Euro 2024 updates: Toni Kroos delivering in career swan song

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: Toni Kroos is worth it

STUTTGART, Germany — Jamal Musiala and Ílkay Gündogan found the net and will make the highlight reels (rightly) as Germany despatched Hungary 2-0 to seal a place in the knockout round. But the game only reinforced how this is Toni Kroos’ team and how Germany boss Julian Nagelsmann is bending over backwards to accommodate him.

Kroos is 34, and it’s a battle-worn 34. He has played a remarkable 3,607 minutes (plus injury time) spread out over 53 games. That’s quite a feat for the midfielder in the twilight of his career. Indeed, Kroos himself revealed on the popular podcast he does with his brother that he thought he’d miss the opening game due to a persistent pain in his neck.

But then, these are his final games as a professional — he’s retiring after the Euros — and the pain is evidently worth bearing. With his mobility reduced, Nagelsmann didn’t ask him to play in his traditional midfield role, and instead he turned Kroos into a point guard in possession. Kroos dropped deep to the left of the central defenders — Antonio Rüdiger and Jonathan Tah — and controlled the game. Probing, testing, giving and receiving the ball until he saw the opening for the sort of pass few can see and fewer still can deliver.

Writ large, it’s an adjustment for a coach whose critics accused him of being too rigid and system-obsessed. And it’s not the only one: witness Musiala and Florian Wirtz being encouraged to cut inside from wide areas or Gundogan operating in the hole.

It worked against Scotland, partly because Steve Clarke’s crew — in addition to being terrible — also played down a man in the second half. Hungary was a much sterner test and, again, it paid off. What Kroos gives you in possession outweighs the fact that off the ball the best he can do is clog passing lanes. He’s a steadying presence — the hub of Germany’s wheel — on a day when some of Nagelsmann’s other ballers (Musiala, Gundogan) were sublime and others more muted (Kai Havertz, Wirtz). Which is probably why Nagelsmann left him out there for the entire game.

Kroos is too important and the adrenaline will carry him through in any case. Though that neck is bound to smart tomorrow. — Gab Marcotti

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Team previews | Predictions for every team (ESPN+)


Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Albania‘s energy denies Croatia comeback win

A response to the 3-0 capitulation against Spain was expected from Croatia and eventually it arrived. In the end however, it wasn’t enough as Albania’s infectious enthusiasm rescued a 2-2 draw in Hamburg.

The early signs were not good for Croatia. Like they did against Italy, Albania scored early and with their first shot, Qazim Laçi struck and celebrated with his nation’s fans after 11 minutes.

Croatia, who made three changes from the Spain game, were floundering again, leading coach Zlatko Dalić to make two half-time substitutions. Left-back Ivan Perišić had an outstanding second half and his crosses with both feet were a constant danger that gradually wore the Albanians down.

It felt only a matter of time before Croatia would score and they did so twice in three minutes; Andrej Kramarić equalised before more chaos being caused by Perišić led to a Klaus Gjasula own goal. The jubilant Croatia fans were warned by stadium announcers against lighting pyrotechnics but they didn’t care — they had their team, semifinalists at the last two World Cups, well and truly back.

But Albania dug deep, a late second wind came and Gjasula made up for his earlier own goal by scrambling home a leveller in injury time.

The result is bittersweet for both sides. At the previous two Euros, at least one team has progressed with three points in third place, but Albania and Croatia must beat Spain or Italy respectively in their final group game to have any hope of achieving that. — David Cartlidge

Spygate in the Switzerland camp?

An investigation was opened by German police in Stuttgart on Tuesday after an unidentified drone was seen flying over VfB Stuttgart‘s training ground during Switzerland’s training session before Wednesday’s game against Scotland.

The Swiss coaching team have two drones of their own which they use to film every session for manager Murat Yakin and his staff to analyse afterward. So imagine their surprise when, out of nowhere, they spotted a third one circulating over the pitch. The unexpected flying object remained above them for 10 minutes before flying off.

With Swiss suspicions of spying unable to be ruled out, police were called in to investigate and the authorities are reviewing CCTV footage from around the complex. Judging by the good mood among Switzerland captain Granit Xhaka and his teammates, after their convincing 3-1 victory in their first game against Hungary, the incident appear to have dampened their spirits. — Julien Laurens

Georgia not delighted by Turkish anthem boos

Georgia manager Willy Sagnol was full of praise for his team despite their 3-1 defeat to Turkey in Tuesday’s thrilling match in Dortmund, but he was less than impressed with the actions of some of the rival fans.

The thousands of Turkey supporters inside Signal Iduna Park made for a raucous and intimidating atmosphere. Sagnol didn’t mind that at all, but after the game criticised those who had booed and whistled during the Georgian national anthem when it was played ahead of kick-off.

“You shouldn’t do that,” he said. “You should always respect your opponent. That didn’t reflect well on Turkey.”

With almost three million people of Turkish heritage living in Germany, their games at these Euros were always expected to attract feverish support. They turned Dortmund into a sea of red before playing Georgia, although their prematch partying was disrupted by torrential rain which continued during the game and after the final whistle. — Rob Dawson

Germany stars honoured from station to station

If you are travelling to Germany by train, or using the rail network to move around the country during the Euros, be sure to double-check the names of each station that you pass through. As an honour for the players who have been called up in the host nation’s squad by coach Julian Nagelsmann, they have each had their names added to the signs of the railway stations of their own hometown.

Stuttgart’s train station, for example, has “Heimatstadt von Jamal Musiala” (“hometown of Jamal Musiala”) added to its regular signage. While the claim is technically accurate as the Bayern Munich star was born in the city, he moved elsewhere in Germany soon afterward and also spent part of his childhood in England, for whom he first played international football at under-15 level.

The capital city of Berlin has done the same for Antonio Rüdiger, Essen for Leroy Sané and Greifswald for Toni Kroos to name but a few. So far, 11 stations have been updated to call out one of their most illustrious sons, with 13 more to get the same treatment over the next few days.

This is part of the “Home of Football Stars” campaign, led by the German football federation and DB, the national train company, with 24 cities involved in total. — Laurens

Heavy Metal Football

Frankfurt has turned out to be a melting pot of fans from many competing nations at Euro 2024 due to its well-connected international airport and proximity to other host cities including Dortmund, Stuttgart, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen.

But the national jerseys of Scotland, Denmark, England, Croatia and Albania were heavily outnumbered by the black T-shirts worn by followers of heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch in Frankfurt on Monday.

The Las Vegas-based rockers, whose hits include “Wrong Side of Heaven” and “The Tragic Truth,” played to a sell-out 13,500 crowd at Frankfurt’s Festhalle while the football fans watched the Euro 2024 action in the city’s bars.

Posters advertising the concert had red “AUSVERKAUFT” (sold-out) stickers emblazoned on them throughout the city, something which other acts like Bryan Adams and Scorpions are yet to achieve for their gigs at the same venue later this year. — Mark Ogden


Stat of the day

Klaus Gjasula of Albania is the first player ever in Euro history to come off bench and have a goal and a own goal in the same match after they drew 2-2 against Croatia in a thrilling match. — ESPN Stats & Information


Match previews for Thursday

Group C: Slovenia vs. Serbia (Munich; 3 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET)

Odds (via ESPNBET): Slovenia -360, Draw -240, Serbia -125

Slovenia face Serbia at the Allianz Arena full of confidence after earning a 1-1 draw in their opening game against Denmark.

Making their first appearance at a major tournament since the 2010 World Cup, coach Matjaž Kek suggested his team were nervous in the opening exchanges against the Danes. But settling down after half-time and finishing the game strongly has created a sense of optimism in the Slovenian camp. They have never been past the group stage of a World Cup or Euros as an independent nation, but victory over Serbia at the Allianz Arena would put them on the brink of qualification for the last-16.

One thing they may have to work on is getting 21-year-old striker Benjamin Šeško into better goal-scoring positions. He hit the post with a stunning long-range strike against Denmark but didn’t have one touch inside the penalty area. — Dawson

Group C: Denmark vs. England (Frankfurt; 6 p.m. local / midday ET)

Odds: Denmark +425, Draw 250, England -145

These two teams last met in the semifinals of Euro 2020 at Wembley, when England came from a goal down to win 2-1 in extra time. Gareth Southgate’s side can qualify for the round of 16 with a win in Frankfurt but their opponents’ need is greater having been held to a 1-1 draw in their first game against Slovenia.

England’s 1-0 win over Serbia puts them in a position of strength from which to improve but they will need to do just that to justify their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites. Their first-half performance in Gelsenkirchen was encouraging, with Jude Bellingham playing a starring role, but England slipped back into familiar habits as the game wore on, dropping deeper and losing the ball cheaply. Southgate blamed that on fatigue so it is possible he may look to freshen things up but wholesale changes are unlikely.

Christian Eriksen enjoyed a dream return to Euros football three years on from his on-pitch cardiac arrest by scoring Denmark’s goal against Slovenia. Here, he will come up against former Tottenham Hotspur teammates Kyle Walker, Harry Kane and Kieran Trippier, while fellow Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo may feature off the bench. — James Olley

Group B: Spain vs. Italy (Gelsenkirchen; 9 p.m. local / 3 p.m. ET)

Odds: Spain +110, Draw +120, Italy +270

The reigning European champions take on the UEFA Nations League winners as Italy and Spain meet in one of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures of the group stage. The fact both teams won their opening games slightly reduces the pressure, but the match represents a huge opportunity for coaches Luciano Spalletti and Luis de la Fuente’s sides to lay down a marker for the tournament.

There is plenty of recent history between these two nations, too. Italy beat Spain in the semifinal on penalties en route to lifting the trophy three years ago, while La Roja exacted revenge on the Azzurri in back-to-back Nations League semifinals in 2021 and 2023. Spalletti says Italy will attempt to play the attacking football he likes, but adds that his team will be ready to “scuff up their Giorgio Armani suits” if necessary.

In a tournament where young players are playing a major role, all eyes will be on Spain’s Lamine Yamal — who against Croatia became the youngest-ever player at a Euros at 16 years and 338 days old — as well. The winger spoke this week of seeing the fear in opponents once he’s beat them for the first time. Tasked with stopping him is likely to be Federico Dimarco. — Sam Marsden


Betting tip (via ESPN BET)

For me Spain were the most impressive side in the opening round of matches. We saw a different style to what we are used to but boy did it work. I like Spain to win against Italy +110. — Dan Thomas


One big read

All of the teams in Euro 2024 have played their first games, and they gave us a bit of everything we could want.

Five teams scored at least three goals, and Germany scored five. Fans from Albania and Georgia, immense underdogs, each got to thunderously celebrate goals, one of which came just 23 seconds into Albania’s match with Italy. Another underdog, Slovakia, got to celebrate a huge win over Belgium. England got to both win and be miserable, two things they very much enjoy.

If you’re a fan of last-minute fireworks, we got all we could want in Group F, with Georgia nearly scoring to tie Turkey before giving up an empty netter to fall 3-1 and Francisco Conceição scoring in the second minute of added time to finally pull Portugal ahead of the Czech Republic. (And if you’re a fan of slapstick, we even got three own goals!)

The first round of matches at the 2024 European Championships was an absolute delight even if it didn’t change a whole lot about the competition. The betting favorites before the tournament — England, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain — remain the favorites, and Belgium was the only even moderate favorite to lose.

But let’s overreact anyway. It’s fun. Here are some takeaways from the first 12 matches of Euro 2024.

– Connelly: Euro 2024 first-game overreactions (ESPN+)


And finally …

As if slumping to a shock defeat in Belgium‘s opening game at Euro 2024 wasn’t bad enough, Amadou Onana was further vexed when a case of mistaken identity during his postmatch press duties caused the midfielder to become so incensed that he temporarily changed language.

After slogging through a less-than-stellar 1-0 defeat against Slovakia, Onana was pressed into fielding media questions which he did so fluently in several different languages, including French and German.

That was until one journalist mistakenly referred to him as “André,” which caused the Everton star to suddenly flip into a broad English accent in order to rebuke him.

“Andre’s not even my name, mate,” Onana snapped in crystal clear dialect, even chucking in a bonus “d’ya know what I mean?” for good measure.

This came after the journalist had presumably mixed him up with Manchester United goalkeeper André Onana — who isn’t featuring at the European Championship on account of being from Cameroon. — Chris Wright