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Euro 2024 Group B preview & best bet

Updated on 9:55pm GMT 5 June 2024
Euro 2024 Group B preview & best bet

Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.

After running the rule over the sides in Group A, our group-by-group coverage of Euro 2024 moves onto possibly the most interesting group at the tournament.

Spain, Croatia and Italy clash in Group B, joined by an Albanian side that could cause problems for those three. Read on for our team profiles and Group B best bet, while you can check our Euro 2024 hub for more tournament coverage.


Euro 2024 Group B preview

Spain

Manager: Luis de la Fuente

Best European Championship finish: Winners (1964, 2008, 2012)

Star man: Rodri

Spain topped their qualifying group finishing ahead of Scotland, Norway, Georgia and Cyprus and there is certainly hope of progress from a disappointing exit to Morocco at the last-16 stage of the 2022 World Cup.

Luis de la Fuente replaced Luis Enrique in the dugout after that tournament and La Roja have lost just two of 12 matches since the 62-year-old took charge, which includes success in the 2022/23 Nations League.

On the flip side, Spain were beaten at Hampden Park by Scotland during qualification for Euro 2024, and while La Roja scored 25 goals in eight qualifying games, there is doubt over their ability to find the net against a better class of opposition.


Italy

Manager: Luciano Spalletti

Best European Championship finish: Winners (1968, 2020)

Star man: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Defending champions Italy only narrowly avoided having to negotiate a playoff to book their place in Germany and it has been a period of change for the Azzurri.

Only three years have passed since Italy lifted the trophy when beating England on penalties at Wembley, but that time has seen Roberto Mancini leave as manager.

Mancini isn’t viewed as an elite-level manager at club level, but the former Man City gaffer is certainly a standout boss in international football and the upheaval of losing the 59-year-old is a blow to Italy’s chances of success.

There has been plenty of change in the playing squad too. Key defender Giorgio Chiellini has retired, and while his centre-back partner Leonardo Bonucci is still playing, the 37-year-old will not be part of Luciano Spalletti’s squad.

That rock-solid partnership was the foundation that everything Italy built, and with Mancini no longer at the helm and only eight or nine players from the Euro 2020 success expected to be involved in Germany, things could be tough for the Azzurri.

Quality remains with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Federico Chiesa and Nicolo Barella, but a successful defence of the European Championship trophy looks unlikely.


Croatia

Manager: Zlatko Dalic

Best finish: Quarter-finals (1996, 2008)

Star man: Luka Modric

Croatia had a whole host of players call time on their international careers after an extra-time defeat to Spain at the last-16 stage of Euro 2020, but talk of a downturn in their fortunes is yet to really materialise.

Zlatko Dalic’s men went all the way to the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup and that followed a runners-up finish in Russia in 2018.

Experienced performers Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic are expected to be part of Dalic’s squad and there will also be a place for key defender Josko Gvardiol.

There may be some management of game time needed for the ageing members of the Croatia roster, but there is a strong spine to the side from the Adriatic Sea.

Croatia lack some of the dynamism of their European rivals, but there is plenty of experience in their well-drilled, committed and harmonious team and they boast a manager who has plenty of pedigree on the international stage.

The chances of Dalic’s men have been dismissed by offers of 40/1 on the outright market, but it would be no surprise if Croatia once again upset the odds with a deep run in Germany.


Albania

Manager: Sylvinho

Best finish: Group stage (2016)

Star man: Kristjan Asllani

Albania will make just their second-ever European Championship appearance at Euro 2024. The Red and Blacks lost 1-0 to Switzerland, 2-0 to France and beat Romania 1-0 at Euro 2016 and Sylvinho’s men will be hoping to build on that debut effort.

A group-stage draw alongside Spain, Italy and Croatia could have been kinder, but Albania did top a qualifying section containing the Czech Republic, Poland, Moldova and the Faroe Islands. While this finals appearance represents a major step up in class, Sylvinho’s men will have the confidence of losing only one game in qualification.

There is certainly talent in the Albania squad too. Atalanta’s Berat Djimsiti and Lazio’s Elseid Hysaj are experienced defenders and forward Sokol Cikalleshi has been a fairly regular scorer at club and international level.

Chelsea’s Armando Broja didn’t have much joy on loan at Fulham season, but the 22-year-old is another decent attacking option and young midfielder Kristjan Asllani has been a hit in Inter’s Serie A title-winning team.

Manager Sylvinho is short on experience, but the former Arsenal full-back certainly made an encouraging start to his coaching career by guiding Albania to just their second-ever major tournament, and while navigating the group will be tough, the Red and Blacks are unlikely to be disgraced.


Group B Best Bet

Croatia to win Group B at 9/2

Spain beat Croatia to the Nations League trophy last summer but they had to do it on penalties, with Croatia arguably the stronger side before the shootout. The Spanish finished behind Sweden at this stage at Euro 2020 and they were fortunate to make the last 16 in Qatar, finishing second behind Japan on just four points. A lack of goals in big games harms them at the group stage, so this could be a tricky pool for the three-time winners.

There are question marks over an Italy side in the early stages of reshaping their team and the Spanish had a shaky qualifying campaign which doesn’t suggest they’re worth being odds-on favourites in the toughest group of the tournament. Croatia made the semis at the World Cup 18 months ago and they’re a great price at 9/2 to top Group B.


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