Euro 2024: "We know the expectations," England coach Southgate says after draw

Now champions Italy and Spain must brace for a Group of Death in the showpiece beginning on June 14

Luciano Spalletti, manager of champions Italy, arrives for the draw in Hamburg on the night of Saturday, 2 December 2023 (photo: UEFA)
Luciano Spalletti, manager of champions Italy, arrives for the draw in Hamburg on the night of Saturday, 2 December 2023 (photo: UEFA)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Football fans will be waiting keenly for summer in the new year ahead, when it will be time for Euro 2024 — the draw for which was conducted on the evening of Saturday, 2 December. Former champions Germany will be hosting the tournament from 14 June, with the final scheduled for 14 July in Berlin.   

The 24-team meet, which showcases the best of European football, is often termed a "tougher tournament to win than the World Cup" — and not without reason. The format calls for a smaller margin of error, as it often sees seeded teams tumbling out early from the league stages. 

A total of 21 teams have already qualified for the tournament, with a further three places still up for grabs through a play-off tournament in March.

Italy, the defending champions, who overcame England three years back in the final but missed making it for Qatar 2022, have their work cut out for them as they have been placed in the ‘Group of Death’ if there is one — with World Cup semi-finalists Croatia, former champions Spain and Albania in Group B. 

Speaking to the media after the draw, Italy manager Luciano Spalletti admitted it could have been better but said the team was braced for the challenge. “Yes, it (draw) could have been better. Being in the fourth pot makes you realise that you have teams ahead of you, but nothing should distract us from the fact that we are Italy. It’s difficult to make predictions. 

“A tough group, Albania demonstrated that they know how to stay on the pitch. Croatia is strong and experienced. Spain? Anyone who loves this sport must play it, (with) the taste for challenge and comparison. If you don’t play (that way), you lose the pleasure of football.” 

Luis de La Fuente, the Spanish manager, echoed similar sentiments: “If it’s not the toughest group, it’s one of the toughest. I’m not going to say it’s a cliche when we see that all the teams are complicated, but obviously, it’s a group that will require us to perform to the best of our ability and always show our very best.” 

Meanwhile, England’s quest to end the drought continues, with no major trophies for over half a century since the 1966 World Cup.

Three years back, Gareth Southgate’s men lost one of their best chances when they were pipped to the post by Italy in a shootout in the final. This time around, the Three Lions have been clubbed with Denmark, Slovenia and Serbia in Group C. But Southgate feels nothing can be taken for granted.   

“You know the objective is to get out of the group. You can’t tell (what will happen) — but you look at Serbia, with a centre forward like Mitrovic and you can’t assume too much. Slovenia was one of the first games I had. Joe Hart made a save that meant I can still be here. We’re now ready to work out the timing of the arriving in Germany and (to) start to nail down where we stay," said Southgate, under whom England had raised their game in the last two major tournaments—only to choke when it mattered most.

However, he continued: "We’re hugely excited to be part of the tournament. We know the expectations; we are getting used to these big games. We hope to give our supporters some brilliant nights.” 

For hosts Germany, the football aristocrats with four World Cups and three Euro titles in the bag, it will be a moment of reckoning as they have had a poor run this year. Drawn into Pot 1 as hosts, they will kick off the tournament against Scotland in Group A, with Hungary and Switzerland as the other two teams. 

Rudi Voeller, a 1990 World Cup winner and now the national team director, struck a pragmatic note: “I am optimistic that if we do some things in the coming few months, then we will play a good Euro. The first game also has a special kind of pressure. We still have some problems, but I am convinced that Julian Nagelsmann will do it.” 

Meanwhile, UEFA announced the prize money for Euro 2024. The winner will collect an extra payout of €8 million ($8.70 m) on top of their participation fee of €9.25 million. 

Euro 2024 finals draw 

GROUP A: Germany (hosts), Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland 

GROUP B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania

GROUP C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England

GROUP D: Play-off winner A (Poland/Wales/Finland/Estonia), Netherlands, Austria, France

GROUP E: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Play-off winner B (Israel/Bosnia/Ukraine/Iceland)

GROUP F: Turkey, Play-off winner C (Georgia/Greece/Kazakhstan/Luxembourg), Portugal, Czech Republic

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