Looking to end 58 years of hurt, England get their Euro 2024 campaign under way against Serbia on Sunday.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has suggested it may be a case of all or nothing as he enters his fourth – and potentially final – major tournament at the helm.

Southgate has transformed England from perennial underachievers to genuine contenders, overseeing a surprise fourth-place finish at the 2018 World Cup, then seeing the nation's old nemesis – the penalty spot – haunt them in the Euro 2020 final versus Italy and a 2022 World Cup quarter-final against France.

Penalty shoot-outs excluded, the Three Lions have only lost one of their last 18 games at the Euros (10 wins, seven draws), going down by a 2-1 scoreline in an infamous last-16 clash with Iceland in 2016.

Despite the same opponents inflicting another defeat upon England in their final pre-Euros friendly last week, the Opta supercomputer makes them tournament favourites.

They lift the trophy in 19.9 per cent of competition simulations, just ahead of France (19.1 per cent).

Serbia, however, will be looking to throw a spanner in the works on their first Euros appearance as an independent nation, with the presence of several capable attackers leading some to tout them as a potential surprise package.

Here, we delve into the Opta data to preview Sunday's game.

What's expected?   

England have started all three of their major tournaments under Southgate with a victory, and the Opta supercomputer is backing them to do so again in Germany.

They are given a 62.1 per cent chance of a win, with Serbia only triumphing in 16 per cent of scenarios and the spoils being shared in 21.9 per cent.

 

In the supercomputer's Group C predictions, the Three Lions are given a huge 95.4 per cent chance of reaching the last 16, finishing top in 66 per cent of simulations. 

Serbia advance in 56.2 per cent of projections, fewer than Denmark (69.2 per cent) but more than Slovenia (42.1 per cent). However, they are only given a 12 per cent chance of topping the pool.

This will be England and Serbia's first encounter since the latter re-emerged as an independent state in 2006. In fact, since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, England have only faced Serbia and Montenegro once, winning 2-1 in a 2003 friendly.

The Three Lions are, though, unbeaten in their last six matches against Serbia or Yugoslavia, winning each of the last four.

Their most recent defeat to them was a particularly notable one, though, as Alf Ramsey's world champions lost 2-1 in the semi-finals of Euro 1968, a four-team competition that saw Yugoslavia finish as runners-up.

Attack the best form of defence for Serbia

With Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen, Anthony Gordon and Eberechi Eze competing to support Harry Kane, England's firepower is not in question.

Their ability to keep things tight at the back, though, just might be.

With Harry Maguire sidelined by a calf injury and Luke Shaw not yet ready to feature after recovering from a hamstring issue, Southgate will be forced to field a new-look backline on Sunday. 

Marc Guehi is expected to partner John Stones, and England need to recapture the solidity they displayed at previous tournaments under Southgate. 

Across the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Euro 2020, England conceded just 0.59 goals per game and allowed opponents a paltry 0.72 expected goals (xG) per match – a figure only bettered by France (0.67) among the leading European teams to make each tournament. 

Should they fall short of those standards in Gelsenkirchen, the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic and Dusan Tadic are well-equipped to punish them.

Serbia have only managed five clean sheets in 25 competitive outings under Dragan Stojkovic, who took over in 2021.

However, they have only failed to score on two of those outings, against Norway (0-1 in the Nations League) and Brazil (0-2 at the 2022 World Cup).

Generally using a 3-5-2 shape and looking to isolate Mitrovic and Vlahovic against their markers, Serbia will pose a real physical test. They scored one third (five of 15) of their goals in Euro 2024 qualifying via headers, the highest percentage of any team to reach Germany.

The Three Lions must be prepared to withstand an aerial bombardment. 

Can Alexander-Arnold solve midfield conundrum?

Aside from Maguire's replacement, the main talking point in the build-up to England's opener has been the identity of Declan Rice's midfield partner.

Manchester United's Kobbie Mainoo looked to be in pole position at the end of the domestic season, but reports now suggest Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold – who will don the number eight shirt – will start as first-choice.  

Alexander-Arnold has played a total of 25,078 minutes of competitive football for Liverpool, and only one per cent of those have come in central midfield, so playing the position at a major tournament could represent something of a baptism of fire.

However, Alexander-Arnold – who is accustomed to inverting into central areas at club level – could prove a useful asset as England look to prise open low blocks.

 

He ranked eighth among all outfielders for accurate long balls (147) in the Premier League last season and third for switches of play (32). If he can help to get the likes of Foden and Saka isolated against Serbia's wing-backs on Sunday, that could be key to opening the door.

Meanwhile, England are well aware of the importance of dead balls at major tournaments. They ranked either first or joint-first for goals from set-pieces at the 2018 World Cup (six goals), Euro 2020 (three) and the 2022 World Cup (two).

Since making his Premier League debut in December 2016, Alexander-Arnold leads all players in the division for set-play assists (20) and ranks joint-third for chances created from such scenarios (184). 

Maguire may be absent, but if Alexander-Arnold brings his dead-ball prowess to Germany, England will be a force to be reckoned with from corners and free-kicks.  

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Serbia – Aleksandar Mitrovic

Mitrovic, who is Serbia's all-time leading scorer with 58 goals in 91 matches, still looks sharp despite swapping the Premier League for the Saudi Pro League last year.

The former Fulham man plundered 28 goals in 28 league games for Al-Hilal in 2023-24, with only Cristiano Ronaldo – with 35 strikes in 31 matches – topping him in the scoring charts.

Under Stojkovic, Mitrovic has 21 goals in 23 competitive appearances for his country, with the majority of his goals coming via headers (52 per cent).

England – Harry Kane 

If England are to go all the way, they will need Kane to deliver in his new home country, after he saw a 44-goal debut season with Bayern Munich go unrewarded in terms of silverware.

 

Kane is also a proven operator on the international stage, scoring 12 goals across the last three major international tournaments – six at the 2018 World Cup, four at Euro 2020 and two at the 2022 World Cup. 

No European player has bettered that tally, with only France's Kylian Mbappe matching it.

He also scored or assisted on all seven of his starts in qualifying (eight goals, two assists), including a brace in an impressive 3-1 win over European champions Italy last October.

Harry Kane believes the experience he gained playing for Bayern Munich last season has prepared him for Euro 2024 in Germany.

Kane made the move to Bayern from Tottenham in August last year, becoming the most expensive Bundesliga signing in history.

He enjoyed an impressive maiden season in the German top-flight, scoring 44 goals in 45 matches across all competitions.

Kane acknowledged how his time at Bayern has improved his game and given him valuable experience going into the tournament.

"It's been an incredible experience," Kane told UEFA.com.

"I think playing for a club like Bayern Munich can only improve you and only push you to another level because you're under huge pressure to be successful in every game and I think the standard of players, and the quality of coaches, you know, it's just a really high level, and I’ve really enjoyed that.

"And I just think playing, for me personally, it was time to play in different stadiums against different teams, and I've really enjoyed that experience.

"Some of the atmospheres here have been some of the best I've ever played in. So, I'm loving that part and I expect the games in the Euros to be the same as well."

Kane is set to become the first player to captain England at four major tournaments when he leads them out against Serbia on Sunday.

As the Three Lions' all-time top-scorer with 63 goals, Kane is set to be one of their key men once more, but he believes the team have earned the right to be labelled as one of the favourites.

"Being England captain and leading the boys out is probably the highest privilege I can have as a player, and I'll never take that for granted.

"That feeling is truly one of a kind. It's an honour to do it for a fourth time. We've had a semi-final, a final and a quarter-final, so I'm hoping we go to the very end and go on and win.

"I think this squad is one of the best, if not the best, we've had, going on form and the domestic seasons a lot of us have had.

"I hope that the guys can lean on me and ask me questions, and if I can help them get through anything, then great. But we have such a good togetherness, we're always talking or having dinner together and there's always conversations being had, so that helps us."

After their opening fixture, England will play Denmark and Slovenia in their other group games.

From Gerd Muller to Marco van Basten, Alan Shearer to Fernando Torres, some of the greatest strikers to have played the game have had the honour of winning the Golden Boot at a European Championship.

When Europe's finest descend upon Germany for the 17th edition of UEFA's flagship international tournament, a mix of established greats and young prospects will vie to be the continent's best goalscorer.

Can Cristiano Ronaldo mark what will surely be his final major tournament by becoming the first two-time recipient of the Golden Boot, or might Harry Kane or Kylian Mbappe upstage the Portugal legend? 

As the build-up to Euro 2024 continues, we delve into the Opta data to assess the chances of the leading contenders, pick out a couple of potential dark horses and ask what lessons we can take from previous Golden Boot winners.

THE FAVOURITES

Kylian Mbappe

Where else to start but with Mbappe? 

The France captain is again among the favourites to top the goalscoring charts, having netted eight times to win the Golden Boot as Les Bleus came up just short at the 2022 World Cup.

While Mbappe has 12 goals in 14 World Cup matches and looks destined to obliterate Miroslav Klose's record of 16, he failed to score at his only previous Euros, even missing the decisive kick as France went out to Switzerland on penalties three years ago. 

At Euro 2020, only Alvaro Morata (six), Gerard Moreno and Kane (five each) missed more big chances (as defined by Opta) than Mbappe (four). His 14 total shots amounted to 1.7 expected goals (xG), with only Moreno (-2.25) and Dani Olmo (-1.86) underperforming their xG figures by a greater margin. 

However, few would predict a repeat following a season in which Mbappe scored 44 times in 47 games, a tally only matched by Kane among players from Europe's top five leagues. 

Mbappe also scored nine times in eight Euro 2024 qualifiers, though the depth of attacking talent available to Didier Deschamps – and the likelihood of Mbappe playing from the left flank – could mean they are slightly less reliant on one star than other nations. 

France had the largest spread of goalscorers of any side during qualifying, with 14 different players scoring at least once for them, excluding own goals. 

A testing Group D draw could also work against him; Austria and the Netherlands both conceded just seven goals in eight qualifiers, while Poland shipped 10 in their group games. However, should France go all the way, he will likely provide some big moments.

Harry Kane

As the only player in Europe's top five leagues to match Mbappe in 2023-24, many feel Kane was let down by those around him as Bayern Munich relinquished their Bundesliga crown.

Having suffered final heartache at Euro 2020, Kane will be desperate to end his major trophy hoodoo in his new homeland.

Kane is England's record goalscorer overall (63 goals) and their most prolific player at major tournaments (12 goals at World Cup/Euros). Across the last three tournaments (2018 World Cup, Euro 2020 and 2022 World Cup), Mbappe is the only player to match Kane's return. 

He scored or assisted on all seven of his starts in qualifying (eight goals, two assists) and despite failing to capture silverware in his first season in Germany, he sent records tumbling in a brilliant individual campaign.

Thirty-six goals in 32 games made Kane's debut campaign the most prolific in Bundesliga history, with only Robert Lewandowski (41 in 2020-21) and Muller (40 in 1971-72, 38 in 1969-70) ever scoring more in a single season. 

A kind group-stage draw should allow Kane the chance to build some early momentum. Serbia are making their first Euros appearance as an independent nation, while Slovenia are embarking on their first campaign since 2000.

Even Denmark – against whom Kane scored the winner in the Euro 2020 semi-finals – could give up plenty of opportunities.

Their previous 33 matches at the Euros have produced an average of 2.79 goals per game (42 for, 50 against), the highest ratio among the 12 teams to have played at least 20 games.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal's Euro 2020 campaign ended in last-16 heartache against Belgium, but in just four games, Ronaldo did enough to claim the Golden Boot with five goals and one assist, edging out Patrik Schick.

In many ways, this is Ronaldo's competition. He holds the tournament records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – starting in 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five).

Since 1972, Ronaldo has recorded twice as many goal involvements as any other player at the Euros (20 – 14 goals, six assists), with Michel Platini a distant second (10, nine goals, one assist).

However, age catches up with everyone, and many have questioned the 39-year-old's value to the Selecao since he swapped Manchester United for Al-Nassr after the 2022 World Cup.

Ronaldo may not be playing at the peak of the European game any more, but he set a new single-season record with 35 Saudi Pro League goals in 2023-24, overperforming his xG total of 30.68 even while missing more big chances than any other player in the league (33).

Questions persist regarding Ronaldo's ability to fit into a coherent off-the-ball structure, but if chances fall his way, he is likely to take them. 

He should not suffer from a lack of service. Of the top 10 players in Europe's top five leagues for open-play chances created in 2023-24 (all competitions), three were Portuguese – Bruno Fernandes (first, 111), Bernardo Silva (eighth, 84) and Rafael Leao (joint-10th, 82).

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku became Belgium's all-time leading goalscorer all the way back in 2018 and now has 85 goals in 115 senior international appearances. 

Eleven of those strikes have come at major tournaments (World Cup/Euros), though he struggled enormously in Qatar two years ago and has only netted twice in knockout games for his country.

However, he should not be discounted from the Golden Boot race at this year's tournament.

Lukaku scored an astonishing 14 goals in eight Euro 2024 qualifiers, setting a new record for a single qualification campaign. He scored every 39 minutes on average and converted almost half of his shots (29), accounting for 63.6 per cent of total goals scored by Domenico Tedesco's men (22).

With Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine awaiting Belgium in Group E and a third-place finisher next up if they top their pool, Lukaku should be confident of a strong start.

Like Ronaldo, he will also be serviced by some of the continent's best creators.

Since the start of the 2014 World Cup, Kevin De Bruyne's nine assists at major tournaments (five at the Euros, four at World Cups) are the most of any European player, and he led all Premier League players for expected assists (0.42 xA) and chances created (3.37) per 90 minutes in 2023-24.

Ranking second for xA per 90 (0.33) and third for chances created (2.49)? That would be De Bruyne's City and Belgium team-mate Jeremy Doku. Lukaku will not want for opportunities.

Alvaro Morata

Euro 2020 will live long in the memory of Atletico Madrid striker Morata, but perhaps not for the right reasons.

He netted three times as Spain made the last four, but he was also criticised after missing more big chances (six) than any other player at the tournament. To make matters worse, it was his unsuccessful penalty which allowed Italy to beat La Roja in a semi-final shoot-out.

However, Morata does have a decent pedigree at the Euros, ranking joint-fifth in the competition's all-time goalscoring charts, his six strikes equalling the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Meanwhile, Joselu – Morata's understudy for this tournament – was the only Spain player to match his four goals in qualifying.

Luis de la Fuente's approach does not differ greatly from that of Luis Enrique, so Spain will be patient in their bid to create chances.

La Roja's last 50 goals at the Euros have all been scored from inside the box, their last long-range strike coming via Raul against Slovenia in 2000.

Morata scored 15 goals in 27 LaLiga matches in 2023-24, making it his joint-most prolific campaign in one of Europe's top five leagues (he also netted 15 times for Real Madrid in 2016-17). 

THE OUTSIDERS

Florian Wirtz

The likes of Kai Havertz and Niclas Fullkrug are battling it out to lead the line for Germany, but perhaps their main goal threat will come from deep if Julian Nagelsmann implements a fluid system.

Bayer Leverkusen star Wirtz was crowned Bundesliga Player of the Year after scoring 11 goals and providing 11 assists throughout their unbeaten campaign, also netting four times on their run to the Europa League final.

Gianluca Scamacca

Leverkusen's European campaign ended in heartbreaking fashion against Atalanta in Dublin. While Ademola Lookman did the damage in the final, Scamacca also shone for La Dea and has a great chance of starting at the Euros, given Italy's lack of true striking options.

Scamacca only has one goal in 16 senior appearances for Italy, but if Luciano Spalletti picks his team on form, the former West Ham striker should make it in. He scored 19 goals in all competitions in 2023-24, outperforming his xG total of 11.2 by a huge differential of 7.8.  

Rasmus Hojlund

Might a former Atalanta forward also find himself in contention? Hojlund endured an up-and-down debut season with Manchester United, but he ended it on a high by scoring in his last two Premier League games before helping them triumph in the FA Cup final.

Hojlund top-scored for Denmark with seven goals in qualifying, also leading his team-mates for shots (23), shots on target (13) and xG (5.2). If Denmark are to push England close in Group C, they will need their number nine in top form.

What does history tell us? 

We are highly unlikely to see anyone match Platini's incredible nine-goal haul from Euro 1984, but looking at recent Golden Boot winners does allow us to draw a few conclusions about what is needed to come out on top. 

Since the Euros expanded to 16 teams for 1996, the fewest goals needed to win the Golden Boot was three, with Torres taking the honours in 2012, after his team-mate David Villa did so with four in 2008.

Antoine Griezmann's six goals in 2016 is the closest any player has ever come to Platini's haul, while four of the last seven editions have seen the leading scorer finish on five goals. 

Griezmann and Platini, alongside Shearer in 1996, are also the only standalone winners to claim the award while representing the host nation.

It is also interesting to note that team success does not necessarily translate to individual honours. 

Spain duo Villa and Torres are the only players to claim the Golden Boot as tournament winners since 1992 (when Denmark's Henrik Larsen shared it with three other players).

A deep run of sorts is usually required, though. Ronaldo won the Euro 2020 Golden Boot despite Portugal exiting in the last 16, but the previous four standalone winners all played for teams who reached the semi-finals as a minimum.

As you might have guessed, having the best goalscorer in the competition helps, but it is no guarantee of glory.

Few England fans will be consoled by a Kane Golden Boot if the Three Lions fall short.   

Euro 2024 is almost upon us, with Europe's finest preparing to battle it out to be crowned continental champions in Germany.

It all gets under way on Friday as Julian Nagelsmann's hosts face Scotland at the Allianz Arena. 

It seems remarkable to think Die Nationalelf – the most successful national team in Europe – have gone eight years without a knockout win at a major tournament, and they will be desperately hoping home advantage inspires a better run this time around.

England, meanwhile, will be looking to bring football home and end 58 years of hurt in the country their captain Harry Kane thrived in last season.

The Three Lions' 2022 World Cup hopes were ended by France, who are again among the favourites. There is plenty more intrigue elsewhere, from defending champions Italy being drawn in a 'group of death' with Spain and Croatia to Cristiano Ronaldo leading Portugal into a sixth edition of the Euros.

And who could forget Georgia's first tournament as an independent nation, or Scotland's attempts to upset the odds in Group A?

As Euros fever grips the continent, we run through the main storylines and contenders, pick out some underdogs and breakout stars to watch and take a look at the Opta supercomputer's predictions.

THE HOSTS

This will be the first edition of the Euros to take place solely in a unified Germany, though the Allianz Arena hosted games at Euro 2020 and West Germany staged the 1988 tournament – won by the Netherlands as Marco van Basten scored one of the most iconic goals in history against the USSR in the final.

This will be Germany's fourth major tournament as sole hosts overall, and they have always gone far on home soil, winning the 1974 World Cup and going out in the semi-finals at Euro 1988 and the 2006 World Cup.

Hopes were not high for them in late 2023 as a dismal run of friendly results saw Hansi Flick become the first Germany coach to be sacked. However, Nagelsmann has restored optimism and has a supremely talented group of players to work with.

Florian Wirtz's emergence as one of Europe's best attacking midfielders offers cause for excitement – the 21-year-old scored 11 goals and added 11 assists during Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten Bundesliga title-winning campaign to claim Player of the Season honours.

Wirtz, Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan will likely support Kai Havertz in a fluid attacking quartet, while Toni Kroos' presence in midfield will be a major boost to a team that averaged 59.3 per cent possession at Euro 2020 – second only to Spain (66.8 per cent).

Kroos – who won his sixth Champions League with Real Madrid this month – played more line-breaking passes (214) and passes leading to final-third entries (69) than any other player in Europe's premier club competition in 2023-24.

The major question mark could pertain to Kroos' partner, with Germany having lacked a true midfield enforcer for some time.

They have conceded at least one goal in their last 12 major tournament games, last keeping a clean sheet against Slovakia in the last 16 at Euro 2016. Will that soft underbelly cost them again?

THE FAVOURITES

England

England's Euro 2024 preparations have been far from perfect, with defensive mainstay Harry Maguire missing out through injury and their final friendly ending in defeat against Iceland. However, Gareth Southgate's side enter the tournament as the Opta supercomputer's favourites.

It is not difficult to see why. In Kane, England have a striker whose tally of 44 goals in 2023-24 was only matched by Kylian Mbappe among players from Europe's top five leagues.

In Jude Bellingham, they have the outstanding player from Madrid's double-winning side, recording 36 goal involvements (23 goals, 13 assists) in his debut season in Spain. 

And in Phil Foden, Southgate can call upon the Premier League's Player of the Season, who produced talismanic performances against Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham to cap Manchester City's fourth straight title success. 

With Southgate thought likely to depart whatever the outcome of England's campaign, this tournament must be the culmination of their development into genuine contenders. Penalty shoot-outs excluded, England have only lost one of their last 18 Euros games (10 wins, seven draws) – against Iceland in 2016. 

With Marc Guehi now likely to partner John Stones following injury-disrupted campaigns for both players, the key may be Southgate's ability to protect his backline. 

Across the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Euro 2020, England conceded just 0.59 goals per game and allowed opponents a paltry 0.72 expected goals (xG) per match – a figure only bettered by France (0.67) among the leading European teams to make each tournament. Reproducing that kind of solidity will be crucial. 

France

Didier Deschamps is eyeing history in Germany, where he could become the first person to win the World Cup and the Euros as both a player and a manager. 

Having reached the final at three of their last four major tournaments, Les Bleus are right up there among the favourites again.

The likes of Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema may be gone, but France still boast an incredible depth of talent, with Mbappe leading from the front as captain.

Mbappe endured a terrible tournament at Euro 2020, failing to score from chances amounting to 1.7 xG in four games, before missing the vital penalty as France were beaten by Switzerland in a last-16 shoot-out. 

Coming into this tournament on the back of a 44-goal season with Paris Saint-Germain and with his long-term future decided, few expect a repeat from Madrid's newest Galactico. 

Among the more interesting selections from Deschamps is a recall for N'Golo Kante, who was missed at the 2022 World Cup but failed to prevent Al-Ittihad from finishing a lowly fifth in the Saudi Pro League in 2023-24. With Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni also included, opposing midfielders are in for a tough time. 

A difficult group-stage draw means France will be tested from the very off, though. If they can top a pool containing the Netherlands, Austria and Poland, they could be on course to meet England in a titanic semi-final. 

Spain

Spain are the only nation to win back-to-back editions of the Euros, bookending their golden era by triumphing in 2008 and 2012. Since then, La Roja have won just two knockout ties at five major tournaments, with a 2022 World Cup exit to Morocco their nadir.  

Luis de la Fuente is the man tasked with bringing back the good times, and victory in the 2022-23 edition of the Nations League represented a decent start.

However, La Roja have been drawn into what is surely the toughest group at the Euros, with Croatia and Italy their first two opponents before they face Albania.

Spain's attractive, possession-based brand of football won them plenty of plaudits at Euro 2020 and the Qatar World Cup, but it did not win them enough games, with Italy, Japan and Morocco all keeping them at arm's length at those tournaments.

As well as averaging the most passes per sequence during Euro 2024 qualifying (six), Spain averaged the most sequences of 10+ passes per game (28.5). Adding an end product is now the aim of the game.

Alvaro Morata must step up after missing a tournament-high six big chances at Euro 2020. He did score 15 goals in LaLiga last term, though, and exciting wide duo Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams should provide him with plenty of service.

Spain's key men in midfield will be Pedri and Rodri.

Man City star Rodri saw his 18-month unbeaten run ended by Manchester United in last month's FA Cup final, but he developed into more than a midfield enforcer in 2023-24, scoring nine goals and adding 14 assists. 

Pedri, meanwhile, netted twice in a dominant 5-1 win over Northern Ireland last week, and is back to form after an stop-start season with Barcelona. His Blaugrana team-mate Gavi will be absent through injury, however.

If La Roja are to add punch to their possession play, this pair may need to be the driving force. 

Portugal

Portugal are the fifth team to be given more than a nine per cent chance of glory by the Opta supercomputer, as Cristiano Ronaldo heads into his 11th – and potentially final – tournament. 

Injury limited Ronaldo to the role of cheerleader when Portugal won Euro 2016, but he has already written his name into the competition's record books and can underline his legacy further in Germany.

Ronaldo holds the records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the Euros. 

His place was called into question at the Qatar World Cup, but Roberto Martinez has built around him since taking over last year, with the Selecao plundering 36 goals in 10 qualifiers and conceding just two.

With the likes of Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Rafael Leao, Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Pedro Neto all making their squad, Portugal have one of the most exciting attacking line-ups at the tournament. 

A kind group-stage draw – pitting them against Czechia, Turkiye and tournament debutants Georgia also plays into their hands – and the Selecao also know topping Group F would put them on the opposite side of the draw to England and France, should they also win their groups.

Lionel Messi's triumph at the last World Cup will only have heightened Ronaldo's desire for more international silverware. With a strong supporting cast behind him, he should not be written off.

THE UNDERDOGS

Scotland

Scotland fell flat on their first tournament appearance of the century at Euro 2020, but there are reasons to suggest the Tartan Army might have more to cheer this time around. 

Steve Clarke's side were promoted to the top tier of the Nations League in 2022-23, while a famous 2-0 win over Spain at Hampden Park – courtesy of a Scott McTominay double – set the tone for their successful qualification campaign.

Having lost Aaron Hickey, Nathan Patterson and Lewis Ferguson to injury, Clarke's men face a difficult first test against Germany. However, one win could be enough to qualify under the 24-team format, and they might just fancy their chances of upsetting Hungary or Switzerland. 

Austria

Looking to bloody the noses of France and the Netherlands in Group D are Austria, tipped by many to be something of a surprise package under Ralf Rangnick.

Austria finished just one point behind Belgium in qualifying, Rangnick needing little time to implement his high-pressing style. They allowed opponents just 8.3 passes per defensive action (PPDA) in qualifying – the fewest of any team.

Austria also attacked with the highest direct speed (2.03 metres per second), and if their Group D opponents do not match their intensity, they could spring a surprise.

Georgia

One of the stories of the tournament can be found in Group F, with Georgia featuring at a major tournament for the first time as an independent nation – they are the only Euros debutants in Germany.

They failed to qualify directly - their Nations League performance teeing up a penalty shoot-out victory over Greece in the play-offs. They were the only team to reach the tournament while posting a negative goal difference (-6) in their qualifying group.

When it comes to one-off games, though, they do have match-winners. Napoli's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia completed the joint-most dribbles of any player in qualifying (44), alongside Jeremy Doku, also scoring four goals and providing one assist.

Georgia also have international pedigree in the dugout, with Willy Sagnol their head coach. The former France right-back only lost one of his 12 games at major tournaments as a player (six wins, five draws).

THE BREAKOUT STARS

All eyes may be on Kane, Mbappe and Ronaldo, but major tournaments are often defined by breakout stars, those players who earn big-money moves or become household names within a matter of days.

Slovenia's Benjamin Sesko could be a candidate, having attracted interest from several of Europe's biggest clubs, though he has now signed a new deal with RB Leipzig. Bellingham (19) was the only player aged 21 or younger to better his 14 goals in Europe's big five leagues last term. 

The Netherlands, who are shorn of Frenkie de Jong, may need to spread the goals around in the absence of a top-class number nine, and Feyenoord's Lutsharel Geertruida – who has played at centre-back, right-back or in midfield – had 13 goal involvements in the Eredivisie last term (eight goals, five assists).

Defending champions Italy are being overlooked by many as Luciano Spalletti oversees a period of transition. Inter midfielder Davide Frattesi could emerge as a star for the Azzurri, having scored five goals in 15 caps – more than any team-mate since his debut in 2022.

This tournament has been touted as something of a last dance for Belgium's 'Golden Generation', and PSV winger Johan Bakayoko is the Red Devils' next big hope. Only seven players bettered his 164 opposition-half take-ons in Europe's top six leagues last term, with fellow Belgium wide-man Doku (171) among them.

The supercomputer's prediction

According to the Opta supercomputer, football may finally arrive home on July 14. 

England emerged triumphant in 19.9 per cent of Opta's 10,000 tournament simulations, making them favourites ahead of France (19.1 per cent).

There is then a significant gap to the third favourites, with Germany victorious on home soil in 12.4 per cent of projections, ahead of Spain (9.6 per cent) and Portugal (9.2 per cent). 

The Netherlands (5.1 per cent) and Italy (5.0 per cent) are next, with tough group-stage draws working against them. Belgium (4.7 per cent), Denmark (2.2 per cent) and Croatia (2 per cent) round out the top 10.

England are "incredibly strong" and "definitely good enough to go all the way" at Euro 2024, insists former Three Lions goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Gareth Southgate's side, who were runners-up to Italy at the delayed Euro 2020, are among the favourites to go one better and lift the Henri Delaunay trophy in Germany this year, and there is envious quality within their ranks.

Jude Bellingham played a starring role during his debut season with Real Madrid, with Harry Kane following suit at Bayern Munich, while Phil Foden, Kyle Walker and John Stones are fresh from winning a record-breaking fourth successive Premier League title with Manchester City.

Hart, who recently announced his retirement from professional football, represented England at two European Championships in 2012 and 2016, playing alongside the likes of Kane, Walker and Stones at the latter.

The ex-Man City and Celtic stopper briefly featured for the Three Lions during the early stages of Southgate's tenure, which began in September 2016, and he talked up the nation's chances to BBC Sport.

"I know a lot of our players well from my time with the squad," said Hart, whose tally of 75 caps is only bettered by Peter Shilton (125) among England goalkeepers. "They are top-class players who will have a huge say in how we do this time.

"I feel like [Southgate's] confidence has increased a lot since my time with the squad. He's had success at the past two tournaments... and it also seems like everyone loves playing under him, which is so important.

"For everything that is talked about by people outside the squad, it is what happens in the camp that really matters, and Gareth has built an environment where they will feel safe and will be very focused.

"It looks like the manager and players understand each other and what it takes to go the distance, so they will be able to put themselves in the best position to execute all the planning and hard work that they have already put in.

"England are definitely good enough to go all the way in Germany. If you look at all the squads, then along with France, we are incredibly strong.

"But I know what goes into winning a tournament, and it is not quite as simple as just having the best players, so we will have to see how it plays out."

Harry Kane believes there is enough experience within England's ranks to triumph at Euro 2024 despite more than half of Gareth Southgate's squad yet to play in a major tournament for their country. 

The Three Lions travel to Germany this week ahead of their Group C opener against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on June 16, without a plethora of seasoned internationals that have played a key role in the side in recent years. 

Manchester United's Harry Maguire, who has 63 caps and has featured in the last three tournaments for England, was omitted from the 26-man squad having failed to recover from an injury. 

The likes of Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and James Maddison also missed out, with Southgate opting for form over experience, as Kobbie Mainoo, Adam Wharton and Anthony Gordon were some of the names included in the final group.

England captain Kane, who will lead his country out for a third major tournament in Germany, believes there is more than enough experience available to end their 58-year wait for an international trophy, insisting that every player included in the squad has earned the right to be there. 

"I think we have more than enough experience," Kane said. "Especially a lot of players who have played in two or three tournaments. There are always going to be new players, ­players who deserve to be here.

"For the boys who missed out ... It is sad to see them go but ultimately that is what you get playing for England. The manager has to take tough decisions.

"Everyone has earned the right to be here. That is what we have said. Everyone brings something ­different to the team and we are going to need all 26 players if we are going to be successful."

The 30-year-old struggled with a back injury towards the end of the season but returned to play in England's 3-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scoring his 63rd goal for his country in the process, before playing just over an hour in the 1-0 defeat to Iceland at Wembley on Friday.

"I am all good," Kane said of his fitness. "The plan was for me to play 60 minutes against Iceland. It has been a really good camp for me personally in that sense.

"Getting a good week of ­training, 30 minutes (against Bosnia and Herzegovina), a few more days of training, then 60 minutes. I feel really prepared and in a good place."

Declan Rice insists there are positives England can take from Friday's friendly loss to Iceland, also saying the result should not affect Kobbie Mainoo's chances of partnering him in midfield.

England were booed off as they lost their final Euro 2024 warm-up fixture 1-0 at Wembley Stadium, Jon Thorsteinsson's 12th-minute strike proving decisive.

Gareth Southgate's team managed just one shot on target as Iceland sat deep and invited pressure, with Harry Kane and Ivan Toney both fluffing their lines from promising positions.

It was their fewest shots on target in any game since a goalless draw with Scotland in the group stage at Euro 2020 (also one).

The Three Lions were also criticised for a lethargic performance on that occasion, only to reach the final of that tournament.

While Rice was disappointed with Friday's result, he is sure England will learn from their mistakes in time for Group C fixtures against Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia.

"I think when we have that much of the ball and have a couple of really clear-cut chances, and obviously getting beat 1-0 at home just before a Euros isn't ideal, but I am going to take the positives from it as well," Rice told Channel 4. 

"There were a lot of promising performances tonight. I felt on the pitch we played with a good tempo, always tried to play forward and be attacking and a threat. 

"In the end it becomes a frustrating game because you are chasing your tail a little bit, you're likely to get caught on the counterattack and that is where we have to be a little bit more savvy. 

"Going into a tournament, it is not ideal that we lost, but also there are some good learning curves from tonight that we can build on as a team."

This is the first time England have lost their final game prior to a major international tournament since Euro 1968, when they fell at the first hurdle in a four-team competition after going down to West Germany in their final warm-up fixture.

After losing 1-0 to Brazil in March, they have also failed to score in two of their last three matches at Wembley, as many blanks as they fired in their previous 31 outings at the national stadium.

Rice partnered Manchester United youngster Mainoo in the heart of midfield, and his team-mate came in for some criticism from supporters as the Three Lions were routinely caught out on the counterattack.

Rice, however, remains excited about Mainoo's potential, saying: "We did it in March, and it was really positive.

"I can imagine tonight because we lost tonight some people are saying stuff, but that's football these days. Kobbie's young, I am young, our midfield options are young. 

"We are going to learn every game and that is the beauty of football, that every game you play there is a chance to improve and get better."

Gareth Southgate has pledged England will learn from Friday's shock 1-0 defeat to Iceland ahead of their Euro 2024 campaign starting next week.

England's Wembley Stadium send-off fell flat as they produced a disjointed performance against a stubborn Iceland side, with Jon Thorsteinsson's low strike the difference. 

Despite Southgate picking a strong starting lineup featuring Harry Kane, Phil Foden and Cole Palmer, the Three Lions managed just one shot on target and only recorded 0.89 expected goals (xG) from 13 total attempts.

It is the first time they have lost their final game prior to an international tournament since Euro 1968, having won 15 and drawn five of their previous 20 such matches. 

While Southgate was in no mood to excuse England's below-par performance, he is sure their issues will be solved before they face Serbia in Gelsenkirchen in nine days' time.

"It was obviously a disjointed and disappointing performance, and we didn't show enough character but I think it's good for us before an international tournament," Southgate told Channel 4.

"I think we've got to be better without the ball. I think there were a lot of reasons for that and across the two games we probably haven't had our full side out. 

"We've been able to look at people, we've been able to learn about the balance of the team.

"I've been involved in a lot of last matches leading into a tournament. 

"Inevitably players have one eye on what's coming in terms of early challenges. There are no excuses on the result but there are a lot of things we can put right quickly."

England have now conceded first in each of their last three games at Wembley – against Brazil and Belgium in March and versus Iceland on Friday.

It is the first time they have conceded first in three successive matches at the national stadium since doing so between October 1953 and November 1954 – a run which included an infamous 6-3 defeat to Hungary in November 1953.

Gareth Southgate will use England's clash with Iceland on Friday as a chance to "get Harry Kane right" for Euro 2024, potentially meaning fewer minutes for Ivan Toney. 

Kane saw his first season with Bayern Munich ended early by a back injury, missing their last two Bundesliga matches as he finished with 44 goals across all competitions in 2023-24.

He came off the bench to score as England beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 in the first of two warm-up matches on Monday and is expected to start at Wembley on Friday.

That may be bad news for Brentford striker Toney, who could be at risk of being omitted when Southgate cuts his 33-man preliminary squad to 26 players on Saturday.

"Toney will be involved in the game on Friday but I have got to get Harry Kane right," Southgate said.

"Sometimes the priorities of what's required and what you would like to see as well, you can't achieve all of those objectives. Simple as that."

Toney scored four goals in his first five Premier League matches after returning from a nine-month ban in January, but he ended the campaign on a 12-game goal drought – his longest ever in the competition.

Kane, meanwhile, will be key to England's hopes of ending their 58-year wait for silverware in Germany.

He has scored 12 goals at the last three major international tournaments (2018 World Cup, Euro 2020 and 2022 World Cup), with Kylian Mbappe the only other European player to match that tally.

Kane was also involved in 10 goals during Euro 2024 qualifying (eight goals, two assists), scoring or assisting on all seven of his starts. 

While Kane should be in peak condition by the time England kick off their Group C campaign against Serbia on June 16, doubts persist over the availability of left-back Luke Shaw.

With no other natural left-backs making Southgate's squad, Kieran Trippier could shift across to that side for the Three Lions' opening game, and the Newcastle United man is ready to go after suffering injuries of his own in the closing stages of 2023-24.

"I'm fit. If I pick the team, then obviously I put myself in it," Trippier said. 

"That's up to Gareth, but whether I play or I don't play, I'll be ready. I felt really fit. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling fresh."

Harry Kane was delighted for Cole Palmer after the Chelsea forward marked his full England debut with a first goal for the Three Lions.

Palmer, who was making his first international start at senior level, opened the scoring from the penalty spot as Gareth Southgate's side overcame Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-0 at St James' Park.

Kane was also on target later on, coming off the bench to round off a commanding win with the third goal in England's penultimate warm-up game ahead of Euro 2024.

Palmer, who made his senior debut against Malta in November, continues to thrive following a superb 2023-24 with Chelsea, with his 33 goal involvements (22 goals, 11 assists) in the Premier League earning him the Young Player of the Season award.

Saluting the former Manchester City forward, Kane said: "He's had an unbelievable season. It's never easy moving clubs as well and what he [Palmer] has done for Chelsea is a credit to him and the team he was in.

"We're very happy to have him. I am delighted he got his goal because we are going to need all our players chipping in with important goals in the tournament in a couple of weeks. The more people feeling good, the better."

Kane also addressed his own fitness, with the Bayern Munich striker having missed the final few weeks of the Bundesliga season with a slight niggle.

Although, the England skipper believes the unscheduled break may benefit him as he looks to lead the Three Lions to European Championship in Germany.

"I'm feeling good, and a lot of the end of the season was precaution," he added. "There's a big summer coming up, so we didn't want to take any risks with it.

"In the end, it was a good chance to get a good break after a tough season, and we have been in camp now for nearly a week.

"I've had a good week training, some minutes here, and I'm sure I will get some minutes on Friday [against Iceland] and I will be ready to go for the group stage.

"It's almost worked in my favour missing the back end of the season. It gave me a chance to get maybe more rest than I was going to get."

Gareth Southgate admitted he may have future selection headaches after England's 3-0 friendly win over Bosnia-Herzegovina at St. James' Park on Monday.

Cole Palmer netted on his first England start from the penalty spot before Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harry Kane made sure of the victory late on.

With key players out injured, Southgate used the opportunity to give some of the less experienced squad members some valuable minutes ahead of Euro 2024.

The England manager still has to narrow his 33-man preliminary squad down to 26, with the announcement due later this week.

Southgate confessed the first-half performance was not what he wanted, but overall, he was pleased with how his side responded after half-time.

"We had a lot of fresh players to bring in," Southgate told Channel 4. "Once you break that resistance then it starts to come. A lot of players didn't have many caps that started so it was going to be a sticky start.

"I thought [Palmer and Eberechi Eze] both played with the freedom. Ebere has got lovely movement to go past players, he's got power. A couple of times, Cole was being too precise and if he got his shots away earlier maybe he could've got a couple.

"The great thing is we've got through the last few days with no new problems. That's really important. We needed to get through these first matches to get a clearer picture and the guys rehabbing have done well.

"A little bit [of a selection headache] but that's a good thing. I would rather have good performances than poor performances.

"Winning and clean sheets are good habits to have."                    

England's final friendly before their Euro 2024 campaign begins is against Iceland on June 7, with Southgate due to announce his 26-man squad following that game.

Gareth Southgate has confirmed England captain Harry Kane will be fully fit for Euro 2024, saying the back injury which has kept him out in recent weeks has cleared up.

Fears were expressed about Kane's chances of featuring in Germany when he missed Bayern Munich's final two games of the Bundesliga season, returning to England to seek treatment on a back problem.

Kane enjoyed a stunning individual campaign in 2023-24, with no player from Europe's top five leagues bettering his 44 goals in all competitions, though he was unable to end his wait for a first major trophy.

England will hope that arrives in his new homeland in July, and Southgate is confident Kane will be in peak condition for the tournament. 

"Kane is pretty much clear now. He is quite relaxed about it. I think a sensible decision was taken not to push for the last game there," Southgate said.

"Back problems can just happen, but it is not something we are concerned about at this moment in time. 

"Our understanding of it is that it is something that is pretty much clear now."

Kane has scored 12 goals across the last three major international tournaments, netting six at the 2018 World Cup, four at Euro 2020 and two at the 2022 World Cup, with Kylian Mbappe the only other European player to equal that haul.

While Kane's incredible goalscoring feats are yet to be rewarded with silverware, Southgate says his striker is determined to put that right at the Euros.

"It won't be nice for him and I am sure he will be aware of what people will say about that," Southgate said of Kane's failure to win a trophy with Bayern.

"But his love for this challenge and desire to make this work has never wavered and he is definitely looking forward to this tournament.

"He has delivered what we thought he would deliver in terms of goals in that league and I know the club are super happy with what he has done."

Harry Kane may be a doubt for England’s Euro 2024 squad as he continues to struggle with a back problem.

Gareth Southgate is due to name his preliminary squad for Euro 2024 on Tuesday, ahead of upcoming friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland. 

The England captain missed the final two Bundesliga games of the season after going off towards the end of Bayern Munich’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid.

Thomas Tuchel confirmed prior to their final match against Hoffenheim that Kane was back in England to undergo treatment.

When later asked again about the nature of the striker’s injury, Tuchel admitted that Kane had been struggling for a couple of weeks.

"In Madrid, it was borderline. We tried injections and treatments. The back has completely closed.

"It has gotten worse and kept breaking out in small, everyday movements. There's no chance he's even training."

Kane scored 36 league goals in his debut campaign for Bayern, though due to the injury, he finished five adrift of Robert Lewandowski’s single-season goal record of 41, set in 2019-20.

The final announcement of Southgate's 26-man squad will be revealed on June 7, ahead of the tournament opener against Serbia on June 16.

Harry Kane will miss Bayern Munich's final game of the Bundesliga season after leaving Germany to undergo treatment on a back problem.

Kane has scored 36 league goals in his debut campaign in Bavaria, though he will finish yet another season without silverware, with Bayer Leverkusen having clinched their first top-flight title.

He will end 2023-24 five goals adrift of Robert Lewandowski's single-season goal record of 41, set in 2019-20, after sustaining a back injury.

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Hoffenheim, departing Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel revealed Kane had been struggling before the second leg of their Champions League semi-final loss to Real Madrid.

"Harry is being treated by his personal doctor and he is not here anymore," Tuchel said. 

"He won't be with us. In Madrid it was already touch and go."

Kane missed Bayern's 2-0 win over Wolfsburg in their penultimate game of 2023-24 last week, with Lovro Zvonarek and Leon Goretzka on target in his absence.

The news will cause concern for Gareth Southgate, who is set to name his preliminary England squad for Euro 2024 on Tuesday.

The Three Lions' final squad for the tournament – which is being held in Kane's new home of Germany – will be revealed after they face Iceland in a friendly on June 7.  

Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich may come too soon for Thibaut Courtois following his recent return from injury.

The Belgium goalkeeper has missed the entire season due to a knee ligament injury, and required a further operation following a setback in March.

Courtois, who has been ruled out of Euro 2024 by Red Devils head coach Domenico Tedesco, made his first appearance of the campaign against Cadiz on Saturday, with the 31-year-old keeping a clean sheet in Madrid's 3-0 victory.

While he has been named in Madrid's matchday squad for the visit of Bayern, with whom they are locked at 2-2 in their gripping last-four tie, Ancelotti hinted he is likely to restore Andriy Lunin between the sticks.

"After such a big injury, you can’t change the plan because of a great performance," the Italian said during his pre-match press conference.

"Courtois needs time now to get to his best. He had a great game, with security and confidence, against Cadiz, but he has to get to his best."

Ancelotti also played down speculation of a rift between Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane, after the England team-mates appeared to exchange words as the Bayern striker prepared to take a penalty during last week's first leg.

"Jude is a fantastic guy, he respects everybody, and he has a great relationship with Harry Kane," the Madrid head coach added. "There are no problems."

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