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Euro 2024: Group B Preview

Having already previewed Group A earlier this week, it's now time to have a look at Group B in Euro 2024 which would probably take the label of "Group of Death' if played in previous formats.

That's because there are three very strong football nations in this group, but the fact that we have a 24-team tournament means that in addition to the top two in each group progressing to the knockout stage, four of the six 3rd-placed sides will too.

As a result, this tournament looks set to be a pretty frightening one for Albania, as they're the Group B underdogs who are likely to have Spain, Croatia and Italy looking to beat them by as many goals as possible with that third-placed ranking in mind.

Group B

🇪🇸 Spain | Manager: Luis de la Fuente | FIFA Ranking: 8th

After a disappointing 2022 World Cup exit on penalties against Morocco in the Round of 16, Luis Enrique (now PSG manager) stepped down from his role with the national team which has led to Luis de la Fuente being promoted to the top job having worked with the national youth sides since 2013.

Qualifying went fairly smoothly with an away defeat to Scotland their only loss in 8 games, during which they conceded only 5 goals. As you'd expect given their history and de la Fuente being promoted through the ranks, Spain's tactical approach remains largely the same as in previous tournaments which means their limitations are also similar - they'll look to control games through dominant possession but that control doesn't always lead to as many clear cut chances and goals as you'd hope.

With that approach in mind, Manchester City's crucial midfielder Rodri is also a key man for his national team. Spain are yet to cut down their provisional 29-man squad and it's not totally clear who will be preferred in the three-man midfield alongside Rodri as Barcelona's Gavi remains sidelined with a long-term injury. Two of Pedri (Barcelona), Fabian Ruiz (PSG) and Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad) are perhaps the most likely candidates.

As mentioned, Spain's defence has been decent against admittedly relatively weak opposition in the qualifiers (largely because they nearly always have the ball) but the incredible breakthrough season that Pau Cubarsi has had at Barcelona at just 17 years of age could disrupt the centre back partnership of Aymeric Laporte (Al Nassr) and Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad) that de la Fuente seemed to have settled upon. Dani Carvajal will play at right back having just won a ridiculous 6th Champions League title with Real Madrid while injuries to Alex Balde and Jose Gaya mean Alex Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen) and Marc Cucurella (Chelsea) are set to battle it out for the left back spot.

Update: Pau Cubarsi, Aleix Garcia and Marcos Llorente are the players cut from Spain's provisional squad, which means it's looking like Laporte and Le Normand in central defence after all!

Spain will hope to be the best team in this very strong group, as while Croatia and Italy will of course be very tough as fellow top 10 sides in the FIFA rankings, Spain beat them both in last year's Nations League Finals.

We could well see glimpses of a sharper Spanish attack from the wings in terms of pace and directness than we have in previous years thanks to the emergence of 16-year old Lamine Yamal (Barcelona) and Nico Williams (21, Athletic Club), but the centre forward position remans unconvincing with Alvaro Morata likely to be first-choice based on his reasonable record with the national team despite a disappointing second half of the season with Atletico Madrid.

🇭🇷 Croatia | Manager: Zlatko Dalic | FIFA Ranking: 10th

It feels like the Croatia preview for any major tournament has been the same ever since their incredible 2018 World Cup performance where they made it all the way to the final: Have this experienced side got enough in the tank to go once more? After they answered that question in the 2022 World Cup by eliminating Japan and Brazil to reach the semi-finals, expectations remain high.

Zlatko Dalic has been the man in charge throughout this successful period having been hired in 2017, and he'll be relying on familiar faces once again in this tournament. Having such a settled, experienced squad has it's drawbacks - it hasn't really been possible for many younger players to be given a chance since Croatia's 'A-team' is so set - but having a team full of players so used to working with one another on the international stage isn't all that common and the positives have been clear to see by Croatia's displays in recent major tournaments.

Croatia's clear strength is still their midfield. Mateo Kovacic (Manchester City), Marcelo Brozovic (Al Nassr) and 2018 Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric (Real Madrid) are still absolutely quality and Modric is about to sign yet another extension with Madrid at the age of 38.

The provisional squad suggests Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Ivan Perisic (Hadjuk Split) and Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim) will continue that 30+ theme in attack, but there is a quality 'youngster' leading the defence - 22-year old Josko Gvardiol who has just played a fairly significant role in Manchester City's latest Premier League title win.

We know exactly what we're getting from Croatia but just how well they've done in recent World Cups makes their recent Euros performances relatively underwhelming. They've been beaten in Extra Time in the Round of 16 in each of the last two editions, so the aim is surely a first quarter-final since 2008?

🇮🇹 Italy | Manager: Luciano Spalletti | FIFA Ranking: 9th

The defending champions. Given their triumph at Euro 2020 (which took place in 2021), the Azzurri can't and shouldn't be underestimated here, but that win was surprising even at the time and a lot has changed since then. The legendary centre back duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have moved on, as has manager Roberto Mancini after Italy failed to even qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Italy are now led by Luciano Spalletti who recently won the 2022/23 Serie A title with Napoli. Spalletti is still very new but has won 5 of just 8 games in charge so far, losing only to England in a qualifier, and his 30-man provisional squad for this tournament has a fairly fresh feel to it. Inter duo Alessandro Bastoni (centre back) and Federico Dimarco (left back/mid) are top players, Gianluca Scamacca could provide a strong attacking threat after a good end to his first season with Atalanta, while Jorginho (Arsenal) and Nicolo Barella (Inter) are elite midfielders who will provide quality and experience that rolls over from them both having started the Euro 2020 final.

After surprising people by lifting this trophy 3 years ago, it's reasonable to argue that there's no reason why Italy can't do the same again here, but it would perhaps be even more of a shock this time around with this tournament coming so early in Spalletti's reign.

This is a slightly less experienced Azzurri team in a very challenging group. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who was player of the tournament in 2021, will hope to perform better than he did in PSG's recent Champions League knockout games, and Sandro Tonali will be a big miss in midfield due to his ban for betting offences, but Italy still aren't a nation that Spain and Croatia will be pleased to have been drawn with and they should get a decent start to their campaign as they face Albania in Round 1.

🇦🇱 Albania | Manager: Sylvinho | FIFA Ranking: 66th

As previously touched upon, the other three teams will see their matches against Albania as absolute must-wins in order to progress, so it's fair to say the Group B underdogs are going to be up against it.

Everyone loves an underdog anyway, but there might be slightly added interest in Albania when people discover (if they haven't already) that former Arsenal and Barcelona left-back Slyvinho is their manager. Having previously been an assistant with the Brazil national team before managing Lyon and Corinthians which all makes slightly more sense, Sylvinho then headed to Tirana where he's won half of his 12 matches with Albania. That's impressive, and topping their qualifier group ahead of both Czechia and Poland even more so.

Albania are likely to spend most of their time in this tournament defending, so it's just as well that that's what they're probably best at. You have to be quite a keen football fan to recognise too many names in their squad, but those of you that do will notice it's quite Serie A heavy, with defenders Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta), Ardian Ismajli (Empoli) and Elseid Hysaj (Lazio), midfielders Ylber Ramadani (Lecce), Nedim Bajrami (Sassuolo) and Kristjan Asllani (Inter), and Empoli goalkeeper Etrit Berisha all likely to be involved. Berisha faces strong competition for his place from Brentford's backup keeper Thomas Strakosha who Sylvinho rotates in and out.

When Albania do perhaps manage to carve out a chance or two in this group, Chelsea striker Armando Broja will likely be the man tasked with taking every single one of them, but his confidence will surely be dented by leaving the Blues for a greater number of Premier League minutes with Fulham, only to not play very much there either.

Three points against Albania and a not terrible goal difference may well be enough for Spain, Italy and Croatia to progress from this group, but could the Albanians upset one or more of them? Wins over Poland and Czechia less than a year ago shouldn't be ignored.

Who do you see topping Group B?
765 caps
Any hope for Albania
5 Jun 16:47
21,053 caps
Not a chance. But anything is possible in the world of sport. 6 Jun 01:17
21,053 caps
Hope you're doing well Kyle.
6 Jun 01:24
85,289 caps
Tough tough group indeed. 1st Croatia and 2nd Italy. Hoping for an Albanian upset.
5 Jun 17:57
73,213 caps
You did see the mighty Spain is there right? 5 Jun 18:02
41,446 caps
"Mighty" is not the word I will use. They will go through to the next round however. 6 Jun 04:38
5,907 caps
1. italy
2. spain
3. croatia
4. albania
5 Jun 21:26
70,725 caps
Albania to finish 4th in pool 5 Jun 23:25
765 caps
Thanks gunslinger I'm fine, just started 4th year of high school
How manybgoal are Albania conceding in this group i say 9-12.
6 Jun 06:38
21,053 caps
9 15
7 Jun 01:05
21,053 caps
15 7 Jun 01:05
42 caps
Italy, Croatia,Spain and Albania
6 Jun 16:04
3,305 caps
Remember, the 4 best performed 3rd placed teams make it through to the knock-out stages in this tournament, so I think it is unlikely that the 3 big guns won't progress from Group B.
6 Jun 20:43