Euro 2024 updates: Players unwind before stress of knockouts

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 July 14.

The lead: Euros stars get downtime (some more than others …)

The first rest days of Euro 2024, a two-day period in between the final group games on Wednesday night and start of the knockout phase on Saturday, have given those teams still in Germany the chance to enjoy some much-needed downtime before they resume their bid to win the final on July 14.

There are usually two schools of thought on the best way to handle this stage of a tournament: operate a relaxed approach with players, or to keep the squad focused at all times in their training camp.

France coach Didier Deschamps, who has won the World Cup and reached two more major tournament finals during his decade in charge of Les Bleus, has gone for the former approach. He allowed his squad to spend Tuesday night, all day Wednesday and Thursday morning with their families at the team’s Paderborn base before they begin preparations for Monday’s round-of-16 clash with Belgium.

The England and Germany squads, however, had to make do with a brief window of time with their loved ones as coaches Gareth Southgate and Julian Nagelsmann allowed just one free day with them inside the camp. England face Slovakia on Sunday afternoon, with host nation Germany taking on Denmark the night before.

Belgium’s squad, meanwhile, had some brief family time after their 0-0 draw against Ukraine before playing golf at their Ludwigsburg base.

But it’s a different story for those teams who are not due to play until well into next week. Austria‘s players were given time to enjoy Berlin, close to their base camp, by coach Ralf Rangnick on Thursday, leaving four days still to get ready for Turkey.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman, meanwhile, gave his players the freedom to do whatever they wished for 24 hours from Thursday afternoon. The Dutch, who don’t play their round-of-16 tie against Romania until next Tuesday, are based in Wolfsburg, but at least one of their players was spotted 200 miles away in Berlin on Thursday evening. — Mark Ogden

Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

UFC champ has split loyalties

Before each match at Euro 2024, the big screen relays a message of support from famous people from the two countries competing. Georgia‘s pep talk comes from UFC featherweight champion Ilia Topuri. However, Topuri, who ranks No. 4 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings, will have his loyalties split on Sunday when Georgia meet Spain in the last 16 in Cologne.

Born in Germany to Georgian parents, before returning to live in Georgia, Topuri has now lived in Spain for the last 12 years and has dual nationality. In what is being billed as the Topuri derby, he will find it hard to pick a side.

“I feel super Spanish, I also feel Georgian, it’s like having two children,” he said. “You can’t choose between them when asked. You love both equally… You can’t.”

Georgia have been one of the feel-good stories of the tournament, and it would be understandable if Topuri wanted that fairytale to continue. But Spain — who beat Georgia 7-1 and 3-1 when they met in qualifying for Euro 2024 — may represent a better chance of winning the whole thing. — Sam Marsden



Why Georgia qualifying for the knockout stage is a ‘wonderful story’

Shaka Hislop recaps Georgia’s stunning 2-0 win over Portugal that sees them qualify for the round of 16 at Euro 2024.

Fans arriving by the boatload

Denmark and Germany share a 40-mile land border, but many Danish fans travelling to Dortmund for Saturday’s round-of-16 tie are expected to make the journey by boat.

With the Nordic nation consisting of 1,419 islands on the Jutland peninsula, the crossing between the Danish port of Rodby and Puttgarden in Germany, known as the Vogelfluglinie, is expected to be so busy on Saturday that ferry operator Scandlines have added an extra boat to their schedule to take supporters between the two countries.

The Denmark fans have proven to be some of the most colourful and imaginative supporters in Germany during the tournament. While playing England in Group C, the Danes, who famously won the Euros in 1992, taunted rival fans by singing, in English, “Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that.” — Mark Ogden

Swiss missing equipment

Coaches from Switzerland have had computers stolen in the buildup to their round-of-16 clash with Italy. The Swiss football federation has confirmed that three laptops were taken, but it is confident that no confidential information has been lost as they prepare to face the defending champions in Berlin on Saturday.

The stolen computers belonged to Swiss coaches who have been in Germany to observe and analyse matches as part of a training exercise. The federation have confirmed that coaches and analysts working directly with the senior team were in Stuttgart at the time of the incident, which happened in Düsseldorf, and that no data relating to the Italy game has been compromised.

Switzerland have reached the knockout phase of the European Championship for the third time in a row after finishing second in Group A behind Germany. They reached the quarterfinals in 2021 after shocking France in the round of 16, coming from two goals down before winning a penalty shootout. — Rob Dawson

Sign wars get personal

Fans at Euro 2024 have been finding ever more inventive ways of insulting each other. It started with supporters holding up signs that besmirched their rivals’ national cuisine, like a Swiss fan telling the Hungary crowd that “fondue is better than goulash” or a Pole insisting to the Dutch that “kielbasa better than gouda.”

It’s since become more personal, with one supporter at the Austria-Netherlands group game walking round with a placard which read “Lauda better than Verstappen” in reference to Formula One drivers (albeit from completely different eras) from the respective countries.

No one is safe from being dragged into the Euro 2024 sign wars between competing nations, with Georgina Rodríguez the latest to become involved. Ahead of Portugal‘s match with Georgia, at least two Portuguese fans each had a sign which suggested that the partner of Cristiano Ronaldo is superior to the entire nation of Georgia. Whatever the merits of that argument might have been, Georgia won 2-0 to qualify for the knockout rounds on the major tournament debut. — Rob Dawson

Stat of the day

Georgia forward Georges Mikautadze is the tournament’s top scorer after the group stage, with three goals. The only player to score more on their nation’s European Championship debut was Gerd Müller, who scored four goals for West Germany in the 1972. Mikautadze’s total of four goal contributions (three goals, one assist) is twice as many as any other player at the 2024 tournament so far. — ESPN Stats & Information



The numbers to know ahead of Switzerland vs. Italy at the Euros

Take a quick glance at some of the background numbers of both Switzerland and Italy ahead of their round-of-16 game at Euro 2024.

Match previews for Saturday

Switzerland vs. Italy (Berlin; 6 p.m. local / noon ET)

Odds (via ESPN BET): Switzerland +235, Draw +185, Italy +140

Both teams have key defensive players who will be serving one-game suspensions. Italy will be without Riccardo Calafiori, one of their few tournament bright spots. AS Roma‘s Gianluca Mancini is likely to deputize, though there is concern over the other center-back, Alessandro Bastoni, who missed training with a high fever.

Italy coach Luciano Spalletti is expected to restore the strike duo of Gianluca Scamacca and Federico Chiesa to the starting lineup in place of Mateo Retegui and Jack Raspadori, who got the nod against Croatia but did not impress. Jorginho is expected to start in midfield though some joke that he should not be on penalty duty, given the two critical penalties he missed against the Swiss that cost Italy their place at the 2022 World Cup.

For Switzerland, the suspended Silvan Widmer will be replaced down the right flank by Leonidas Stergiou. Coach Murat Yakin will pick one of Fabian Rieder or Ruben Vargas to complete the front three with Breel Embolo and Dan Ndoye. — Gabriele Marcotti

Germany vs. Denmark (Dortmund; 9 p.m. local / 3 p.m. ET)

Odds: Germany -160, Draw +280, Denmark +450

Germany have reason to be anxious ahead of their round-of-16 clash against Denmark in Dortmund. This tie will be a rematch of one of the biggest-ever upsets at a European Championship, when the Danes beat then-world champions Germany to win the 1992 final in Sweden and a similar result will send shockwaves through the host nation.

Julian Nagelsmann’s team have defensive issues too, with Jonathan Tah suspended and central defensive partner Antonio Rüdiger battling to overcome a thigh injury. But despite the concerns heading into the game, Germany defender Nico Schlotterbeck says that Niclas Füllkrug‘s dramatic late equaliser in the Group A clash against Switzerland has transformed the mindset of the team and the fans.

“I think that the sense of euphoria in the country is different now,” Schlotterbeck said. “We’ve felt that. We know that our emergency plan, in case we’re ever behind, can also work out well. It has triggered something in us.”

Denmark face Germany in the unusual position of having qualified for the knockout stage without winning a single group game. But Kasper Hjulmand’s team are also undefeated after three draws.

“It is somewhat bittersweet,” Hjulmand said. “We really want to win. We would like to have that winning feeling. The best feeling in football is the feeling of victory. I think we have done all we could to take the initiative and attack. We have been lacking sharpness in the final third, as well as luck, and maybe the quality to make it happen in the end.” — Mark Ogden

Betting tip (odds via ESPN BET)

To kick off the knockout stage, we start with great value. I can’t believe Italy are favorites against Switzerland. They have been so poor in the group stage and Murat Yakin’s side have really caught the eye. The Swiss to qualify for the quarterfinals +115. — Dan Thomas

One big read



The numbers to know ahead of England vs. Slovakia at the Euros

Take a quick glance at some of the background numbers of both England and Slovakia ahead of their round-of-16 game at Euro 2024.

Euro 2024 is down to the final 16 teams, as eight are headed home after an exciting group stage. We said goodbye to Albania, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Scotland, Serbia and Ukraine, but we can all enjoy another four rounds of fixtures before the winner is crowned on July 14.

So far, the tournament in has been full of surprises, but what has stood out? Which teams have impressed (or not), and what can we expect from a bracket that has most of the top-ranked teams (France vs. Belgium; Spain vs. Georgia; Germany vs. Denmark; Portugal vs. Slovenia) on one side and a more open feel (Switzerland vs. Italy, England vs. Slovakia; Romania vs. Netherlands; Austria vs. Turkey) on the other?

We asked ESPN FC’s writers at the tournament what they have made of things so far now we’re heading into the round of 16 on Saturday.

Euro 2024 talking points: Most impressive teams and predictions

And finally …

The sight of a masked Kylian Mbappé, with the France striker needing to wear it to protect the broken nose he suffered during his team’s 1-0 win over Austria, has become one of the most memorable images of this tournament. So much so that the BBC has incorporated it into its broadcasts.

Since the start of the tournament, each of the UK broadcaster’s Euros shows start with a title sequence, a one-minute video comprising comic-book style illustrations of the top players inside a pinball machine.

The original intro featured a maskless Mbappé along with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jude Bellingham, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Kevin De Bruyne and Virgil Van Dijk. However, an updated version now shows the Real Madrid-bound forward wearing his black protective headgear. — Julien Laurens