Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifiers:
Group A: Spain vs Norway & Scotland vs Cyprus.
Group D: Croatia vs Wales & Armenia vs Türkiye.
Group I: Belarus vs Switzerland, Israel vs Kosovo & Andorra vs Romania.
Spain vs Norway
Will Spain once again cruise through a European Qualifiers campaign?
La Roja have appeared 12 consecutive World Cups and ten of the last 11 Euros, their sole failure in the last five decades coming in 1992.
This though is the start of a new era, with Luis Enrique stepping down as Head Coach, following their World Cup exit in the round of 16 at the hands of Morocco.
Luis de la Fuente has been given the top job, after winning the Euros at U19 and U21 level, also guiding Spain to silver medals at the most-recent Olympic Games.
He could get his hands on a major senior trophy just four matches into his tenure, with la Roja competing in this summer’s UEFA Nations League Finals in Netherlands.
Before then, Spain face their two most-likely challengers in this qualifying group, welcoming Norway to Málaga, before taking on Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday.
They haven’t lost a qualifier on home soil since June 2003, and that fact isn’t likely to change here.
Norway meanwhile are desperate to end their 24-year exile from major tournaments, failing to qualify for all 11 since Euro 2000.
Both of last the two Euros cycles have ended in play-off heartbreak for the Lions, beaten by Hungary in 2015 and then Serbia three years ago.
However, with some true superstars in their ranks, Ståle Solbakken’s side believe they will be in Germany for the big kick off next summer.
In all likelihood, Norway and Scotland will be fighting it out for second; those two meet in Oslo on 17 June and then again on the final matchday in Glasgow in November.
During Euro 2020 qualification, Spain beat Norway 2-1 at Mestalla, before requiring a stoppage time equaliser from Rodrigo to salvage a draw at Ullevål.
Who will kick off their campaign with three points at Estadio La Rosaleda?
Scotland vs Cyprus
Scotland’s latest European Qualifiers campaign commences, so will this one end with heroics or heartbreak?
The Tartan Army have endured far too much of the latter in recent decades.
Back in 2020, the Dark Blues ended their 23-year exile from major tournaments, beating Israel and Serbia in the play-offs, both on penalties, thereby sneaking into the Euros.
Steve Clarke’s side were then ultra-impressive in World Cup qualifying, accumulating 23 points from ten group games, only to then be outplayed in their play-off semi-final by Ukraine.
So, the Tartan Army’s wait for a World Cup goes on, but these supporters would love to make the pilgrimage to Germany in June 2024.
Last year, Scotland responded well to missing out on Qatar, securing promotion to Nations League A, thanks to home wins over Armenia, Republic of Ireland and Ukraine.
Having won all seven previous encounters with Cyprus, the Dark Blues are confident of extending that streak here, although that’ll be a little tougher when Spain visited Mount Florida in Tuesday.
With the Spanish likely to take top spot, Scotland will be fighting it out with Norway for second; how big could their clash in Glasgow on the final matchday be?
Throw an improving Georgia into the mix too, Group A looks like the group of death, making maximum points in this opener of paramount importance.
As for Cyprus, this’ll be their 239th qualification match, having won just 35 to date.
Temur Ketsbaia’s side have claimed victory in just four of their last 25 competitive matches, these wins coming against Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia and Greece, all at home.
Their most-recent away victory came in Kazakhstan in October 2019, with that fact not likely to change here.
Will Scotland start with three crucial points at Hampden?
Croatia vs Wales
Both of these two nations, to relative degrees, have enjoyed unprecedented success in recent years, so what does the future hold for both?
Croatia proved their World Cup Final appearance in 2018 was not a fluke by getting to the semi-finals in Qatar, beating both Japan and Brazil on penalties before defeat to Argentina.
Earlier in 2022, Zlatko Dalić's side topped their Nations League group, courtesy of four successive wins against Denmark, France and Austria.
So, this summer, the Blazers will face hosts Netherlands in the semi-finals, just two wins away from the country’s first-ever major silverware.
Before then, their latest Euro qualification campaign begins and, given that Croatia have featured at every edition since 2000, most would expect them to top Group D.
However, they do start by facing their two most-likely challengers, meeting Türkiye in Bursa on Tuesday.
With that tough trip to come, the hosts will be desperate to make a winning start in Split.
As for Wales, they’ve featured at two Euros and a World Cup in the last seven years, despite having not qualified for any of the 27 tournaments beforehand.
Back in November, the Dragons appeared on the world stage for the first time in 64 years, disappointingly scoring just one goal and accumulating just one point in Qatar.
Since that defeat to England in Al-Rayyan, record goal-scorer and cap holder Gareth Bale has retired, very much signalling the start of a new era.
Rob Page’s team are not in good form more broadly, actually winning just two of their last 12 competitive games, both, crucially, coming in the World Cup play-offs.
In this very tough group, the Dragons will, probably, be battling with Türkiye for second, with those two scheduled to meet on 19 June and then on the final matchday in Cardiff in November.
Wales are winless in six meetings with Croatia, including suffering a 2-1 defeat in Osijek during Euro 2020 qualifying.
Most would anticipate a home win at Stadion Poljud, so can this new-look Wales spring a surprise?
Armenia vs Türkiye
Diplomatic relations between these two neighbours are officially non-existent and, and times, have been hostile.
With all sorts of geo-political issues going on in the background, will Armenia and Türkiye’s first meeting for 14 years be an occasion to remember?
Türkiye make the short trip to Yerevan as heavy favourites, seeking to qualify for their sixth European Championships, all since 1996.
Stefan Kuntz’s team come into this campaign with plenty of momentum, having won four of six Nations League C matches last year.
Victories over Luxembourg, Faroe Islands and Lithuania saw the Crescent-Stars promoted back to League B, but tougher tests will await them this year.
The group’s top seeds Croatia will visit Bursa on Tuesday night, meaning Türkiye are desperate to make a winning start here.
Armenia meanwhile are seeking to stop the rot, having lost five consecutive matches, form that saw them relegated from the Nations League’s second-tier in September.
In fact, since starting World Cup qualification with three straight wins 12 months ago, the Mountaineers have won just one of 13 competitive internationals.
As a result, Spaniard Joaquín Caparrós has been sacked, with Oleksandr Petrakov the new man in charge.
12 of Armenia’s 16 competitive wins in the last decade have come at home and, if they’re going to be at all competitive in this tough group, they’ll need to make Yerevan a fortress.
Will Türkiye leave Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium with the three points they crave?
Belarus vs Switzerland
Switzerland have been major tournament regulars across the last two decades, hoping this is the start of yet another successful campaign.
Since Euro 2004, the Rossocrociati have featured at nine of ten tournaments, the sole exception coming in 2012.
Last year, Murat Yakın’s side impressed, first beating both Portugal and Spain in UEFA Nations League fixtures.
Then, Switzerland reached the knockout stages at the World Cup, ousting both Cameroon and Serbia, before being smashed 6-1 by Portugal.
In the context of this group, the Swiss are clear favourites to take top spot, confident of making a winning start in Novi Sad.
As for Belarus, due to their close ties with Russia, they’re currently banned from playing international fixtures on home soil, hence why this match will take place behind-closed-doors in Serbia.
Possibly as a result of this, Georgy Kondratyev’s side endured a torrid 2022, failing to win any of their Nations League C games.
So, this time next year, the White Wings will take on Lithuania in a relegation play-out, seeking to avoid dropping into the bottom-tier.
In qualification terms, Belarus have lost seven on the spin, conceding 22 goals in these matches, winning just three of 28 qualifiers since October 2015, these victories coming against Bulgaria and Estonia.
Switzerland have won all three previous meetings with Belarus, keeping a clean sheet each time, with this record set to continue at Stadion Karađorđe.
Israel vs Kosovo
Will this be the year Israel qualify for a first-ever major tournament as a UEFA member?
The Blues and Whites did feature at Mexico 1970, representing Asia, but, since moving over to Europe in 1991, have tried and failed 15 times to get back to a tournament.
However, Alon Hazan’s side come into this campaign full of confidence, having secured promotion to the Nations League’s top-tier.
A pair of wins over Albania as well as two 2-2 draws with Iceland secured top spot in Group B2, meaning Israel will be mixing it with the big boys next time round.
Now their aim is to secure Euro 2024 qualification and, in a rather gentle group, this is well within their grasp.
Switzerland are likely to take top spot, with Israel and Romania fighting it out for second; they meet in Jerusalem on 19 June and in Bucharest on 9 September.
Given how historic this campaign could be for Israel, they’ll be desperate to make a winning start in Tel Aviv.
As for Kosovo, they are UEFA’s newest member, with this set to be just their fourth qualification campaign.
The Dardanians almost reached a Euros at the first attempt, but were beaten by North Macedonia in the play-offs in 2020.
Last year, Alain Giresse’s side finished second in their Nations League C group, below Greece, showing they are a capable if ultimately limited side.
This will be a first-ever meeting between these two, with Israel confident of making home advantage count at Bloomfield Stadium.
Andorra vs Romania
This century, Romania have alternated between qualifying and missing out on Euro appearances.
The Tricolours did feature in 2000, 2008 and 2016 so, having lost out to Iceland in the Euro 2020 play-offs, will hope this pattern continues, for now at least.
Head Coach Edward Iordănescu will be looking for all the good omens he can find, given that his team are not in great form.
Romania were relegated to Nations League C back in September, and have won just eight of their last 25 competitive fixtures.
Nevertheless, to qualify for a sixth European Championships, all they have to do is finish above Israel, a side who’ve never featured at the finals.
This month, Romania face this trip to Andorra la Vella before welcoming Belarus to Arena Națională, and only maximum points will suffice.
Hosts Andorra have only ever won one of 60 European Championship qualifiers, this coming during the most-recent cycle, a 1-0 home victory over Moldova in 2019.
A true gauge of the Tricolors minnow-status comes via the Nations League, where they finished third in their group, below Latvia and Moldova, above only pointless Liechtenstein
Romania have won all four previous meeting with Andorra, scoring 15 goals, with a similar result expected at Estadi Nacional.