Euro 2024 updates: Spain send Italy back to drawing board

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: Spain send Italy back to the drawing board

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — A year in football is both an eternity and too brief of a moment in time to get an accurate picture of a player or team.

Twelve months ago, in the UEFA Nations League semifinals, Roberto Mancini’s Italy lost to Spain on an 88th-minute goal from Joselu after what had been a solid encounter. The Azzurri were very much carrying on the form of their Euro 2021 triumph despite not making it to the 2022 World Cup.

On Thursday in Gelsenkirchen, the contrast between Italy and Spain couldn’t be bigger. Now under the guidance of Luciano Spalletti, Italy were comprehensively beaten by vastly superior La Roja despite the 1-0 scoreline. After a controlling performance against Albania to open the tournament, the European champions were totally off the pace in their second match.

Put off by the Spanish press and counterpress, Italy never looked comfortable. Their passing and ball movement were woeful.

Just when Spalletti thought he had found the right balance in midfield with Nicolò Barella, Jorginho, Davide Frattesi and Lorenzo Pellegrini, they were truly outclassed by Rodri, Pedri and Fabián Ruiz, leaving the former Napoli boss little choice but to go back to the drawing board. The lack of composure and organisation with the ball was striking, Jorginho telling off multiple teammates for losing the ball in dangerous areas.

The pass accuracy of just 80% in the first half is an indication of how bad things were. Jorginho and Frattesi were replaced by Andrea Cambiaso and Bryan Cristante after just 45 minutes, shifting the Azzurri into a 4-4-2 formation. It didn’t change anything as Italy were still second best and conceded the eventual winner 10 minutes into the second half.

There might be a lack of talent in certain positions in this team, while some young players equally need more experience, but overall this poor showing (0 shots on target and just 0.08 expected goals) was both surprising and disappointing. The first heavyweight bout of this Euro 2024 wasn’t expected to be so one-sided.

Credit to Spain for a great performance, validating all the progress made in the past year and building on their group stage-opening victory against Croatia. For Italy, they just avoided a heavier defeat. It’s a warning sign before their final group game against Croatia on Monday, when they will have to find the right solutions to avoid going home early. — Julien Laurens

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


Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Southgate left with all the questions, but does he have the answers?

FRANKFURT, Germany — England have a problem, and it goes way beyond the limitations of coach Gareth Southgate. Their array of big-name stars are not only failing to perform at Euro 2024; some are actually playing so poorly that they may have to be dropped from the team.

Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham have scored England’s two goals so far at this tournament — Bellingham in the 1-0 Group C win against Serbia and Kane in Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Denmark — but neither are coming close to living up to their superstar billing.

And then you have Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden. Two of the most outstanding Premier League players in recent seasons, both with Champions League winners’ medals to their name, yet both are being played out of position by Southgate. They look like novices, looking to the touchline for instructions as the game passes them by.

The old questions of burnout are also an issue, with this England team looking heavy-legged and unable to match the intensity of Kasper Hjulmand’s Danish side, and it would be understandable if Kane, Bellingham, Alexander-Arnold and Foden are feeling the heat after a long club season. But their performances so far in Germany hint at something more than a mere lack of energy and freshness.

Kane’s goal against Denmark got him off the mark at Euro 2024, but he did little else. And the Bayern Munich forward was anonymous against Serbia. He has been troubled by a back problem in recent weeks and the issue may be more problematic than has been suggested, judging by his performances.

As for Bellingham, hyped as a potential Ballon d’Or winner after his stellar first season at Real Madrid, the 20-year-old’s role in the team is hard to fathom. He plays as a No. 10 but lacks the creativity and vision of Denmark’s Christian Eriksen. Although he is supposedly part of England’s midfield axis, Bellingham too often picks and chooses when he tracks back to defend, and this is leaving huge gaps in the centre of pitch. Denmark took advantage, and a better team will punish England if Bellingham continues to abandon his defensive duties.

The situation with Alexander-Arnold and Foden is different, in that Southgate is playing them in roles they rarely occupy for their clubs. Alexander-Arnold simply isn’t able to play the midfield role he has been given — he does the same job as Declan Rice and adds no flair — so Southgate should be bold enough to drop the Liverpool full-back in favour of Kobbie Mainoo or Adam Wharton.

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Hamilton: England ‘running through treacle’

Tom Hamilton says England are not living up to the high expectations seen before the start of Euro 2024.

And Foden, who loves to play on the right and cut inside onto his favoured left foot for Manchester City, is stuck out on the left and struggling to get into games. It would make more sense for Southgate to use Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon in the Foden role.

Kane and Bellingham won’t be dropped. Not yet anyway. They have banked up too much goodwill and they remain match-winners, as shown in the two games so far, but they need to contribute much more.

Alexander-Arnold and Foden are likely to be less fortunate. England must now beat Slovenia in their final game to be certain of winning the group and avoiding a likely round-of-16 clash with Germany. For that to happen, Southgate needs to be ruthless and drop his big names. — Mark Ogden

Serbia keep their dream alive — just

MUNICH — Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic said in the build-up to their game against Slovenia that he’s getting sick of having to scan his accreditation everywhere he goes at Euro 2024 because it’s like he’s “entering a NASA space station.” Well, thanks to Luka Jovic, he might have to hang onto it for a little while longer.

Serbia looked destined to be heading out of the tournament, only for substitute Jovic to head in an equaliser in the last seconds for a 1-1 draw and deny Slovenia a first-ever win at the Euros. With Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic and Jovic in the squad, Serbia’s big strength was supposed to be their options up front, but after scoring 15 goals in eight games during qualification, they’ve had to wait almost two full games to find the net.

This tournament is becoming almost a complete reversal of their campaign at the World Cup, when they outscored everyone in their group with five goals and still finished bottom after conceding eight. Stojkovic won’t care about a lack of goals if they can still sneak into the knockout rounds. Jovic’s goal has at least given them a chance.

There will, though, be UEFA sanctions headed their way. With time running out and Slovenia leading 1-0, the frustration among the Serbia fans had almost boiled over, and as one Slovenian player went to take a throw-in late in the game, plastic bottles rained down from the stands. It prompted an announcement inside the Allianz Arena telling supporters to stop throwing objects onto the pitch, and it’s likely Serbia will be hearing from the authorities before their final group game against Denmark. They have already faced a charge for the throwing of objects from the defeat to England. — Rob Dawson

Mbappé back at France training

“I wear a mask,” Batman once famously said, “and that mask, it’s not to hide who I am, but to create what I am.”

Kylian Mbappé isn’t trying to hide — not that it would do him any good — but with a broken nose suffered against Austria, he needs a mask in order to be what France need him to be: the same clinical goal scorer who won the Golden Boot at the 2022 World Cup.

For the second day in a row, the freshly minted Galactico made an appearance at France’s training session in Leipzig. He was on his own again, like the day before, and didn’t join in with the rest of the squad as they prepared for the big clash against Netherlands on Friday. But at least he was there.

On Wednesday, he showed up with heavy bandaging on his broken nose. On Thursday, those bandages were replaced by a custom France-themed protective mask made for just for him. His presence as captain is important for the mood of the entire squad.

One source told ESPN that the 25-year-old is feeling better, even if the pain is still there, and he slept well. He had more scans Wednesday before travelling to Leipzig, and the latest news is positive. He won’t play against the Dutch, according to sources, but he could be back for the game against Poland — if France need a result.

The saga is being followed closely by Real Madrid. For now, it has been decided that Mbappé doesn’t need an operation, but if surgery is required later, it would impact Madrid and potentially their plans for his debut. The Merengues‘ medical staff are in touch with France for news and updates. — Julien Laurens

Ossie not happy with quality of Scotland vs. Switzerland

Many would have found Scotland‘s 1-1 draw with Switzerland on Wednesday engrossing. Xherdan Shaqiri‘s equaliser for the Swiss will be on the end-of-tournament highlight reels, while Scotland played with heart and spirit. But not everyone appreciated it.

World Cup winner and Tottenham Hotspur legend Osvaldo “Ossie” Ardiles was less than impressed with the standard of play. He wrote on his X account: “Scotland vs Switzerland. What a terrible terrible game it was. How can two teams play so bad? No idea going forward. Pele, immortals words: Football is the beautiful game… You must be joking. What an embarrassment. The comments in TV, if anything, even worse!”

He doubled down, having seen the pundits’ feedback: “Watching the comments on TV after the game … I’m sure I watched another game!”

The following day, with his views getting plenty of scrutiny, he sent out an apology to Scotland fans, but, curiously, stood by his criticism of the Swiss. “Scotland Switzerland last night. I just thought the quality of the game was poor. Apologies if it was perceived like having a go to Scotland.” — Tom Hamilton


Stat of the day

Morten Hjulmand‘s goal against England was scored from the furthest distance (30.9 meters) in a European Championship since a strike from Gareth Bale at Euro 2016 that was scored from 32.7 meters out … also against England. — ESPN Stats & Information


Match previews for Thursday

Group E: Slovakia vs. Ukraine (Düsseldorf; 3 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET)

Odds (via ESPN BET): Slovenia +250, Draw +225, Ukraine +110

Slovakia sprung the shock of the tournament (so far) when they defeated Belgium 1-0. They were brilliant and fun to watch: the ageless Juraj Kucka, now 37, running up and down the pitch like a puppy, while Ondrej Duda was a box of tricks. The game was expertly controlled by Stanislav Lobotka. Expect more of the same when they meet Ukraine in Düsseldorf on Friday, but Francesco Calzona is wary of their opponents after their opening defeat. “They will want to get revenge but we don’t want to throw away this opportunity we have,” Calzona said. A win takes them into the knockouts.

Several Ukraine players took to social media to apologise after their 3-0 defeat to Romania. They are confident of bouncing back against Slovakia and could have Everton‘s Vitaliy Mykolenko available — if he passes a fitness test, which could see Oleksandr Zinchenko shift to midfield. They could make further tweaks up front with the likes of Ruslan Malinovskyi and Roman Yaremchuk waiting in the wings. They controlled possession against Romania — having 66% of the ball — but managed just two shots on target. Defeat would leave their Euro 2024 dreams hanging by a thread. — Tom Hamilton

Group D: Poland vs. Austria (Berlin; 6 p.m. local / noon ET)

Odds: Poland +240, Draw +240, Austria +115

It’s a de facto must-win game for both sides after opening-match defeats.

Poland are likely to get a huge boost from the return of Robert Lewandowski, who missed the opener due to the muscular injury he picked up in the pre-tournament friendly against Turkey. Coach Michal Probierz may actually change his front two entirely, as Karol Swiderski could start alongside Lewandwoski. At the back, Pawel Dawidowicz will likely replace Bartosz Salamon, who picked up a knock against the Dutch.

Charged with stopping Lewandwoski will be Austria goalkeeper Patrick Pentz, who almost got the job done against Kylian Mbappé and France (he was only beaten by an own goal), and who has given Austria a surprise boost with his performance. Pentz, who has flourished at Brondby after failing to get playing time at Bayer Leverkusen, returned to the national side in March after an 18-month absence. “Lewandowski has been one of the best in the world over the past 15 years,” he said. “But we’re not the sort of team to concede many goals and we hope to be ready for him.” — Gabriele Marcotti

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Why Mbappe’s absence won’t make it easier for the Netherlands vs. France

Fresia Cousino Arias discusses France’s depth, which makes them a tough side for the Netherlands, even if they are missing Kylian Mbappe.

Group D: Netherlands vs. France (Leipzig; 9 p.m. local / 3 p.m. ET)

Odds: Netherlands +230, Draw +325, France +125

French and Dutch players must be sick of seeing each other. They met in European Championship qualifiers only a few months ago, in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League and in 2018 World Cup qualifying, too. The lessons from these encounters? No draws, and France almost always win (seven in the past eight, with one victory for the Dutch) and Kylian Mbappé always scores (six goals in their past five meetings).

The Oranje will be happy that their nemesis is not playing Friday. Sources told ESPN that Mbappé will miss the match because of broken nose picked up against Austria, a massive blow for Les Bleus. They are still a very strong team without him, but he takes them to another level. How do you replace him? You don’t, really. Olivier Giroud will start and will bring something different, and he’s France’s all-time leading goal scorer. France will have to remain solid and keep the collective strength we saw against Austria, which is their “DNA,” as Didier Deschamps told his players in the dressing room after that match.

The winners will be through to the round of 16, and it’s a huge opportunity for Netherlands as well. Not facing Mbappé is a blessing, but they will have to raise their game compared to their performance against Poland. They won, but not convincingly, with another late goal off the bench from Wout Weghorst. They will have to play much better in Leipzig, and the key will be in midfield. France’s trio of Antoine Griezmann, N’Golo Kanté and Adrien Rabiot (227 caps combined) has so much more experience, know-how and connection than the Dutch trio of Jerdy Schouten, Joey Veerman and Tijjani Reijnders (27 caps combined). If France take control of the midfield, like they did against Austria, they will be very difficult to beat. — Julien Laurens


Betting tip (odds via ESPN BET)

OK, aside from the obvious Kylian Mbappé nose situation, I have no idea why France aren’t bigger favourites to beat the fragile Dutch. France to win at +125. Great value. — Dan Thomas


One big read

Ukraine’s presence at Euro 2024 is an achievement in and of itself, given Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. With intense fighting across the entire East of the country, football has tried to continue with Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) games played behind closed doors and often halted by air raid sirens.

But despite the obvious challenges that Ukrainians face every day, their footballers are still expected to live up to, and even exceed, expectations on the pitch, just like the players for the other 23 competing nations at Euro 2024. Here’s how they are coping.

– Ogden: How Ukraine’s Euro 2024 can inspire those fighting back home


And finally …

Germany were 2-0 up against Hungary with a handful of minutes to go when — cued by a mighty “Eins! Zwei! Drei!” (“One! Two! Three!”) — it began in the corner to the right of the main tribune, adjacent to the section housing Hungary supporters. The “wave” had returned to a major tournament. It wound its way clockwise around the ground, amid much cheering and delight from the German sections of the crowd.

When it was almost all the way around, with only the red-and-black-festooned Hungarian section separating it from its starting point, it stopped abruptly. Hungary fans were going to have no part of it. This happened two more times — perhaps a result of the original German “wave” enthusiasts thinking there might be some miscommunication — before it became evident that Magyars simply weren’t in the mood. Cue loud and disapproving boos from the home crowd, who didn’t want their fun spoiling.

Not everybody likes the “wave,” of course. But we suspect that on this occasion it was more a case of the home crowd being somewhat aloof to the fact that Hungary were losing and staring likely elimination in the face. Not the sort of situation that makes you want to act silly and do the “wave.” And had the shoe been on the other foot, had Die Mannschaft been two down at home with minutes to go, we suspect German fans would have reacted in exactly the same manner. — Gabriele Marcotti