EURO 2024's 'Group of Death': Italy, Spain, Croatia to battle for knockouts

Group B consists of holders Italy, former champions Spain, multiple World Cup medalists Croatia, and durable Albania

Publication: 13.06.2024 - 12:30
EURO 2024's 'Group of Death': Italy, Spain, Croatia to battle for knockouts
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Current holders Italy, former champions Spain, and powerful Croatia, the teams in FIFA's top 10 rankings will battle it out in UEFA EURO 2024 Group B, dubbed the "Group of Death."

On paper, Italy, Spain and Croatia are expected to reach later stages in the championship that will begin on Friday.

Albania, which joined the strong trio, do not have any star in their squad but can defend their goal deep and are likely to look for counterattacks against these powerful football nations.

The Group B will begin on Saturday with Spain vs. Croatia, and Italy vs. Albania matches.

Italy, which won the EURO 2020 title in London, joined this summer's European championship after finishing their qualifying group in the second position. England won the qualifying group to reach the EURO 2024.

The Italians have played EURO 11 times and won the title twice, the last in the summer of 2021. They have Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Inter Milan defender Alessandro Bastoni, while Jorginho and Nicolo Barella are playing in the center of the park. Federico Chiesa, a Juventus forward, is Italy's goal threat.

Italy squad:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Meret (Napoli), Guglielmo Vicario (Tottenham Hotspur)

Defenders: Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Federico Dimarco, Alessandro Bastoni, Matteo Darmian (Inter Milan), Raoul Bellanova, Alessandro Buongiorno (Torino), Riccardo Calafiori (Bologna), Federico Gatti, Andrea Cambiaso (Juventus), Gianluca Mancini (Roma)

Midfielders: Nicolo Barella, Davide Frattesi (Inter Milan), Jorginho (Arsenal), Lorenzo Pellegrini, Bryan Cristante (Roma), Nicolo Fagioli (Juventus)

Forwards: Gianluca Scamacca (Atalanta), Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Mateo Retegui (Genoa), Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Michael Folorunsho (Hellas Verona)

Spain chasing their 4th EURO title

In history, two teams are EURO record holders; host nation Germany and Spain, three times each.

Spain, the 2010 FIFA World Cup champions, have played in 11 European championships, and won back-to-back EUROs; the 2008 title in Austria and Switzerland, and 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

Their first EURO title came in 1964 and had a star-studded squad between 2008 and 2012. They reached the semifinals at the EURO 2020.

Spain booked their place at the Germany 2024 after winning their qualifying group.

Barcelona duo Lamine Yamal and Pedri, Manchester City midfielder Rodri, Athletic Bilbao's Nico Williams, Real Sociedad winger Mikel Oyarzabal, and Atletico Madrid forward Alvaro Morata are Spain's important players.

Left-back Alejandro Grimaldo spent a dream season at Bayer Leverkusen, helping the club win the German Bundesliga. Grimaldo scored 12 goals and made 19 assists in 51 matches for Leverkusen in the 2023-24 season, an extraordinary performance for a full-back.

Spain's squad:

Goalkeepers: David Raya (Arsenal), Alejandro Remiro (Real Sociedad), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal, Nacho (Real Madrid), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad), Aymeric Laporte (Al-Nassr), Daniel Vivian (Athletic Bilbao), Alejandro Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc Cucurella (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Rodri (Manchester City), Martin Zubimendi, Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Fabian Ruiz (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Baena (Villarreal), Pedri (Barcelona), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao)

Forwards: Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Lamine Yamal, Fermin Lopez, Ferran Torres (Barcelona), Dani Olmo (Leipzig), Joselu (Real Madrid), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Ayoze Perez (Real Betis)

Croatia looking to beat their EURO best in Germany

Croatia qualified for all European championships except EURO 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Croatia, once part of Yugoslavia, made their EURO debut in 1996 and their best performances were in the quarterfinals in 1996 and 2008.

But they were much better at the World Cups: bronze medalists in 1998 and 2022, and collected a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup. The team also reached the last 16 at the EURO 2020.

Croatia completed their qualifying group in second place to bag the EURO 2024 ticket. They joined Türkiye, which won the group.

Dominik Livakovic, a Fenerbahce goalkeeper, and Manchester City defender Josko Gvardiol, Real Madrid's longtime midfielder Luka Modric, Man City midfielder Mateo Kovacic, former Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, Atalanta's Mario Pasalic, ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Inter winger Ivan Perisic, and Hoffenheim forward Andrej Kramaric are important players of the team.

Croatia's squad:

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (Fenerbahce), Ivica Ivusic (Pafos), Nediljko Labrovic (Rijeka)

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK), Josip Juranovic (Union Berlin), Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City), Borna Sosa (Ajax), Josip Stanisic (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Sutalo (Ajax), Martin Erlic (Sassuolo), Marin Pongracic (Lecce)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Manchester City), Marcelo Brozovic (Al-Nassr), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Wolfsburg), Luka Sucic (Salzburg), Martin Baturina (Dinamo Zagreb)

Forvet: Ivan Perisic (Hajduk Split), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Marko Pjaca (Rijeka), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marco Pasalic (Rijeka), Luka Ivanusec (Feyenoord)

Sylvinho's Albania want to leave their mark on EURO 2024

Coached by former Arsenal and Barcelona left-back Sylvinho, Albania do not have big names in their squad but disciplined teamwork may take them to the next stages.

The team will compete at the European championship for the first time since 2016. In that tournament, Albania were eliminated in the group stage after two losses against Switzerland and hosts France.

Inter midfielder Kristjan Asllani and Chelsea forward Armando Broja are valuable players, and they also have Besiktas' midfielder Ernest Muci. Elseid Hysaj, who plays for Italy's Lazio, regularly competes for Albania.

Sylvinho's men made the EURO 2024 finals after winning their qualifying group where they faced the Czech Republic, Poland, Moldova, and the Faroe Islands. The Czech Republic joined Albania as they came second.

Albania's squad:

Goalkeepers: Etrit Berisha (Empoli), Thomas Strakosha (Brentford), Elhan Kastrati (Cittadella)

Defenders: Ivan Balliu (Rayo Vallecano), Mario Mitaj (Lokomotiv Moscow), Elseid Hysaj (Lazio), Arlind Ajeti (Cluj), Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta), Enea Mihaj (Famalicao), Ardian Ismajli (Empoli), Marash Kumbulla (Sassuolo), Naser Aliji (Voluntari)

Midfielders: Klaus Gjasula (Darmstadt), Nedim Bajrami (Sassuolo), Qazim Laci (Sparta Prague), Taulant Seferi (Baniyas), Ylber Ramadani (Lecce), Kristjan Asllani (Inter Milan), Amir Abrashi (Grasshopper)

Forwards: Rey Manaj (Sivasspor), Jasir Asani (Gwangju), Armando Broja (Chelsea), Medon Berisha (Lecce), Ernest Muci (Besiktas), Mirlind Daku (Rubin Kazan), Arber Hoxha (Dinamo Zagreb)

Group B fixtures:

June 15 (1600 GMT): Spain vs. Croatia (Olympiastadion - Berlin)

June 15 (1900 GMT): Italy vs. Albania (BVB Stadion Dortmund)

June 19 (1300 GMT): Croatia vs. Albania (Volksparkstadion - Hamburg)

June 20 (1900 GMT): Spain vs. Italy (Arena AufSchalke - Gelsenkirchen)

June 24 (1900 GMT): Albania vs. Spain (Dusseldorf Arena)

June 24 (1900 GMT): Croatia vs. Italy (Leipzig Stadium)