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Euro 2024 predictions: Mbappe to guide France to glory, Yamal to shine on the big stage

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Only two weeks after the conclusion of the European club season, international football takes centre stage with Euro 2024 in Germany.

The hosts and three-time champions get the 17th edition of the tournament underway with a Group A clash against Scotland at Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena on June 14.

Before the 24 competing teams – divided into six groups of four – begin bidding for the title, here are the European Championship predictions from The National‘s sports desk.

Steve Luckings – Sports Editor

Winners: France. The spine of Les Bleus is as strong as any in Germany, and in Kylian Mbappe, they possess the ultimate attacking weapon. Ably supported by the evergreen Antoine Griezmann, a midfield that boasts an unflappable Eduardo Camavinga and a defence that looks impenetrable with Ibrahima Konate and William Saliba, France look destined to win a third European Championship.

Surprise package: Albania. Turned heads with some wonderful attacking play at Euro 2016 and well placed to ruffle a few feathers again. Much improved under Sylvinho, the former Arsenal, Barcelona and Brazil left-back, and don’t be surprised to see them emerge from a Group B also containing Spain, Italy and Croatia.

Disappointment: Germany. Hard to remember a time when Germany entered a major tournament with such low expectations. Results have been mixed under Julian Nagelsmann and the disconnect between the team and fans is palpable, highlighted by several negative stories including having to change a shirt number design that drew comparisons to a Nazi symbol and a recent poll conducted by a public broadcaster that found fans wanted more white players on the national team.

Top scorer: Harry Kane (England). Trophies continue to elude Kane but his currency is still goals. Scored 44 in 45 games for Bayern Munich but only one this calendar year for England. A favourable group should offer Kane plenty of chances to add to his 63 England goals as will a deep run at the tournament.

Best player: Kylian Mbappe (France). Jude Bellingham would have been in a with a shout but tailed off badly during Real Madrid’s march to a Liga and Champions League double. Mbappe will team up with Bellingham at Madrid next season as the summer’s undisputed best player.

Best young player: Arda Guler (Turkey). With Mbappe and Endrick only adding to Madrid’s attacking riches next term, Euro 2024 offer the perfect shop window for the talented and creative Guler to showcase his talents.

Jon Turner – Deputy Sports Editor

Winners: England. It’s finally time; the Three Lions boast arguably the strongest attacking depth in the tournament, and in Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, and Harry Kane have three of the finest players in Europe. Much of the team, finalists last time out, are more experienced than three years ago, although there are legitimate concerns in defence.

Surprise package: Turkey. Drawn in a winnable Group F alongside Portugal, Georgia, and Czech Republic, Turkey should have designs on reaching the knockout stages. Manager Vincenzo Montella has a talented squad and a strong spine with Merih Demiral in defence, captain Hakan Calhanoglu in midfield, and Arda Guler providing the stardust in attack.

Disappointment: Italy. There’s always one heavyweight that falls short of expectations and the feast-or-famine inconsistency of Italy in recent years makes them prime candidates. Placed in Group B with Spain, Croatia, and Albania, they might struggle to advance beyond the group stage in their title defence. Or they’ll win it.

Top scorer: Harry Kane (England). Following a prolific debut season with Bayern Munich, England’s lead striker should hit the ground running. Plus, he’s on penalty duties.

Best player: Jude Bellingham (England). Perhaps too many eggs in the England basket, but if they are to win the tournament, Bellingham will be front and centre of the success.

Best young player: Arda Guler (Turkey). A bit-part player in his debut season at Real Madrid but showed glimpses of his undoubted talent in the season run-in. The 19-year-old forward will be a central player for Turkey.

Paul Radley – sports writer

Winners: France. Didier Deschamps, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni. Just listing all the names makes it feel unfair on the rest. They are all serial winners and another trophy could well be incoming.

Surprise package: Hungary. Didn’t lose a game for two years after Dominik Szoboszlai was appointed captain, which encompasses all of qualifying for this competition. Should have enough to advance from a group with hosts Germany, Switzerland and Scotland, and could be dangerous thereafter.

Disappointment: Italy. The defending champions at least qualified for this tournament, which has not been their standard for major events in the recent past. But they will have it tough from the start and a title defence could be beyond them.

Top scorer: Harry Kane (England). An unoriginal choice, but he remains so reliable, even after moving out of his comfort zone at Tottenham Hotspur for a new challenge in the Bundesliga. He should be nice and acclimatised for this summer.

Best player: Kylian Mbappe (France). Had his flipflops on for most of the Ligue 1 campaign, not least because Luis Enrique was preparing his Paris Saint-Germain side for life after Mbappe from a long way out. He should be fresh for another tilt at a major trophy with his national team.

Best young player: Jude Bellingham (England). He is still only 20, you know? Having already completed club football, the next worlds he has to conquer are at international level.

Ian Hawkey – football correspondent

Winners: France. Know their way around elite knockouts, have star quality, speed where it matters and strength in depth in key areas.

Surprise package: Austria. The absence of captain David Alaba with injury is a blow, but they have a good spread of expertise and growing confidence.

Disappointment: Italy. Admirable though the triumph at Euro 2000 was, it was sandwiched between two failures to qualify for World Cups. There’s still a nervousness about the Azzurri.

Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe (France). He often is.

Best player: Mbappe.

Best young player: Lamine Yamal (Spain). Provided Spain play to their strengths, the winger, who turns 17 the day before the final, has shown he has the temperament for the big stage.

Andy Mitten – European football correspondent

Winners: England. England are one of the best teams in the world – albeit with only one major trophy to their name, from 1966. Gareth Southgate’s squad is settled, well stocked and experienced. He’s made big calls in dropping players seen as stars including Marcus Rashford – though it’s now or never for his old guard including Harry Kane and Kyle Walker.

Phil Foden is coming off his best season, ditto Bukayo Saka. Jude Bellingham has established himself as one of the best in the world at Real Madrid. Cole Palmer, Kobbie Mainoo, Adam Wharton and Declan Rice have all excelled for their clubs. Just don’t mention penalties, long the bane of England’s tournament ambitions.

Surprise package: Portugal. OK, so Portugal, ranked sixth in the world, would not be that much of a surprise if they won. Roberto Martinez has made an excellent impression as boss and Portugal’s qualifying record was peerless. Most of their top players are at major European clubs, with Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva at Manchester City and Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo is still going at 39, scoring 10 goals in qualifying and idolised by most of his teammates who are collectively vengeful after being eliminated by Morocco in the 2022 World Cup. The 2016 winners have long excelled at previous Euros.

Disappointment: Germany. They’re playing at home, they saw Borussia Dortmund and domestic champions Bayer Leverkusen reach European finals, yet Germany have slipped to 16th in the Fifa world rankings after mixed results. Coach Julian Nagelsmann has employed some odd tactics, and a 2-0 reverse to neighbours Austria was a low. Toni Kroos is back, Germany has young stars including Florian Wirtz and there have been fine wins over France and the Netherlands, but too many ‘buts’ remain.

Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe (France). Real Madrid bound; he’s shone in World Cups but never European Championships. Mbappe is still only 25 and already has 46 goals from 77 games for his country. France blew away Netherlands, Greece and Republic of Ireland in qualifying and boss Didier Deschamps has seen it all and won the lot as a player and manager. He won Euro 2000 as a player. Can he win Euro 2024 as a coach? With Mbappe firing, it’s possible.

Best player: Jude Bellingham (England). After a stellar start to his Real Madrid career where he scored key goals in a win at Barcelona, his form dipped though he was still a Champions League winner. If England and Bellingham click, then he could be as impactful as Wayne Rooney at Portugal 2004. Bellingham turns 21 during the tournament – what a present it would be if he can add the Euros for his country in addition to Europe’s top honour for his club.

Best young player: Yamine Lamal (Spain). Still only 16, Lamal is already important for Barcelona – as is his 17-year-old teammate, centre-back Pau Cubarsi. That both have made the Spanish national side shows their level and potential. This isn’t a vintage Spain squad and it’s inexperienced, but in Lamal they have a player who gets fans off their seats.

Andy Lewis – Assistant Sports Editor

Winners: France. Quality all over the pitch and a winning pedigree. France and England seem to be popular picks – they could meet in a semi-final – and it is often said that the team with the best defence prevails in tournament football. In this case, that would be France.

Surprise package: Hungary. They have kicked on since their impressive Euro 2020 when they narrowly missed out on the last 16 despite being in a group with Portugal, Germany and France. A run of one defeat in 18 games includes away wins over Germany and England, and they qualified unbeaten and topped a Uefa qualifying section for the first time. Marco Rossi’s side can navigate a tricky group and will be a threat to any side they meet in the knockout stages.

Disappointment: Italy. Having lost key defenders Francesco Acerbi and Giorgio Scalvini to injury, the midfield lacking the quality of the overlooked Marco Verratti and Gianluca Scamacca set to lead the line, they look ill-equipped to compete with the tournament’s leading sides.

Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe (France). Has scored 12 goals in 18 games across the last three major tournaments. After a pedestrian finish to the 2023/24 season in Paris, and fresh from sealing a move to Real Madrid, he will arrive in Germany fit and ready to fire.

Best player: Antoine Griezmann (France). Mbappe’s goals often hog the headlines but Griezmann has been a clutch performer at major tournaments for Les Bleus. Since Euro 2016, he has been directly involved in more goals (18) than any other European player, scoring 11 goals and providing seven assists from 25 games at the World Cup and Euros. At 33, the veteran’s combination of silky skills, experience and football intelligence will prove pivotal.

Best young player: Warren Zaire-Emery (France). To complete a France-heavy selection, Zaire-Emery will take his outstanding displays for PSG on to the international stage and show what a special talent he is.

Gareth Cox – Assistant Sports Editor

Winners: England. Let’s put the concerns over a patched-up back-four to one side, England’s midfield and attacking options are something else. The likes of Declan Rice, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane are in top form for the their clubs and are all up there with the best the continent has to offer in their positions. This could finally be the year that the Three Lions end that now infamous wait for a second major tournament victory.

Surprise package: Hungary. Set for their third successive Euro finals having finished unbeaten to top their qualifying group. Captain Dominik Szoboszlai in midfield and Barnabas Varga up front give them some top-quality cutting edge going forward, while a group containing Switzerland and Scotland give them plenty of scope to reach knockout stage, and then who knows.

Disappointment: Netherlands. Italy’s dearth of decent centre-forwards continues to be their Achilles heel but a lack of a reliable goalscoring striker could also cost the Dutch as will a lack of top-class goalkeeper, while the fitness of key midfielder Frenkie de Jong is a major concern.

Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe (France). Buoyed by a long-anticipated move to Real Madrid finally coming to fruition and going into the tournament on the back of yet another 40-plus goal season in what turned out to be his final campaign with Paris Saint-Germain. He will take some stopping once again in Germany.

Best player: Jude Bellingham (England). The 20 year old who carries himself like a veteran on and off the pitch. Bellingham’s first season at Real Madrid was the stuff of fairytales as he notched 23 goals, won the Liga and Champions League double and secured the Spanish top-flight’s player-of-the-year award. Rolls-Royce of a footballer.

Best young player: Lamine Yamal (Spain). A ludicrously talented 16 year old whose skills could light up the tournament and make full-back’s lives a nightmare. Making 50 appearances this season for a club with the stature and pressures of Barcelona tells you everything about the abilities and temperament of this winger.

John McAuley – Sports Writer

Winners: France. Can’t really see past a team boasting Ibrahima Konate, William Saliba, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe. Oh, and Didier Deschamps knows a thing or two about winning major tournaments. Squad too strong, has something for every eventuality.

Surprise package: Turkey. Expect them to get out of Group F before Czech Republic and Georgia (they might even give Portugal a run for top spot). OK, not coming in with the greatest form, but they’ll enjoy bloodying some noses – see their victory against Germany late last year. And, Arda Guler is a joy.

Disappointment: Italy. It has to be Italy, right? Defending champions, beset by injury to key players and they’re a little light anyway. Bar the huge trophy-shaped elephant in the room, they don’t typically thrive at major tournaments recently.

Top scorer: Kylian Mbappe (France). France’s man for the big occasion – see gold and silver World Cup medals – and generally looks the natural successor to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in terms of the next true superstar. Twelve goals in 18 matches in major tournaments isn’t bad either. Oh, and he’ll want to make a mark now he’s, finally, a Real Madrid player.

Best player: Antoine Griezmann (France). Trying really hard not to make it all about Mbappe, so how about Griezmann instead? Slick, skilful and with an eye for an assist or grabbing a goal himself, he showed in a deeper role at the 2022 World Cup how he can make his national team tick. But, y’know, Mbappe.

Best young player: Lamine Yamal (Spain). Although Jude Bellingham has set alight this season’s La Liga (and Uefa Champions League), it’s his even younger Spanish top-flight counterpart who will light up the Euros. At 16, the winger’s prodigious talent will get everyone off their seats.

Stuart James – Sports Sub-editor

Winners: France. Winners of the World Cup in 2018 and narrowly beaten by the brilliance of Lionel Messi in 2022, this is a squad busting with big tournament know-how. The final in Qatar turned into the Messi v Mbappe show but the French have quality and strength in depth all over the park. Coach Didier Deschamps knows a thing or two about winning the big ones, too.

Surprise package: Serbia. In a tough Group C with England, Denmark and Slovenia, Dragan Stojkovic’s team can qualify as runners-up. With the likes of Al Hilal’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Dusan Tadic of Fenerbahce in midfield and Hilal’s Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic of Juventus and AC Milan’s Luka Jovic up front, they have the firepower to give any team a fright.

Disappointment: Italy. Heavyweights Italy and Germany have both fallen off their perches. Germany were knocked out of the last World Cup in the group stages and Italy, winners of Euro 2020, didn’t even manage to qualify for the last two global finals. Luciano Spalletti’s side find themselves in a nightmare group with Spain and Croatia. Germany’s group looks a little kinder and, as hosts, they should at least benefit from home advantage.

Top scorer: Mbappe (France). His goals will power his team to the trophy.

Best player: Mbappe (France). He will dominate the tournament.

Best young player: Jude Bellingham (England). A generational talent. He will have a big hand in steering England to the semi-finals. His time to win a big international trophy will come, though, alongside other young Three Lions superstars such as Bukayo Saka, Cole Palmer and Kobbie Mainoo.

Updated: June 07, 2024, 4:45 AM

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