And there is also European football...

Euro 2024: Dark horse or betting favourite, who will conquer Europe? KARL AZZOPARDI looks at the 24-team football tournament that will be held in Germany between 14 June and 14 July

With the UEFA Champions League final behind us, and Europe’s domestic leagues now done, fans did not have to wait long for their next football fix, as Euro 2024 starts this week.

This year’s edition will be the 17th in the competition’s history, and will start on 14 June in Germany, as 24 teams square up in a bid to take home the biggest prize in European international football.

The opening match will be held at the Munich Football Arena as hosts Germany face Scotland. The ultimate European football nation will be decided on the final game on the 14 July in Berlin.

Other countries may have lesser ambitions, but there is only one debuting team – Georgia – and the 24-team format means every side involved, including the debutants, go into the event with a fighting chance of at least reaching the last 16.

The favourites

England have often arrived at major tournaments over the last two decades as worthy contenders, but going in as favourites will be a new feeling for a squad that is packed with attacking talent.

The last edition’s finalists are experienced campaigners at the European championships, losing out on penalties at home in Wembley against holder Italy.

Headlined by Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane, Real Madrid talisman Jude Bellingham – fresh from achieving Champions League glory – and Manchester City star Phil Foden, no defences at the Euros will be looking forward to facing England.

It also looks as if this will be a make-or-break competition for gaffer Gareth Southgate, who despite improving the squad, has no silverware to show for it.

The team which eliminated the Three Lions at the Qatar World Cup, France, are also favourites to lift the trophy.

Kane and France star Kylian Mbappé have each scored 12 goals in 18 games over the last three major international tournaments, which is a higher total than any other European players have managed across those events.

Antoine Griezmann has also impressed at major tournaments. Since Euro 2016, he has been directly involved in more goals (18) than any other European player, racking up 11 goals and seven assists from 25 games at the World Cup and Euros.

Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps has a strong track record too. If he lifts the trophy at Euro 2024, he will become the first person to win the World Cup and European Championship as both a player and head coach.

Worthy contenders

While England are favourites, 10 of the 16 previous UEFA European Championships have been won by either Germany, Spain, France or Italy, and so none of those nations can ever be ruled out of the competition.

The hosts, Germany, come off the back of a difficult decade in major tournaments since winning the World Cup in 2014, and suffering six friendly losses since their poor campaign in Qatar.

Germany will be making a record-extending 14th European Championship appearance, and, on home soil, they are rated as the third-most likely winners.

Spain will battle it out with Italy, Croatia and Albania in what looks poised to be a competitive Group B. La Roja, the three-time winners, are rated as the most likely side in that pool to contend for glory.

Even though they are short of their previous peak, Spain is rarely beaten easily. Their last five knockout matches at major tournaments have all gone to extra-time and four of them were decided by penalties, three being eliminations, so their recent record at the World Cup and Euros would have been much better with a bit more luck from the spot.

Former winners Portugal, led by one of the greatest, if not the greatest for some – Cristiano Ronaldo, start off the campaign in a relatively easy group.

Ronaldo holds the record for most games (25) and most goals (14) at the Euros, with his total of six assists also not bettered by any player since 1972. He will now look to score at a record-extending sixth Euro tournament.

Having been helped by the Al-Nassr forward’s goals over recent editions, Portugal are the only team to reach the knockout stages in each of the last seven Euros, a run stretching back to 1996.

The qualified strongly, becoming the only team to win 100% of their games and in 10 wins they scored more goals (36) than any other team while also achieving the best defensive record, with just two goals conceded.

Holders Italy enter the tournament with little chance of going all the way.

The last two defending champions, Spain defending their 2012 title in 2016 and Portugal at Euro 2020, did not make it past the last 16.

Spain is the only previous team to successfully defend the Euros (doing so in 2012), so the history books suggest a repeat Italy triumph will be a tough task.

But while a title defence looks difficult, Italy are one of the nations with the widest range of outcomes and so much will depend on the strength of opposition they face once the knockout stage takes shape, should they get that far.

The groups

Group A

Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland

Group B

Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania

Group C

Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England

Group D

Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France

Group E

Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine

Group F

Türkiye, Georgia, Portugal, Czechia

The host venues

Berlin: Olympiastadion Berlin (capacity: 71,000)

Cologne: Cologne Stadium (43,000)

Dortmund: BVB Stadion Dortmund (62,000)

Dusseldorf: Düsseldorf Arena (47,000)

Frankfurt: Frankfurt Arena (47,000)

Gelsenkirchen: Arena AufSchalke (50,000)

Hamburg: Volksparkstadion Hamburg (49,000)

Leipzig: Leipzig Stadium (40,000)

Munich: Munich Football Arena (66,000)

Stuttgart: Stuttgart Arena (51,000)