Who deserves to win Euro 2024? A sentimental guide to who we’d love to see lift trophy

Steven Chicken
Spain are our Euro 2024 favourites.
Spain are our Euro 2024 favourites.

Summer international tournaments: that biennial cycle of winning the hearts and minds of neutrals watching around the world. And as football lovers first and foremost, we have our favourites too.

We’ve had our say on who’s got the momentum and who’s been impressive already in our Euro 2024 power ranking, but this is a bit different: here we’re talking purely in terms of sentimentality and that gut feeling for which sides we’d like to see hoisting the trophy in Berlin in a couple of weeks.

8) Portugal

Is there anything to like about Portugal? I mean, really? What’s their intended style of play? Not sure. Are they exciting to watch? No. And who do they still inexplicably try to build everything around? The most dislikeable footballer in the world.

We like to think we offer the furthest thing from toxic masculinity you’re ever likely to find on the entire football-shaped corners of the internet, and we’d never normally point and laugh at a man daring to shed tears in public. But you just can’t help it when it’s Cristiano Ronaldo, seemingly doing it out of little more than the sheer hubristic realisation that he is actually all too fallible now.

Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither, Cristiano. And ripeness is all, Roberto Martinez.

READ: Cristiano Ronaldo produces most arrogant display in football history as Portugal win in spite of him

7) England

Look, obviously, we have to put ourselves slightly to one side here, because if England win it, we’re going to go berserk in nothing but good ways.

But if we were neutrals watching on and trying to decide who we most want to take the crown, England would be right, right down there. They have stunk the place out for most of their games, pulled off an extremely fortuitous victory in the round of 16, and their fans won’t stop bloody going on about ‘it’ coming ‘home’.

The only things really keeping them above Portugal are 1) they’ve not won it before, and 2) they are not – and we can’t stress this enough – built around bloody Ronaldo.

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6) France

Sometimes you just get that feeling that too much is going right for a team for it not to be their year, and we’ve a sneaking suspicion things are going that way for France.

They still haven’t scored a goal from open play, with their three strikes in four games coming through two own goals and a penalty. They’ve wasted chance after chance and show an inexplicable inability to choose anything remotely like the right option when the pitch opens up in front of them. We feel nothing about France. Nothing.

Yet there they are, going into a quarter-final against a team even luckier to have reached that stage of the competition, and are favourites to get past them to boot. They’re going to bloody win it, aren’t they. And that’s boring.

Massive brownie points, however, to their players who spoke out against the rise of the far right in France.

5) Germany

If they had kept up their sensational showing in their opening game against one of the worst sides at the tournament, we’d be absolutely raving about Germany. Look at this exciting, attacking team, trying to score five just for the hell of it in front of their own fans, remembering that they used to be good once.

Since then, though, Germany have settled into Getting The Job Done And Getting It Done Well mode. That’s absolutely grand if you’re German: frankly, England could learn a thing or two from that.

There’s time yet for them to win us back over, particularly with Jamal Musiala so scintillating, Kai Havertz so lovably and wildly inconsistent, and big Niclas Fullkrug enjoying his late-career reinvention as the ultimate super-sub destroyer on the international stage. We’d just like it to be a little more impressive.

4) Turkey

If we’re going to focus squarely on the football, nobody has given us more enjoyment than Turkey this summer. They were victorious in the best game of the group stage against Georgia, and victorious in the best game of the round of 16 against Austria.

Turkey have conceded the most goals of any of the remaining teams in the competition, and only Georgia have allowed more high-quality chances on their goal.

And that’s what we like about them. We love a well-drilled defence as much as the next person: notorious for it, in fact. But a summer tournament is not like a league season, and should ideally actually be fun.

That’s what Turkey have been: you can see they’re not the best side, they leave themselves open to massive pressure, and they have leaned heavily on their goalkeepers to keep them in games. And yet we’ve not come away from a single one of their three victories going ‘ooh, got a bit lucky there’, because they’ve played some lovely attacking football and scored some very enjoyable goals.

And then we found out Merih Demiral (allegedly) celebrated his second goal against Austria with an extreme ultranationalist salute – something we had not seen when we included him in our list of unexpected heroes and would now like to officially redact. Keep them in the competition so we can enjoy his teammates doing what they do, but if that actually was what it looks like it was, we don’t really want to see him laying hands on that trophy.

3) Switzerland

Switzerland do lose some points from the fact that this has not really been an unexpected rise to greater prominence. That’s the thing with sides like this: you only stay dark and horsey for so long before you’re…just another horse.

The Swiss have instead steadily improved over the course of about 30 years, going from a team who sometimes qualified for tournaments and sometimes didn’t, then one that sometimes reached the knockouts and sometimes didn’t, then one that routinely made it past the groups.

Now – having reached their first quarter-final in 57 years* at the last Euros – Switzerland are a team for whom the quarter-finals feels about right…which would both make them going further an enjoyable achievement, but also make it feel a little bit – a little bit – like it happened by virtue of them being consistently in the right place at the right time, with everyone else drastically under-performing and the two actual best sides happening to have already faced each other earlier than you might like.

If you were Swiss you wouldn’t give a damn whatsoever about that, of course, but a tournament won by default often ends up feeling like it was just a rubbish tournament. And we don’t want that. Sorry Switzerland. You could yet prove us wrong.

*Also: bloody hell, they lost that one 7-5. Give us that against England and we’ll damn sure take it all back.

2) The Netherlands

An assessment purely built on being too young to remember the only time the Dutch men’s side have ever won a major tournament, and helped along by them finally looking like they had a plan against Romania having previously felt an awful lot like they were waiting for something to occur to them in the middle of each game.

And actually, that kind of semi-improvised approach – as un-Dutch as it might be – has been kind of enjoyable. There’s a sense that this squad are finding their feet as they go along, but that if they can do it, they could be a real whirlwind by the time the final rolls around.

Learn from the women, basically: the Dutch women’s team at Euro 2017 had also enjoyably gradually gathered momentum throughout Euro 2017 before smashing England in the semi-finals to set up a meeting with Denmark in the final – a side they had already played a very even game against in the group stage. Having earned their confidence in the interim, however, the Dutch this time smashed through Denmark in an entertaining but dominant 4-2 victory.

Might we get the same story re-told by the men if they come up against France here?

1) Spain

The youngsters in the Spain squad have reinvigorated a side that had suffered something of a fall from the heady days of Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Torres and Villa – and a side that swept to glory at Euro 2008 and then ground their way to retain the trophy four years later.

This iteration of Spain is more in the former mould. They are the only side that have won every game and almost the only side who have consistently won stylishly, which goes a long way in our book.

It might be a bit boring to some, Spain having won it twice in living memory unless you’re one of our 11-year-old readers…but we like them, and would gladly see them keep this up and win it.

It’s a shame it can’t happen.