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Euro 2024: Group A – preview, offers and predictions

Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Scotland will contest Group A in Germany

Kai Havertz

 

Who is in Group A?

This is perhaps the easiest group to predict according to most bookies and fans. Hosts Germany, the three-time winners, the three-time runners-up, who have qualified more than any other side, are pitted against neighbours Switzerland, Hungary and Scotland.

Germany will take on Scotland in the first game of the tournament in Munich on June 14 but it’s likely to be their clash with Hungary in Stuttgart five days later, and the final-day clash with Switzerland in Frankfurt on June 23 which will determine the order of Group A.

Germany, along with England in Group C, are heavy odds on to finish top of their group and the shortest price with the bookies to win all their group games.

This, however, is a new Germany, and although they have home advantage, it’s worth taking a deeper dive before slapping Die Mannschaft in your accumulators.

 

Should Germany really be heavy odds-on to win the group?

Well, it’s Germany, right? Winning is in their DNA. And they are at home.

Well, it’s England, not Germany, who go into Euro 2024 as favourites, you might have heard. There is more than just the patriotic pound behind that, the form of the likes of Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden this season, under the brightest of lights in club football, is a solid foundation upon which the Three Lions can build their hopes.

However England have never won a Euros, they lost in the final, at Wembley of all places, last time out. Reigning champions Italy are part of a quartet, along with Spain, France and Germany, who have won 10 of the 16 European Championships between them.

Germany have been relegated to the tag of ‘dark horses’ for the title this time around. Germany. Dark Horses. In a home tournament. Incredible.

But there are reasons for it. The past 10 years have not been kind to Germany. Since they thrashed the hosts on their way to lifting the World Cup in Rio in 2014 they have suffered an historically bad run, going out in the group stage in both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Qatar 2022 and losing in the Round of 16 against England at Wembley at Euro 2020.

Joachim Low departed in 2021 but his replacement Hansi Flick became the first Germany manager to be sacked, ever, when he was axed in September 2023 after three straight defeats, the final straw a 4-1 reverse against Japan, who had also beaten them in Qatar the previous year.

Dark days for German football. Flick’s average of 1.72 points per game was the second worst in the history of the Germany national team. Former Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann took over and although his tenure did begin with some iffy results, losing 3-2 to Turkey in Berlin and 2-0 in Austria three days later in particular, friendly wins in March against France and the Netherlands gave hope they had turned the corner.

He has blended some young stars in with some old heads and sprinkled in some in-form lesser names in an attempt to find the recipe for success on home soil. It didn’t help them break the deadlock in a warm-up game stalemate against Ukraine last week, however.

The fact remains that Germany have not won a knockout game at a major tournament since Euro 2016. That’s eight years and four tournaments ago, just to be clear. They might also have been hindered by automatically qualifying as hosts – their lack of competitive football in the past few years can’t have helped.

They have not kept a clean sheet in a tournament since they faced Slovakia in the Round of 16 that same summer of 2016 – Germany have conceded in 12 straight matches at World Cups and Euros since then. Unprecedented.

The omens are also against them. No country hosting the Euros on their own has lifted the trophy since France in 1984. Three years before Nagelsmann was born.

 

If not Germany though, then who?

Well. Don’t laugh. Maybe Hungary?

Germany have played Hungary three times in recent years, failing to win any of them. They left it late to pinch a 2-2 draw against Marco Rossi’s side in Munich in the group stage of Euro 2020 and then came from behind to draw 1-1 in the Nations League in Budapest in June 2022.

The return leg in Leipzig three months later was decided by a lone Adam Szalai goal.

It’s not just Germany who have struggled against the side managed by the Italian-born but now Hungarian naturalised manager. His side also drew with France in the group at Euro 2020 and so nearly sneaked out of the ‘Group of Death’ with Portugal also in it. They trailed for only six minutes in the entirety of their three group games.

They have also beaten England home and away in the Nations League, triumphing 4-0 at Molineux in June 2022. This is a gutsy side who rise to the occasion against the big guns.

Hungary won their group for the first time in European Championship qualifying history, finishing unbeaten and four points ahead of Serbia.

Dominik Szoboszlai may not have hit the heights at Anfield in his maiden Premier League season but his free role in the middle of a 5-3-2 with Hungary suits him far better than they system he plays in at Liverppol.

His Hungary side saw a 14-match unbeaten streak dating back to November 2022 ended by Troy Parrott’s injury-time goal for the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday (June 4), but the goal came from a Hungarian cross into the Ireland box with seconds remaining as they sought to win it.

They will still rightly go into the group with confidence and, if they can overcome Switzerland in their opening game on June 16, it should set the group up nicely.

This is a team that is more than the sum of its parts that enjoys playing with their backs to the wall. Germany beware.

 

What about Switzerland and Scotland?

Good point. This might not have the ‘group of death’ tag, but ‘group of draws’ might prove to be a fitting name. On their day any of these four sides are capable of beating any of the others and so it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of the six matches in the group end all-square with so much at stake.

Slightly under the radar Switzerland have reached the knockout stages at each of their last five major tournaments – the only other side to do that is France, whom the Swiss ousted on penalties at Euro 2020 thanks to the heroics of veteran keeper Yann Sommer, who is back between the sticks this summer.

Murat Yakin took over from Vladimir Petkovic after that tournament and qualified for Qatar ahead of Italy in their group, and they made it to the Round of 16 in 2022 before being humbled 6-1 by Portugal.

Qualifying for Euro 2024 didn’t go completely to plan, they won only four of their 10 qualifiers, despite six goals from Zaki Amdouni, and finished closer to lowly Israel than they did to group winners Romania.

History would seem to be against them when it comes to facing Germany, Switzerland have only won one game between the sides in the last 68 years, a 5-3 friendly win in 2012 and Switzerland’s last competitive win against Germany came at the 1938 World Cup.

They did draw their two meetings in the Nations League in 2020, 1-1 and 3-3, bath played behind closed doors, but they will need some more magic from the likes of veterans Sommer, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka – who won the German league this season with Leverkusen, if they are to upset the odds and beat the hosts.

Scotland at major tournaments are often seen as a bit of a novelty factor, but Steve Clarke’s side qualified from a tough group which featured Spain, Norway, who boast two of the Premier League’s brightest stars, and Georgia.

Scott McToninay’s seven goals in qualifying – only bettered by Harry kane, Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku – helped them beat Spain at Hampden and Georgia away while they also picked up a 2-1 win in Oslo during which their only defeat came against Spain in Seville.

Goals have been hard to come by and losing their front-line forward Lyndon Dykes on the eve of the tournament but Scotland ended a run of seven games without a win with a one-sided win over minnows Gibraltar in Portugal on Monday (June 3), although 20 of their 25 attempts were off-target and they only prevailed 2-0 with both goals in the final 20 minutes.

They only conceded eight goals in eight qualifiers and though the March friendly defeats to the Netherlands and Northern Ireland, at home, dented confidence, Scotland are another side in this group capable of digging in and springing a surprise and potentially nicking some draws along the way.

 

Prediction

There will be a powerful wave of emotion fuelling this Germany campaign. Toni Kroos returned to international football having retired three years ago and will be playing the final matches of his glittering career. He bowed out of club football with his sixth Champions League medal but how deep can his country go?

The German squad is an eclectic mix of household names – who have possibly seen better days – and some relative unknowns.

Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Ilkay Gundogan and Antonio Rudiger possess a wealth of experience but it might be the new breed of Jamal Musiala, Florian Wirtz and Kai Havertz who hold the hopes of a nation in their hands.

Niclas Fullkrug was a handful for Dortmund in the Champions League Final and has 11 goals in 15 caps since making his international debut just before his 30th birthday, however he might find Havertz occupying the lone forward role ahead of him.

Anything other than victory over Scotland in the curtain-raiser in Munich on Friday night would set more than alarm bells ringing for Germany.

If the Scots can pinch a point it would open the door for Hungary to take control of the group when they face Switzerland, who might be a force on the wane.

It’s hard to lay Germany qualifying on home soil and ending their run of group stage exits, but the value would seem to be Hungary going with them, and potentially even as group winners.

 

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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