England remain favourites for Euro 2024 ahead of France and resurgent hosts Germany

Ian Watson
England and France are fancied for Euro 2024 while Italy are under new management.
England and France are fancied for Euro 2024 while Italy are under new management.

Euro 2024 is just around the corner and will be here before you know it. And England are the favourites.

Not our words, but the words of the nations bookmakers. Here’s how the 10 favourites are rated, according to the best odds currently available at oddschecker.com…

 

1) England
Gareth Southgate almost reluctantly signed up for the Euros, for which he kept faith with many of the players who have taken him to quarters, semis and finals in their last three major tournaments.

Weren’t entirely convincing in qualification after ballsing up the Nations League to land in pot two, but still came through a ticklish group in top spot while beating Italy home and away to exact a measure of revenge for Wembley in 2021. Huge question marks remain about the centre of defence while fitness issues dog the full-backs, but few teams can match England’s attacking might. In Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka they possess genuine superstars. Will the manager be willing to fully unleash them?

 

2) France
There have been changes since their World Cup final defeat to Argentina, with  Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema – a mere 335 France caps between them – all walking away from the international scene, but certainly no French revolution, with Didier Deschamps signing up for three-and-a-half more years in charge of Les Bleus.

They kicked off qualifying with a casual 4-0 win over the Netherlands with seven of the XI who started the World Cup final and continued in that vein, winning seven out of seven until they came a cropper with a 2-2 draw in Greece, which was apparently enough to make them second-favourites behind England despite clearly being the best team in Europe.

It may have been only a friendly, but a 2-0 defeat to Germany – remembered mainly for Florain Wirtz’s absurd goal inside the first 10 seconds – served notice of a possible change in trajectory for both nations.

 

3) Germany
Hansi Flick was sacked after a series of unfortunate results but this is a home tournament for Germany so a) they’ll definitely be there and b) they’ll be one of the favourites regardless of recent tournament form that is, by their own ludicrously high standards, wretched. They’ve crashed out in the group stage at the last two World Cups and were well beaten by England in the last 16 of the last Euros.

Julian Nagelsmann took charge of his country for the first time during the October break last year, dragging his players across the Atlantic for friendlies with USA and Mexico. “We want to inspire the whole nation with good football,” said the new boss. “We will play football with an idea but not overcomplicate things. The aim is to play football that will get people excited beyond the results.”

After underperforming for Flick, merely raising Die Mannschaft’s level to the minimum expectation for a talented group would be the first step in the right direction for Nagelsmann. They started with a 3-1 win over USA and a draw v Mexico. Defeats to Turkey and Austria in November offered a stark reminder that this is a work in progress, March wins over France and Netherlands a hint that progress might be very rapid indeed.

 

4) Spain
Spain made a change after the World Cup, with Luis Enrique replaced by Luis de la Fuente after a disappointing exit in Qatar to Morocco on penalties at the round-of-16 stage.

De la Fuente is better placed than anyone to integrate Spain’s prodigious young players, like Gavi, Pedri and Ansu Fati, having coached through the age groups at Under-19, Under-21 and Under-23 levels. But, in his first squad, he also recalled a number of experienced heads, like Kepa, Nacho Fernandez and Iago Aspas, while retaining only 11 of the squad Enrique took to the World Cup.

A 3-0 win over Norway looked promising but losing 2-0 in bloody Scotland of all places was poor. Since then they’ve won the Nations League, which was impressive without a striker worthy of the billing, and battered Georgia, with Lamine Yamal becoming Spain’s youngest ever scorer aged 16. They sealed their Euro 2024 place with a win in Norway and ended qualification with seven wins from eight games.

Spain's Lamine Yamal challenges for the ball with Georgia's Luka Gagnidze.

Beaten semi-finalists last time out in this competition and well capable of going better than that, although a group featuring Croatia and Italy will require some negotiating.

 

5) Portugal
Roberto Martinez fell upwards again, this time all the way to Portugal after being bombed out by Belgium.

After replacing European Championships and Nations League winner Fernando Santos, Martinez’s first matches in charge, Group J clashes with Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, brought a serene start for the ex-Everton boss but for Portugal, this is the first time since 2014 that they have played under new management. In coaching terms at least…

Cristiano Ronaldo is still keeping his hand in, despite his move to Saudi Arabia, and Martinez faces a big job in balancing the senior players with the need to evolve and introduce younger talent. He’s making a decent fist of things, with 10 wins out of 10, 36 goals scored and only two conceded in a kind qualifying group making for a serene journey to Germany.

READ: Why ‘world-record’ holder Cristiano Ronaldo has actually scored zero proper goals for Portugal

 

6=) Netherlands
The Oranje like to stick with what they know, with Ronald Koeman back for a second spell in charge, replacing Louis van Gaal after his third stint as coach ended with penalty heartbreak in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Van Gaal passed the Netherlands squad back to Koeman in decent shape. Under the veteran coach, they went 20 matches unbeaten (in normal time) and had a win ratio of 70%.

Koeman can also bank on the increasing influence of young players like Cody Gakpo, Xavi Simons and Matthijs De Ligt, while Sven Botman and Brian Brobbey are ready to step up to the senior side. But losing twice to France left them in need of a win over Republic of Ireland to avoid the hassle of the play-offs. They managed that 1-0 with a goal from Wout Weghorst of all people.

Lost narrowly to Germany in March, and have a ticklish group in Germany alongside France, Poland and Austria.

 

6=) Italy
Given they are the holders, you might think that Italian football is enjoying a resurgence. But they failed – again – to qualify for the World Cup and Roberto Mancini felt England have a better pool of talent.

“We are worse off than Southgate,” he said before the Azzurri were beaten by England in qualification for this tournament. “I don’t know why there are so few strikers, we are very limited going forward. We have three teams in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but out of the three teams, there are seven or eight Italians at most. This is the reality.”

So dismayed was Mancini that he quit and took the Saudi Arabia job instead. Luciano Spalletti was appointed as his replacement, ending one of the shortest sabbaticals ever, after he guided Napoli to the Serie A title last season. His reign began with a draw against North Macedonia, a victory over Ukraine, a cruise v Malta and defeat to England. The Azzurri qualified with a 0-0 draw v Ukraine in their final game.

March friendly wins over Venezeula and Ecuador probably don’t tell us a great deal, and a repeat of their Wembley success feels unlikely.

 

6=) Belgium
After their disastrous World Cup exit at the group stage, the Red Devils have a new manager with a big broom…

Domenico Tedesco’s first squad had no room for Axel Witsel and Dries Merten, with another member of the Golden Generation, Eden Hazard having stepped away from football altogether. Between the trio, they have 365 international caps. Toby Alderweireld and Simon Mignolet have also retired from national duty.

The 37-year-old coach’s first priority was to restore some harmony following the in-fighting that marred their campaign in Qatar. It’s fair to say he failed, but they qualified safely enough and still boast plenty of talent even if this is no longer quite that Golden Generation side. Although given how often they flattered to deceive on the biggest stages, maybe that’s no bad thing…

 

9=) Denmark
The Danes reached the semi-finals of the last European Championships and they looked to have been given a smooth path to Germany, with Finland, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, Slovenia and San Marino joining them in Group H.

But after a disappointing World Cup in Qatar, Kasper Hjulmand’s crew found themselves in a tighter-than-expected group. It didn’t quite go to the wire, with passage secured by beating Slovenia without Christian Eriksen and Rasmus Hojlund.

A repeat of the efforts of three years ago is asking a lot, but England, Serbia, Slovenia isn’t the toughest group around in Germany given the potential for three teams to go through.

 

9=) Croatia
In contrast, another positive World Cup – third in Qatar after being runners-up in 2018 – was followed by a run to the Nations League finals. Croatia are not a team to take lightly in tournament ball. And they still have the ageless Luka Modric.