Most nations are over halfway through their European Championships qualifying campaign, with England as fancied as France for glory in Germany next year.
With the World Cup and Nations League in the rearview mirror, national teams across the continent are focused on qualifying for the next big tournament: Euro 2024, to be held in Germany.
Here’s how the ten favourites are rated, according to the best odds currently available at oddschecker.com…
There have been changes since their World Cup final defeat to Argentina, with Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema 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. For their first post-Qatar squad, the French included only three new call-ups, including Wesley Fofana, who had to withdraw through injury anyway.
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 five out of five during what Deschamps called “a perfect campaign so far” after the win over Republic of Ireland.
Gareth Southgate almost reluctantly signed up for the Euros, for which he looks set to keep faith with many of the players who have taken him to quarters, semis and finals in their last three major tournaments.
Before he worries about going to Germany, Southgate must first guide England through a tricky qualifying group. Ballsing up in the Nations League put them in pot 2, leading to England being drawn out with Italy, Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta. The first four games were hurdled with four wins, 15 goals scored and just one conceded. And then they were absolutely sh*t v Ukraine.
Hansi Flick has been 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.
Spain did make 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.
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 will be 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 has a kind-looking qualifying campaign to get the formula right, with the 2016 winners also facing Iceland, Slovakia and Bosnia. Five wins from five so far…
Given they are the holders and that two of the Champions League’s last four were Serie A clubs, you might think that Italian football is enjoying a resurgence. But they failed 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. “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 qualifier against North Macedonia; they drew 1-1. No new manager bounce here.
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. It did not start well, mind, with qualifying kicking off with a 4-0 defeat in France. And conceding seven goals in two Nations League defeats is not the best look.
They will breathe easier after three consecutive qualifying wins.
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 international scene. 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. And he will have to do without Kevin De Bruyne until the New Year.
The Danes reached the semi-finals of the last European Championships and they look to have been given a smooth path to Germany, with Finland, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, Slovenia and San Marino joining them in Group H.
It ought to give Kasper Hjulmand ample opportunity to refocus the Danes after a group stage exit at the World Cup where they were tipped by many to be dark horses to go deep into the knockout stages.
“Huge, huge frustrations and disappointment,” said Hjulmand after finishing bottom of their group and returning home form a World Cup without a win for the first time. “It’s bubbling inside me with all the bad feelings.” They went to Qatar as the 10th-ranked team but start their Euros campaign at 18th. Atonement is the aim for Hjulmand, but a defeat to Kazakhstan will have cut deep. They have bounced back with two wins and face group leaders Finland next.
In contrast, another positive World Cup – third in Qatar after being runners-up in 2018 – boosted Croatia’s ranking from 12th to seventh. Zlatko Dalic has committed to lead his nation through to the World Cup in 2026 and Luka Modric has vowed to keep going too.
“We have no reason to change much of the team that won the bronze medal at the World Cup a few months ago, so there are 23 players from Qatar on the list,” he said when naming his squad for their first Group games against Wales and Turkey. They emerged with four credible points and this weekend tonked Latvia 5-0, those fixtures sandwiching a Nations League final appearance.
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