Ukraine 3-0.



Romania ‘shake up Group E’ with Ukraine win

Sam Marsden joins ESPN FC Live to react to Romania’s win over Ukraine that gives them control over Group E.

The focus before had understandably been on Ukraine, taking part in their first major tournament since Russia’s invasion in 2022. The talk after will be about Romania — and maybe Andriy Lunin‘s goalkeeping — and how they slipped under the radar pre-tournament.

Perhaps that’s because they don’t have a big-name player. Ukraine do have some: Mykhailo Mudryk, Oleksandr Zinchenko and LaLiga top scorer Artem Dovbyk, for example. What Romania are, though, is an incredibly well-drilled, hard-working team. They only conceded five times through 10 unbeaten qualifying games and they frustrated Ukraine before picking them off. Lunin will not want to see the first two goals back but Romania, led by Nicolae Stanciu, the idol for thousands of the Romanian fans who filled Munich clad in yellow, were ruthlessly effective. Watch out for Dennis Man, too, the winger who was involved in all three goals and is a headline writer’s dream. — Sam Marsden

Is Messi helping to turn Germany fans to pink?

We spotted them in the sea of Germany fans, with their resolutely white traditional Mannschaft jerseys (or trikots, as they like to call them here). The little blotches of pink and purple were Germany shirts too, only they were the team’s new alternate kit, designed by Adidas in conjunction with the German FA.

The kit has proven to be extremely popular, according to Nick Craggs, general manager of Adidas Football, who was speaking to the Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung. “They are selling far better than previous Germany away jerseys (which have tended to be black, green or red) and in fact have proven to be just as popular as the home jersey,” he said.

Craggs called the design a “risky” choice and in some ways it is, though the success of the Inter Miami CF jersey (and the fact that it’s what Lionel Messi wears to work) probably suggests it was a calculated risk. Fans are by no means averse to wearing pink, if the jersey looks cool. Or even, as Adidas insists on calling it, “Semi Lucid Fuchsia.” (Which is kinda the same thing.) — Gab Marcotti

UEFA’s ‘snicko’ tech takes centre stage

It may have slipped your notice ahead of the tournament, but UEFA was very pleased to trumpet its new “snicko” technology for the VAR.

Without going too deep into the technicalities, inside the Adidas matchball there’s a chip. Its primary purpose is to detect when the ball is touched on offsides, but UEFA realised it could be a new toy for handball too.

So now we get what can best described as a “heartbeat” graphic displayed as the VAR rolls the footage back and forward. A spike in the display shows when the ball has been touched.

The spike showed us that the fingers of Belgium forward Loïs Openda brushed the ball, which led to Romelu Lukaku’s 86th-minute equaliser against Slovakia being ruled out by the video referee.

It didn’t really add anything when you could clearly see the touch, but UEFA is no doubt going to try to use this whenever it can. Welcome to football in 2024. — Dale Johnson

Patience wearing thin with transport issues

GELSENKIRCHEN — UEFA can put as many resources as it wants into producing a high-level international tournament. What it cannot control is the quality of the train system in Germany, with the Deutsche Bahn service long since falling into chaos. And now the hundreds of thousands of football fans who have travelled for the finals are discovering just how bad it is.

Tales of woe are emerging from supporters attending games in almost every major city. Overcrowding at transport hubs, poor signage at stadia informing fans where to go, and no Wi-Fi.

Trains are cancelled at short notice. Some that are timetabled to run never even appear. Fans have queued for hours trying to get to and from matches.

Perhaps nowhere are these issues more prevalent so far than Gelsenkirchen, a small industrial city with a population of around 260,000 and precious few hotels, meaning most fans are travelling in and out by train. It was an odd choice to host Serbia versus England on Sunday. It is an odd choice as a host venue full stop. A solitary tram route traversing the 4.5 miles from Gelsenkirchen station to the stadium was utterly overwhelmed, even when supplemented by buses.

Many chose to brave the heavy rain showers by walking, carrying children on their soaked shoulders. Post-match was a shambles. Tens of thousands of fans were guided through a solitary gate towards public transport. Some climbed over the barriers of a dual carriageway road to walk back.

Taxis were non-existent or exorbitant. One fan trying to travel almost two hours after the final whistle was quoted €65 for a 15-minute journey that usually costs around €20. And further havoc greeted them at the station as trains were once again unreliable.

Three hours after the final whistle, hundreds of fans darted between platforms as scheduled trains disappeared and delayed alternatives threatened to arrive.

Gelsenkirchen hosts two more group games and a round-of-16 match that could once again feature England. Things must improve fast — there and everywhere else. — James Olley

Stat of the day

Belgium have scored zero goals in their past three major tournament games (Monday vs. Slovakia, 2022 World Cup group-stage matches against Croatia and Morocco). From 2014 to 2021, Belgium were held scoreless just three times in 22 games at major tournaments (2014 World Cup vs. Argentina, Euro 2016 vs. Italy and 2018 World Cup vs. France). — ESPN Stats & Information.

Match previews for Tuesday

Group F: Turkey vs. Georgia (Munich; 6 p.m. local, 12 p.m. ET)

Odds (via ESPN BET): Turkey -155, Draw +280, Georgia +425

DORTMUND — Optimism in Turkey, after away wins over Croatia and Germany in October and November, has been tempered slightly following a run of five games without a win in the buildup to Euro 2024. A 6-1 defeat to Austria in March was particularly damaging and there are fears creeping in that, despite boasting a growing crop of impressive youngsters like Real Madrid‘s Arda Güler, this tournament could end in disappointment.



Will Arda Güler have a break-out tournament at Euro 2024?

Turkey head coach Vincenzo Montella has high hopes for the young Real Madrid midfielder.

Turkey were fancied as dark horses ahead of Euro 2020, but ended up scoring just one goal on their way to losing all three group games to Italy, Wales and Switzerland.

Georgia, meanwhile, are delighted to be in Germany at all after qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in their history. Managed by former France international Willy Sagnol, they’ll look to defend well and use star man Khvicha Kvaratskhelia effectively on the counter-attack. — Rob Dawson

Group F: Portugal vs. Czechia (Frankfurt; 6 p.m./noon)

Odds (via ESPN BET): Portugal -210, Draw +340, Czechia +550

LEIPZIG — Can Cristiano Ronaldo defy the inevitability of time and the weakened competition of Saudi Pro League football to lead Portugal to glory in Euro 2024? We’re about to find out. Ronaldo scored 35 goals in 31 appearances for Al Nassr and while those numbers are undeniably impressive, it is difficult to know how they will translate onto a stage as grand as this.



Roberto Martinez defends Cristiano Ronaldo selection at age 39

Portugal manager says Cristiano Ronaldo is in the Portugal team “on merit” amid criticism of his age and playing in the Saudi Pro League.

The 39-year-old was benched for Portugal’s two knockout matches at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but with Roberto Martinez replacing Fernando Santos as head coach, Ronaldo is back in favour. This will be the forward’s 11th major tournament.

Czechia have played at 11 European Championships in their history. They arrive as something of an unknown given Tuesday’s game will be coach Ivan Hasek’s first competitive game in charge since assuming control in January. Four friendly wins over Norway, Armenia, Malta and North Macedonia offer encouragement but the game in Leipzig is clearly a big step up. Czechia hope captain Tomás Soucek has overcome an injury scare to feature. — James Olley

Betting tip (via ESPN BET)

He will, won’t he? You know he will. So where do we get value for Cristiano Ronaldo scoring and sparking the Lionel Messi debate for the millionth time? Let’s go Ronaldo to outscore Czechia +185. — Dan Thomas

One big read

Just how good was Cristiano Ronaldo‘s 2023-24 season? It was “one of the best” in the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s 22-year professional career according to — you guessed it — Cristiano Ronaldo. That’s really saying something for one of the greatest goal scorers the game has ever seen — no one has scored more for Real Madrid or in men’s internationals, ever — but the 39-year-old will point to his 35 goals in 31 Saudi Pro League games for Al Nassr to back up his claim.



Hislop questions Ronaldo’s ability to fire Portugal to Euro glory

Shaka Hislop isn’t convinced Cristiano Ronaldo should be a starter for Portugal at the age of 39.

But be honest: how much have you seen of Ronaldo since he left Manchester United and joined Al Nassr 18 months ago? You might have watched the viral clips: Ronaldo being taunted with chants of “Messi” after losing the Riyadh derby, Ronaldo seemingly making obscene gesturestwice! — to rival supporters, or Ronaldo crying after losing the 2024 Saudi Kings Cup final.

But do you have a clear idea of whether Ronaldo is ready to lead the line for Portugal this month, at a record sixth European Championship? He ended his last major tournament, the 2022 World Cup, as a frustrated substitute as Portugal crashed out in the quarterfinals.

How much has Ronaldo’s game — and physical condition — evolved, or deteriorated, since then? Is it possible to be both Euro 2024‘s biggest name, and its biggest unknown quantity?

– Alex Kirkland: Should Cristiano Ronaldo start for Portugal at Euro 2024?

And finally …

Who is more handsome between Marcus Thuram and Kylian Mbappé? France coach Didier Deschamps was on Sunday asked to settle the debate, which had been started by Thuram and went viral not only on social media, but also within the team camp.

It began when Thuram was mistakenly called Kylian by a journalist during his press conference, to which the Internazionale forward responded: “I am more handsome than him. I don’t look like a Ninja Turtle!”

The other France players found it hilarious, including Mbappé himself, who is often the butt of the joke when it comes to his supposed resemblance to the famous cartoon characters.



‘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.

So Thuram or Mbappé? Mbappé or Thuram? Ninja Turtle or not? Deschamps could hardly believe that he was asked the question!

“So Marcus thinks he is more handsome than Kylian? I don’t know. You will have to do a poll with women about it,” Deschamps said. He then gave the most diplomatic and expected answer possible: “All my players are handsome.” Of course they are, they are French! — Julien Laurens