Form, injuries and mood: how are the Euro 2024 favourites shaping up?

France

How is the form? Les Bleus approach a tournament in which they are one of the favourites disjointed and in search of fluidity. Kylian Mbappé sounded the alarm after a 2-0 loss against Germany in March. “There are lots of warnings: technically, tactically, in terms of desire and even efficiency too,” said the captain, adding that the “leadership” was “deficient”. Not exactly the serene buildup France would have hoped for, but they have known worse. The defeat to Germany came in the absence of Antoine Griezmann; without him, Didier Deschamps’ men looked lost, and the over-reliance on individuals is a concern.

Any injury concerns? Aurélien Tchouaméni looks likely to miss the opener against Austria, whilst Adrien Rabiot is another doubt.

Any selection headaches? Should Tchouaméni and Rabiot recover, 10 out of the 11 players pick themselves. The major question mark revolves around the No 9 spot: Marcus Thuram started in the recent games against Luxembourg and Canada but failed to convince – again. There is a window of opportunity for Olivier Giroud, who may start in his final major tournament. The idea of moving Mbappé centrally cannot be ruled out, either.

Olivier Giroud (centre) clanks an effort against Canada’s woodwork during France’s last friendly game before Euro 2024. Photograph: Romain Perrocheau/AFP/Getty Images

What is the coach’s mood? The contours of Deschamps’ side are largely defined. However, he admitted “corrections” are needed, especially after the 0-0 draw with Canada, which the manager described as a wake-up call.

What are the expectations back home?Expectations remain as high as ever – only victory would constitute success. Luke Entwistle

Spain

How is the form? After a bad start, including defeat in Scotland, Spain qualified comfortably, which, for all the fear and a couple of less convincing moments, they were always likely to do. They also won the Nations League, which may not be a real trophy but was their first since the Euros in 2012, reacquainting Spain with what it feels like to win and providing the hope that maybe they’re not so far off any more.

Any injury concerns? No.

Any selection headaches? What to do about the centre-forward. Álvaro Morata is the No 9 and the captain, and probably will start, but he’s had a terrible few months. There are alternatives: Joselu, Mikel Oyarzabal, Dani Olmo as a false 9.

Álvaro Morata will go into the tournament with a bit more confidence after heading home Spain’s second goal in their 5-1 friendly victory over Northern Ireland. Photograph: Rafa Babot/Getty Images

How is the coach’s mood? Luis de la Fuente says he’s positive, but he always says that. And he’s not the most convincing man about.

What are the expectations back home? There’s a lot of excitement around Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams, but also an acceptance that Spain probably aren’t among the favourites. Sid Lowe

England

How is the form? Not good! England’s post-qualification slump has flown under the radar a little amid the usual psychodrama over personnel, tactics and the future of Gareth Southgate. But one win in five games is a genuine source of concern, with the caveat that England looked even worse before the last World Cup, and still managed to click soon enough.

Any injury concerns? Luke Shaw is the biggest doubt before the opening game against Serbia and, with John Stones limping off against Iceland and Harry Maguire already failing to make the squad, England could be missing three of the back four who started their last tournament game against France in 2022. The broader concern is over fatigue, general fitness and energy levels, with Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka all currently below 100%, having nursed themselves through exhausting club seasons.

Any selection headaches? Who partners Declan Rice at the base of midfield? Conor Gallagher (sensible, boring) is probably Southgate’s favoured option; Kobbie Mainoo (flavour of the month, May) and Adam Wharton (flavour of the month, June) are more adventurous choices; Trent Alexander-Arnold (flavour of the month, April 2021) could still happen.

How is the coach’s mood? Actually fine, for a man who has been receiving toxic abuse for years, is despised by a substantial portion of the country he represents and hasn’t been seen smiling in public since about 2021. Southgate has been around for long enough that he no longer really has a mood. It’s more just a face with some words coming out of it.

There wasn’t much for Gareth Southgate to smile about during England’s 1-0 defeat to Iceland in their Euro 2024 send-off match at Wembley. Photograph: Matt Impey/Shutterstock

What are the expectations back home? Win. But also, win with style. Win with swaggering arrogance. Win without allowing any English person to become remotely bored, even for an instant. Win against world-class opposition, but in the knowledge that any opposition forfeits its world-class status simply by losing to England. Win and get on the beers afterwards. Win because Brexit means Brexit. Win and get rid of Southgate. But also win with humility, because everyone hates a team that believes its own hype. Win with just enough players of colour in starring roles to allow the racists to claim that we’re actually not a racist nation, but not too many that the racists start to feel uncomfortable. Failing that, quarter-finals probably a decent benchmark. Jonathan Liew

Germany

How is the form? Fans are patient and optimistic but don’t quite trust the team yet. The draw against Ukraine and the narrow victory against Greece were neither thrilling nor convincing. Maybe the Germans will become a Turniermannschaft – tournament team – again.

Any injury concerns? Leroy Sané has been plagued by a pubic bone injury for months; sometimes it gets better, sometimes it gets worse. Julian Nagelsmann’s other injury concern came a year and a half ago, when Manuel Neuer broke his lower right leg on a ski tour. The goalkeeper is playing again, but not as well as he used to; he also made uncharacteristic mistakes against Ukraine and Greece. Now many in Germany are discussing whether Marc-André ter Stegen’s time has finally come to be the national team’s No 1.

Marc-André ter Stegen keeps his hand in during a training session for the tournament. Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA

Any selection headaches? Nagelsmann made big calls in omitting Leon Goretzka and Mats Hummels from his squad. The big question now is if Sané makes the starting XI. Ilkay Gündogan, the captain, also appears to be looking for a role in the team.

How is the coach’s mood? Nagelsmann says he won’t make many changes to his starting XI before Friday’s opening game against Scotland but Germany’s last two performances did not impress him, with their susceptibility to counterattacks an especially big worry for the 36-year-old. Nagelsmann will also be hoping Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz rediscover their best form, fast.

What are the expectations back home? Not being embarrassed on home soil is the first priority. Getting to the quarter-finals would be deemed a fantastic achievement. And many hope the Euros will be at least half as great as the 2006 World Cup. Nicolas Horn

Portugal

How is the form? After a perfect qualification record, Portugal have pre-tournament friendlies against Slovenia and Croatia. Across their four warm-up games they scored 10 goals but also conceded eight. There is no reason for alarm but some adjustments are undeniably required, especially come the later stages of the tournament.

Any injury concerns? Roberto Martínez’s big concern is Pepe, who missed the recent games against Finland and Croatia and hasn’t played for Porto since late April. Francisco Conceição had some muscular problems last week but should be fine for the opening game against the Czech Republic.

Any selection headaches? Doubts around Pepe seem to have encouraged Martínez to give up on playing with three central defenders and ask the more defensive midfielder – who has generally been João Palhinha – to retreat when the team is building possession. This can mean that the Premier League’s king of tackles is not in the right place when the team loses the ball, however. The left side of the attack has also not been nailed down; Diogo Jota has generally been playing in the centre of the attack but he could be an option there.

Portugal’s João Palhinha (right) puts in a reducer on Croatia’s Nikola Vlasic during their friendly on 8 June. Photograph: Pedro Rocha/AP

How is the coach’s mood? Martínez normally never loses his composure but he was noticeably agitated by the 2-1 loss to Croatia. “We are stronger than before the game but we have to synchronise, work on connections,” said the Spaniard. “We lost, Croatia deserved it, but for us it was a test we needed.”

What are the expectations back home? Among Portuguese fans, enthusiasm always goes hand in hand with pessimism. Nuno Travassos

The Guardian

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