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Euro 2024: England’s potential route to the final

England have never won the European Championships, but here's how they can navigate their way to the final in Berlin on July 14

Gareth Southgate of England

The flag’s in the window, the fridge is stocked, you’ve saved up your annual leave and a mad month of dreams and despair is finally upon us. Euro 2024 is here.

It’s been 58 years since the last and only time England’s men lifted a major trophy. Too long. The wait is over, surely?

We won’t know for sure until bedtime on Sunday, July 14, but should you book the Monday off now and beat the rush?

You can’t set off on a journey into the unknown without some kind of a map, so let’s have a look at the path upon which England will embark this weekend.

What do we know for sure?

England face Serbia in their opening Group C game in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday (8pm BST) before taking on Denmark in Frankfurt four days later and finishing the group stage with a game against Slovenia in Cologne on June 25.

England should win that group, right?

Well that’s dangerous talk, but the bookies certainly think so.

Should England indeed finish top of Group C they would then play their Round of 16 game back in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday, June 30, against a third-placed side from Groups D, E or F – potentially Poland, Czech Republic or Ukraine.

The winner of that encounter would then face a trip to Dusseldorf for the quarter-final on July 6, where they might expect to come up against defending champions Italy, should they finish as runners-up behind Spain in Group B.

The side who progresses to the semi-final in Dortmund on July 10 would be likely to find France waiting for them in the last-four.

Whichever side prevails on that side of the draw can expect to take on Portugal, Spain or, gulp, Germany, in the final in Berlin’s Olympiastadion on July 14.

 

Sounds hard. What if England finish as runners-up?

It’s potentially even harder! Should England finish second in their group they will head to Dortmund on June 29 for the Round of 16 where they would face the winners of Group A – you’d expect that to be Germany.

England did oust their old foes at that same stage at Wembley in the previous tournament but could they repeat the feat with the tables turned on German soil in a Saturday night game? Imagine the hype on that one for a second. Shivers.

The winner of that tie would, after they finish celebrating, go through to a quarter-final in Stuttgart on July 5, with Spain or Italy the potential opposition at that stage.

Whoever gets through that tie can expect to line-up against Portugal in the semi-final in Munich on July 9.

The final, in Berlin, would pit the winner of that encounter against, in all likelihood, France – on Bastille Day, July 14. What a prospect.

It’s top-two or bust, right?

Actually no. There is also a way of progressing, even if disaster strikes in the group stage and England do not finish in the top two in Group C.

The four best third-placed finishers across the six groups will join the 12 teams who finish first and second in their groups in going through to the next stage.

At Euro 2016, the first expanded tournament where this 24-team format was used, Portugal qualified from Group F despite only earning three draws, while Northern Ireland also progressed with three points and a goal difference of zero after winning one and losing two games in Group C.

At Euro 2020 Ukraine actually qualified from Group C with three points from three games and a goal difference of minus one, having lost two of their three group games.

Should England find themselves in third place then their ‘reward’ would be a last-16 clash with Portugal or Belgium, though should they manage to get through that then things might actually open up from there with the Netherlands the most daunting potential quarter-final opposition before the truly big-guns reconvene in the last-four.

 

So in conclusion…

Runners-up seems to be the very definition of doing things the hard way. It’s almost preferable to finish third and take the short-term pain for long-term gain option.

There are no easy games and to be the best you have to beat the best, but you also have to grow into a tournament and peak at the right time. England’s best chance of doing that would seem to be by topping Group C and building-up for a potentially decisive encounter with France in the semi-final.

Whoever wins that, you’d think, would be strong favourites to go on and lift the trophy in Berlin – though surely nobody can ever write off the Germans, especially on home soil.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be a month of memories which will last a lifetime, one way or another.

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.

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