Euro 2024 Power Rankings: England realism, Scottish despair and French glory

Dave Tickner

Euro 2024 is almost here, so it’s time for a deeply scientific ranking of all 24 nations heading to Germany, with the resurgent hosts among a really quite strikingly large number of teams with tremendously plausible reason to dream.

Sure, this is arbitrary but we’re making a rare genuine bid for objectivity here, with qualifying form, tournament nous and kindliness or otherwise of the draw all factors. And in theory at least there is some logic among the arbitrary placing. The top six are our group winners, the top eight the quarter-finalists, the top 16 those we expect to emerge from the group stage and so forth.

Keep checking back throughout the tournament as we shuttle teams up and down in response to the ongoing action and to correct our humiliating, embarrassing mistakes.

 

24) Albania
Topped a conspicuously weak qualifying group ahead of the Czechs and Poles but have been given a pretty harsh reward for that success. A relatively easy qualifying group has led to an absurdly tough tournament group alongside defending champions Italy, 2008 and 2012 champions Spain and a Croatia team that has been to the final and semi-finals at the last two World Cups. Leaving this tournament with so much as a point to their name would be a decent effort.

 

23) Georgia
The only debutants, stunning Greece on penalties in a Nations League-route play-off despite finishing only fourth in their qualifying group. All eyes will be on star man Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in a perhaps-unexpected major tournament chance.

Don’t find themselves in the toughest group in Germany, but it would still be a major surprise to see them finish above either Czech Republic or Turkey in a group Portugal ought to overpower pretty easily.

 

22) Scotland
The optimism of the qualifying campaign has all rather been allowed to dissipate and there’s now a familiar feeling of doom and gloom as encapsulated perfectly here by our own resident Scot.

Playing against Germany on the opening night is both curse and blessing. But mainly curse. Does feel like that could go badly wrong and leave a team that qualified so impressively playing catch-up from the very first night of the tournament.

21) Slovenia
Impressive in qualification, winning seven out of 10 games in Group H to finish behind winners Denmark only on head-to-head. They did manage a home draw with the Danes, who they will face again in Germany this summer along with Serbia and England. Certainly not without hope in that group, but anything other than fourth spot would still represent a surprise.

 

20) Slovakia
Finished comfortably second in a qualifying group dominated by Portugal and will absolutely have designs on nudging past at least one of Romania and Ukraine in a group we’d expect Belgium to coast through.

 

19) Poland
Wildly unconvincing in qualification, finishing third in a soft initial group behind Albania and Czech Republic and requiring penalties to edge out Wales after a goalless draw in Cardiff. Goals are the issue, despite a 5-1 win over Estonia in the play-off semi-final. They managed just 10 in eight qualifying games in a group notably short on quality.

Factor in that Poland are perennial tournament under-achievers and have a horrible group-stage draw alongside France, Netherlands and Austria, and an early exit appears to be on the cards.

 

18) Romania
Seems like it’s been far too long since Romania were actually good, but an unbeaten qualifying campaign winning a group containing a Switzerland team that always qualifies for major tournaments is an encouraging development.

Don’t have the worst draw, either, and would expect to be vying with Ukraine for second and third behind Belgium in Group E.

 

17) Hungary
Scotland’s travails makes Group A look less difficult than might otherwise have been the case, with Dominik Szoboszlai and co having every chance of getting out of the group stage at least.

Were desperately unlucky three years ago to find themselves in an absurdly stacked group alongside Germany but also France and Portugal and gave a perfectly decent account of themselves despite still finishing bottom of the group after draws against both France and Germany. If they can match that level this time around, the last 16 at the very least is within their compass.

 

16) Ukraine
Not the most convincing of qualifiers, but we’d back their greater recent tournament experience to get them ahead of Romania into second place in Group E behind Belgium. The good news for Ukraine is that if they do that they would be one of the fortunate runners-up who get to face another second-placed team in the last 16. The bad news for Ukraine is that it will be the runner-up from Group D and that means it’s likely to be either France or Netherlands. Ah well.

 

15) Czech Republic
We’ve got them finishing third behind Turkey in Portugal’s group, but it’s close to a 50-50 call. Third place in Group F would make them one of the teams who could face the winners of England’s group in the last 16, not that it particularly narrows it down at this stage.

 

14) Serbia
Qualifying from third place would represent an acceptable outcome in a group containing England and Denmark – who met in the semi-finals three years ago – and it’s one of those curious situations where third place in Group C might be better than second. Because second place means a last-16 clash with the winners of Group A and thus probably Germany. Third place in Group C – as long as you qualify – means a likely last-16 clash with Portugal or Belgium depending on how the third-place chips fall. Not easy by any means, but probably preferable.

 

13) Austria
Good team, nasty draw. France and Netherlands is not what you want to see in your first-round group and the Poland game could well be a play-off for third place in that group. We’d back Austria there, and then it’s damage limitation against the French and the Dutch to try and sneak through.

 

12) Switzerland
Know their way around a major tournament and stunned France on penalties three years ago. Second place in Group A looks well within reach for an experienced Swiss team, although that sets up a nasty-looking last-16 clash with the runner-up from Group B where Spain, Italy and Croatia all lurk.

 

11) Turkey
Stunk the place out at Euro 2020 losing three out of three but have a great chance to at least make some kind of amends for that here in a group where Portugal are clear but Czech Republic and Georgia need hold no fear for a side that won a qualifying group containing Croatia and Wales. Decent case to be made that both those sides Turkey bested in qualifying would expect to emerge in second place from this final tournament group.

 

10) Denmark
Will absolutely have designs on top spot in Group C. One, because England look distinctly vulnerable defensively and two because the reward for winning the group is huge. Win this group and you’ve got a third-place team in the last 16 and a group-stage runner-up in the last eight. Lose this group, and it’s very likely Germany in your way.

Denmark are very good, but we still think it’s second place for them in the group stage and an exit at the first knockout round.

 

9) Italy
Frankly, who knows what Italy might do. Could absolutely bomb out of the tournament in a difficult first-round group or win the whole thing again. Neither would particularly surprise us, but you’d have to say the latter would rank slightly higher in the unlikeliness stakes.

Haven’t been at all convincing really since their Wembley triumph three years ago and a group containing Spain and Croatia offers about as little room for error as is possible in a format that offers everyone plenty of room for error.

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8) Croatia
A team with absolutely gigantic major tournament balls and ludicrously vast levels of experience and big-game moxie but a nasty group-stage draw. We’re just about picking them for second in Group B, ahead of Italy and behind Spain, which puts them on course for a possible quarter-final against familiar foes England if the Euro 2020 runners-up have done what’s expected of them up to that stage.

 

7) Netherlands
Now look, being in the same first-round group as France is sub-optimal, sure. But really, Netherlands’ situation isn’t so bad. And here’s why. If they manage to win that group, then hurrah. But even if they only come second – and they should certainly be able to that against Austria and perpetual tournament disappointments Poland – they’re still absolutely fine.

Second place in Group D means a last-16 clash with the second-place team from Group E. And that group is sh*t. Assuming Belgium win it, you’re looking at one of Romania, Slovakia or Ukraine as well as being in the other half of the knockout draw from France and also probably England. That’s not a bad potential scenario at all for a team that hasn’t won its group.

 

6) Spain
Our least certain call for top spot in the group stage and thus sixth place seems the natural landing point. Have just slightly flattered to deceive at a few too many tournaments in a row now and absolutely won’t have everything all their own way against Italy and Croatia.

And even winning that group doesn’t guarantee anything easy, setting off as it does down a path that most likely means Group A winners and therefore Germany in the last eight.

 

5) Belgium
No longer quite the third-favourites-but-still-everyone’s-dark-horses of the Golden Generation but still not to be taken lightly. Might actually now reasonably be considered actual dark horses given they have potentially the kindest group-stage draw of any big gun with the possible exception of Portugal.

Would be a major surprise if any of Romania, Ukraine or Slovakia topple them in Group E, and therefore have to be considered likely quarter-finalists. Every chance it’s France in that quarter-final, though.

 

4) England
Perhaps the most absurdly overpowered attacking team at the entire tournament, and we’re absolutely certain that is never a claim that could previously have been made about England in our lifetimes. A case could be made that a front four of Kane, Bellingham, Foden and Saka contains the best attacking player in three top leagues, while the options in reserve aren’t too shabby either.

It should all be more than enough to power England through the early stages of the tournament, but they have serious questions of form, fitness or both about just about every defensive player in their squad and that means they really cannot be rated any higher than potential semi-finalists right now.

If they win Group C they should have a decent looking path to the semi-finals; they wouldn’t face another group winner until the last four. But it will then get very tough very quickly.

 

3) Portugal
Flawless in qualification and there is perhaps no other team with a more straightforward route to the semi-final. The group stage draw is incredibly kind, and topping Group F ensures they meet a third-place team in the last 16 and a runner-up in the last eight. As an added bonus, if everything goes according to seeding plan they land in Germany’s half of the bracket rather than the one containing England and France.

With Cristiano Ronaldo out to prove a point and a host of star players in their prime there really is every chance for the 2016 winners to go all the way again in Germany.

 

2) Germany
The unstoppable German tournament machine has severely malfunctioned in recent events. Frankly to the unthinkable point where the phrase ‘laughing stock’ is not unreasonable. But they appear rejuvenated under Julian Nagelsmann after an injection of fresh young talent and definitely appear to be on the up.

Home advantage and a favourable-looking draw are significant factors and we’re fully expecting to see a very different Germany this time around. You don’t have to like it, but it may be prudent to start accepting it.

 

1) France
Obvious answer is obvious, but that’s the nature of things at this stage. Number one in the Power Rankings quite simply means the team most likely to win the tournament and to us that is still absolutely definitely France. They’ve got Kylian Mbappe for one thing at the head of a squad blessed with a depth and breadth no other can match.

They’ve also got a manager who knows precisely what’s required for a squad that has won and lost in the final at the last two World Cups.

In a tournament that really does appear wide open with a whole glut of potential winners, France still look the likeliest and the one certainty is that if they do win it they’ll look absolutely magnificent going about it.