Euro 2024 updates: Silence is golden for Spain; Ronaldo legacy

Euro 2024 is into the knockout stages! 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: Spain enjoying the quiet life, but history is against them

DONAUESCHINGEN, Germany — Spain have found shelter from the noise ahead of their Euro 2024 quarterfinal against hosts Germany in the middle of the Black Forest in the south of the country. As the only team to win all four games at the tournament so far, they have emerged among the favourites to lift the trophy in Berlin on July 14, but the squad are not allowing themselves to be distracted by the furore around them.

Instead, they are doing what has helped them reach this stage: cycling down to training, working hard and then relaxing by playing chess, darts, golf, video games … and even the piano.

“The atmosphere we have down here, the quiet, it could not be better for preparing for the game,” forward Mikel Oyarzabal said this week.

Manchester City midfielder Rodri says it’s one of the best bases he has experienced in a tournament. The 28-year-old has taken advantage of the golf course that borders the team’s luxury hotel called “Der Oschberghof,” which is five kilometres outside the town of Donaueschingen and 90 minutes south of Stuttgart, where Friday’s game will be played. Rodri has also picked up darts — as has Ferran Torres, who says he adopted it from former teammate Phil Foden when at City — and has been playing with Athletic Club defender Dani Vivián.

Joselu joked Rodri can do what he wants as long as he is fresh when match days roll around. “He is the best in his position in the world,” the ex-Real Madrid striker said. “We have to take care of him. If he doesn’t want to train for four days, so be it, as long as he is fresh when the games come around.”

Others are finding different ways to pass the time on the banks of the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river. Lamine Yamal, who learned he passed his high-school exams while in Germany, is one of the players who enjoys EA Sports FC 24, along with Nico Williams; while Unai Simón and Martín Zubimendi lead the chess contingent — Zubimendi was once a regional junior chess champion.

Defender Robin Le Normand, meanwhile, has shown off a talent for playing the piano — while Pedri has also tickled the ivories.

In the meantime, back in Spain there is growing optimism that this team can go all the way in Germany.

“Now they say we’re favourites, but three or four weeks ago, nobody was saying it,” Oyarzabal added. “We know we are capable of competing against anyone. We’re relaxed here, working hard and trying to prepare as well as possible for Friday.” — Sam Marsden


Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

England to move to a back three?

BLANKENHAIN, Germany — England’s search for improvement in their performance level at Euro 2024 has led manager Gareth Southgate to experiment with shifting to a back three in training ahead of Saturday’s quarterfinal against Switzerland.

The Three Lions have adopted a 4-2-3-1 system in their four matches to date, a shape they have largely played for several years aside from the odd tweak to 4-3-3 as and when Southgate felt necessary. However, England’s disjointed displays — they had to wait until Jude Bellingham’s stunning 95th-minute overhead kick for their first shot on target against Slovakia in the Round of 16 — has led Southgate to consider shaking things up.

Centre-back Marc Guéhi has been England’s most consistent player at these finals but his suspension will force a change in defence and Ezri Konsa is the most likely replacement. There remain doubts whether left-back Luke Shaw can start the game in Dusseldorf given he has not played for Manchester United or England since February due to a hamstring problem. But a three-man defence may give Southgate the feeling he has more options at wing-back given Bukayo Saka played there years ago for Arsenal (and England) while Eberechi Eze also filled in there for a spell against Slovakia during the frantic extra-time period.

England could play 3-4-2-1 or 3-5-2, raising the possibility of two strikers — one of them being Harry Kane– playing together. Ivan Toney was asked on Wednesday whether England had trained with two up front and replied: “We more concentrate on the opposition we’re coming up against so we more do movements and repetitions on them. You’ll have to ask the gaffer.”

It is unclear whether Southgate will use a back three against Switzerland but any temptation will be supported by the success England previously had in that shape, exceeding expectations by reaching the 2018 World Cup semifinals. It has become more sporadically employed as time has gone on under Southgate but England started with a back three in the Euro 2020 final against Italy and one wing-back (Kieran Trippier) crossed for another (Shaw) to open the scoring after just two minutes in a match they would eventually lose on penalties. — James Olley

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Why a ban is ‘highly unlikely’ for Jude Bellingham at Euro 2024

Gab Marcotti explains why UEFA’s investigation into a gesture made by Jude Bellingham is unlikely to lead to a match ban.

Romania clean up

Romania left their mark on Euro 2024 by finishing top of their group in their first appearance at a major tournament since Euro 2016, and Edward Iordanescu’s team made sure that they didn’t leave anything behind after being eliminated by Netherlands in the round of 16.

A 3-0 win for the Dutch in Munich brought the curtain down on Romania’s tournament, but Iordanescu’s squad took a leaf out of Japan‘s approach to dressing-room etiquette by leaving the locker room at the Allianz Arena spotless before heading to the airport.

And they also wrote a letter of thanks for the experience in Germany during Euro 2024.

“EURO 2024 was for each of us one of the most important football experiences lived so far and we are glad that the stage on which it took place was the German one,” the it read. “Every match, every emotion, every experience brought us together and made us feel the magic of football. We are leaving Germany with the thought that we gave everything for Romania and we are grateful for everything we experienced during the weeks spent here. Thank you for making us feel at home! The National Football Team of Romania!” — Mark Ogden

“Major Tom” is Germany’s 12th man

Depending on your age and music taste, you might not have heard of “Major Tom” before. But if you’ve watched Germany during Euro 2024, you certainly have.

The song was a massive hit in 1983 and was written by Peter Schilling, now aged 68. It was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1969 movie “2001, A Space Odyssey,” and by the David Bowie song “Space Oddity” which was also released in 1983.

The new lease of life for “Major Tom” started when Adidas used it to unveil its new Nationalmannschaft shirt back in March. And now at Euro 2024, from players to supporters, everyone is going mad for it.

Germany left-back Maximilian Mittelstädt said: “My parents told me that they danced on this song when it came out at the time,” while teammate Thomas Müller admitted to the media the other day that he loves singing it.

Forty years later and “Major Tom” is very much back in the spotlight. It just remains to be seen how long Germany fans will be able to sing it. — Julien Laurens

Would Portugal rather be playing Belgium?

Portugal face France in Hamburg on Friday for a place in the semifinals, but some of their players seemed to let it slip that they’d rather be playing Belgium.

The Portugal squad were walking on the pitch at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt ahead of their round-of-16 tie with Slovenia while the early game — France against Belgium — was being shown on the giant screens above.

Some of the players — including João Félix, Vitinha and Diogo Jota — gathered in the centre-circle to watch the final minutes and caught Jan Vertonghen‘s own goal which sent France through. Vitinha looked particularly frustrated at the way the goal was scored, with a deflection off Vertonghen taking the ball into the net.

Portugal have good memories of facing France at the Euros, having beaten them in the 2016 final, but it was clear from the players’ reactions that they think Didier Deschamps’ team will prove a tougher test in the quarterfinals. — Rob Dawson


Stat of the day

Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo has had 20 shots so far at Euro 2024 without scoring a single goal (his penalty in the shootout vs. Slovenia doesn’t count.) The tournament record was set by another Portugal international, as midfielder Deco had 24 in 2004 — ESPN


Match previews for Friday

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Will France want to see Ronaldo start for Portugal in the quarterfinals?

Frank Leboeuf explains how France will feel abut facing Cristiano Ronaldo up front for Portugal in their quarterfinal clash.

Spain vs. Germany (Stuttgart; 6 p.m. local / midday ET)

Odds (via ESPN BET): Spain +165, Draw +210, Germany +170

The tie of the round pits hosts Germany against the outstanding team of the tournament so far, Spain, who are the only side at Euro 2024 to have won every game.

But as impressive as Spain have been, driven on by the youthful brilliance of Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams, they go into the quarterfinals aiming to overcome their so-called “Curse of the Host.” In nine previous games against host nations at a major tournament, Spain have never won, including defeats against France (Euro ’84), England (Euro ’96), and South Korea and Russia at the 2002 and 2018 World Cups respectively.

Germany captain Ilkay Gündogan is expecting a close one. “It will definitely be a match of equals,” he said. “The two sides are probably playing the best football in the tournament at the moment. It will come down to who deals better with not having the ball at times and not panicking.” — Ogden

Portugal vs. France (Hamburg; 9 p.m. local / 3 p.m. ET)

Odds: Portugal +230, Draw +200, France +135

Forty years ago, France beat Portugal 3-2 in extra-time of the Euro 1984 semifinal, thanks to legendary midfielder Michel Platini, and it was one of the most iconic games in French football history.

Friday’s game between the two nations might not reach the same level of drama but it will be another chapter in the great rivalry between them. After 1984, we have had 2000, 2006, 2016, and more. So another clash in 2024 is exciting … mainly because Kylian Mbappé and Cristiano Ronaldo meet again; the prince and the king, the apprentice and the master.

Didier Deschamps has built a great defensive unit, as we saw against Belgium in the round of 16, but France have not yet scored a goal in open play (two own goals and a penalty.) Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez isn’t sure which Portugal side will show up as they didn’t play or defend well against Slovenia but went through on penalties. It should make for an unpredictable game. — Laurens.


Betting tip (odds via ESPN BET)

What a brilliant day of Euro 2024 quarterfinal action it is going to be on Friday, so I think we’ll go for a little parlay over the two games.

Spain have been so good up to now and I think they have enough talent to get it done against hosts Germany. Meanwhile France have a bit of a Real Madrid vibe that may not be pretty, but you can never write them off, so they will get past Portugal.

Both Spain and France to advance is +205. — Dan Thomas


One big read

If Turkey or Switzerland are looking for added inspiration that they could do the seemingly impossible and win Euro 2024, they don’t need to look far.

It’s been 20 years since Greece turned up at the European Championship hoping to score just one goal. Instead, against all odds and common sense, they left Portugal as champions. It’s still considered the greatest upset in the competition’s history, and even if either Turkey or Switzerland were to win this edition in Germany, it still wouldn’t come close to what Greece achieved 20 years ago.

Switzerland have reached at least the round of 16 at the past six major tournaments and knocked France out of the last Euros. Turkey finished third at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008. For Greece, however, what they did came completely out of the blue.

– Dawson: Remembering Greece’s shock Euro 2004 triumph 20 years later


And finally …

Cristiano Ronaldo‘s remarkable longevity will be be borne out when he takes the field against France in Hamburg on Friday and matches up against Marcus Thuram — 18 years after playing his father, Lilian, in a World Cup semifinal at Germany 2006.

Ronaldo, 21 at the time, was playing in his first World Cup as Portugal lost 1-0 to France in the semifinal in Munich. On that occasion, Thuram Sr. was named Player of the Match for Les Bleus.

Fast forward to 2024 and Ronaldo, 39, is still central to Portugal’s prospects, but the Thuram shirt is now being worn by Internazionale forward Marcus, who is 26. — Ogden