The field is wide open at Euro 2024: The Sporting Life by Rudraneil Sengupta - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

The field is wide open at Euro 2024: The Sporting Life by Rudraneil Sengupta

ByRudraneil Sengupta
May 25, 2024 01:50 PM IST

France is brimming with young talent. Italy and Germany have a good shot. England, as always, look solid on paper. Who will it be?

Euro 2024 kicks off in less than three weeks, with hosts Germany taking on Scotland in the opening match at Bayern Munich’s magnificent Allianz Arena on June 15.

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma at work, during the Euro 2020. How far will the team make it this time? They have lost some of their spark, and the squad is ageing, but don’t rule them out. They retain a rock-solid defence. (UEFA) PREMIUM
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma at work, during the Euro 2020. How far will the team make it this time? They have lost some of their spark, and the squad is ageing, but don’t rule them out. They retain a rock-solid defence. (UEFA)

How are the team’s placed, as players regroup for their countries after a long and eventful club season? Do the defending champions have a good shot at retaining the crown? Is there a team that looks, at least on paper, like they will run away with the trophy? Here’s a quick look.

* Let’s start with the winners of Euro 2020. Italy have lost some of their spark. They are missing that one talismanic striker or bewitching midfield maestro who can turn a game around with a moment of genius. The squad is ageing, and have a serious lack of goalscoring firepower. The fact that there were no Italian clubs in the 2023-24 Champions League quarterfinals reflects this lack of depth.

As usual, Italy do have a rock-solid defence though. This includes Serie A champion Inter Milan’s 25-year-old centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, already among the best defenders of his generation.

* France is brimming with youthful talent and energy, with so many of the country’s carefully nurtured young players making breakthroughs this season. Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga were the midfield engines on Real Madrid’s La Liga-winning squad. The veteran Antoine Griezmann has had yet another fabulous season with Atletico Madrid, and is in the top 10 in both assists and goals this season. The 18-year-old Warren Zaire-Emery has shown glimpses of genius with PSG. William Saliba was critical to Arsenal’s fantastic season. And there is a certain Kylian Mbappe, leading from the front.

* It could have been Spain, not France, leading the Euro charge with young challengers, except that their two finest teenagers, Gavi and Pedri, have both had injury-ridden seasons. Gavi has been ruled out of the Euros, and Pedri has made a recovery but is yet to hit his stride with Barcelona. The 16-year-old Barca wunderkind Lamine Yamal has had a remarkable breakthrough season, and Rodri has proved yet again with Manchester City why he is the best defensive midfielder in the world. Alex Grimaldo has been central to Bayer Leverkusen’s miraculous unbeaten run. So there is hope.

* Whenever a major tournament comes around, England almost always look like the team to beat — at least on paper. Every player in their forward line and midfield has been sensational for their clubs this season. Phil Foden was Manchester City’s player of the season in a season that saw the club win the Premier League for a record fourth time in a row. Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice powered Arsenal. Cole Palmer has been nothing short of wondrous for Chelsea. And Jude Bellingham was Real Madrid’s shiniest star, and is a game away from a Champions League title. But, England have always found ways to underperform at major tournaments.

* It will be something of a shock if the Euro title does not go to one of the Big Four — France, England, Germany and Spain. Which brings us to Germany, who have not had a good time at major tournaments in the last few years. At home at the Euros, however, they do have the most exciting line-up the country has produced in a long time.

In Florian Wirtz, they have the finest young attacking player in Europe this season. With Jamal Musiala by his side, the two 21-year-olds can run rings around any defence. With Toni Kroos coming out of international retirement after a season full of brilliant passes for Real Madrid and Ilkay Gundogan’s immense creativity, the German attack is the perfect blend of youth and experience. Add to that Antonio Rudiger and Jonathan Tah in the centre of defence and you have a team that may well end Germany’s recent big-trophy drought, in style.

(To reach Rudraneil Sengupta with feedback, email rudraneil@gmail.com)

Get World Cup ready with Crick-it! From live scores to match stats, catch all the action here. Explore now!.

Catch your daily dose of Fashion, Taylor Swift, Health, Festivals, Travel, Relationship, Recipe and all the other Latest Lifestyle News on Hindustan Times Website and APPs.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, June 17, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On