Euro 2024 is almost upon us, with Europe's finest preparing to battle it out to be crowned continental champions in Germany.

It all gets under way on Friday as Julian Nagelsmann's hosts face Scotland at the Allianz Arena. 

It seems remarkable to think Die Nationalelf – the most successful national team in Europe – have gone eight years without a knockout win at a major tournament, and they will be desperately hoping home advantage inspires a better run this time around.

England, meanwhile, will be looking to bring football home and end 58 years of hurt in the country their captain Harry Kane thrived in last season.

The Three Lions' 2022 World Cup hopes were ended by France, who are again among the favourites. There is plenty more intrigue elsewhere, from defending champions Italy being drawn in a 'group of death' with Spain and Croatia to Cristiano Ronaldo leading Portugal into a sixth edition of the Euros.

And who could forget Georgia's first tournament as an independent nation, or Scotland's attempts to upset the odds in Group A?

As Euros fever grips the continent, we run through the main storylines and contenders, pick out some underdogs and breakout stars to watch and take a look at the Opta supercomputer's predictions.

THE HOSTS

This will be the first edition of the Euros to take place solely in a unified Germany, though the Allianz Arena hosted games at Euro 2020 and West Germany staged the 1988 tournament – won by the Netherlands as Marco van Basten scored one of the most iconic goals in history against the USSR in the final.

This will be Germany's fourth major tournament as sole hosts overall, and they have always gone far on home soil, winning the 1974 World Cup and going out in the semi-finals at Euro 1988 and the 2006 World Cup.

Hopes were not high for them in late 2023 as a dismal run of friendly results saw Hansi Flick become the first Germany coach to be sacked. However, Nagelsmann has restored optimism and has a supremely talented group of players to work with.

Florian Wirtz's emergence as one of Europe's best attacking midfielders offers cause for excitement – the 21-year-old scored 11 goals and added 11 assists during Bayer Leverkusen's unbeaten Bundesliga title-winning campaign to claim Player of the Season honours.

Wirtz, Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan will likely support Kai Havertz in a fluid attacking quartet, while Toni Kroos' presence in midfield will be a major boost to a team that averaged 59.3 per cent possession at Euro 2020 – second only to Spain (66.8 per cent).

Kroos – who won his sixth Champions League with Real Madrid this month – played more line-breaking passes (214) and passes leading to final-third entries (69) than any other player in Europe's premier club competition in 2023-24.

The major question mark could pertain to Kroos' partner, with Germany having lacked a true midfield enforcer for some time.

They have conceded at least one goal in their last 12 major tournament games, last keeping a clean sheet against Slovakia in the last 16 at Euro 2016. Will that soft underbelly cost them again?

THE FAVOURITES

England

England's Euro 2024 preparations have been far from perfect, with defensive mainstay Harry Maguire missing out through injury and their final friendly ending in defeat against Iceland. However, Gareth Southgate's side enter the tournament as the Opta supercomputer's favourites.

It is not difficult to see why. In Kane, England have a striker whose tally of 44 goals in 2023-24 was only matched by Kylian Mbappe among players from Europe's top five leagues.

In Jude Bellingham, they have the outstanding player from Madrid's double-winning side, recording 36 goal involvements (23 goals, 13 assists) in his debut season in Spain. 

And in Phil Foden, Southgate can call upon the Premier League's Player of the Season, who produced talismanic performances against Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham to cap Manchester City's fourth straight title success. 

With Southgate thought likely to depart whatever the outcome of England's campaign, this tournament must be the culmination of their development into genuine contenders. Penalty shoot-outs excluded, England have only lost one of their last 18 Euros games (10 wins, seven draws) – against Iceland in 2016. 

With Marc Guehi now likely to partner John Stones following injury-disrupted campaigns for both players, the key may be Southgate's ability to protect his backline. 

Across the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and Euro 2020, England conceded just 0.59 goals per game and allowed opponents a paltry 0.72 expected goals (xG) per match – a figure only bettered by France (0.67) among the leading European teams to make each tournament. Reproducing that kind of solidity will be crucial. 

France

Didier Deschamps is eyeing history in Germany, where he could become the first person to win the World Cup and the Euros as both a player and a manager. 

Having reached the final at three of their last four major tournaments, Les Bleus are right up there among the favourites again.

The likes of Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema may be gone, but France still boast an incredible depth of talent, with Mbappe leading from the front as captain.

Mbappe endured a terrible tournament at Euro 2020, failing to score from chances amounting to 1.7 xG in four games, before missing the vital penalty as France were beaten by Switzerland in a last-16 shoot-out. 

Coming into this tournament on the back of a 44-goal season with Paris Saint-Germain and with his long-term future decided, few expect a repeat from Madrid's newest Galactico. 

Among the more interesting selections from Deschamps is a recall for N'Golo Kante, who was missed at the 2022 World Cup but failed to prevent Al-Ittihad from finishing a lowly fifth in the Saudi Pro League in 2023-24. With Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni also included, opposing midfielders are in for a tough time. 

A difficult group-stage draw means France will be tested from the very off, though. If they can top a pool containing the Netherlands, Austria and Poland, they could be on course to meet England in a titanic semi-final. 

Spain

Spain are the only nation to win back-to-back editions of the Euros, bookending their golden era by triumphing in 2008 and 2012. Since then, La Roja have won just two knockout ties at five major tournaments, with a 2022 World Cup exit to Morocco their nadir.  

Luis de la Fuente is the man tasked with bringing back the good times, and victory in the 2022-23 edition of the Nations League represented a decent start.

However, La Roja have been drawn into what is surely the toughest group at the Euros, with Croatia and Italy their first two opponents before they face Albania.

Spain's attractive, possession-based brand of football won them plenty of plaudits at Euro 2020 and the Qatar World Cup, but it did not win them enough games, with Italy, Japan and Morocco all keeping them at arm's length at those tournaments.

As well as averaging the most passes per sequence during Euro 2024 qualifying (six), Spain averaged the most sequences of 10+ passes per game (28.5). Adding an end product is now the aim of the game.

Alvaro Morata must step up after missing a tournament-high six big chances at Euro 2020. He did score 15 goals in LaLiga last term, though, and exciting wide duo Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams should provide him with plenty of service.

Spain's key men in midfield will be Pedri and Rodri.

Man City star Rodri saw his 18-month unbeaten run ended by Manchester United in last month's FA Cup final, but he developed into more than a midfield enforcer in 2023-24, scoring nine goals and adding 14 assists. 

Pedri, meanwhile, netted twice in a dominant 5-1 win over Northern Ireland last week, and is back to form after an stop-start season with Barcelona. His Blaugrana team-mate Gavi will be absent through injury, however.

If La Roja are to add punch to their possession play, this pair may need to be the driving force. 

Portugal

Portugal are the fifth team to be given more than a nine per cent chance of glory by the Opta supercomputer, as Cristiano Ronaldo heads into his 11th – and potentially final – tournament. 

Injury limited Ronaldo to the role of cheerleader when Portugal won Euro 2016, but he has already written his name into the competition's record books and can underline his legacy further in Germany.

Ronaldo holds the records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the Euros. 

His place was called into question at the Qatar World Cup, but Roberto Martinez has built around him since taking over last year, with the Selecao plundering 36 goals in 10 qualifiers and conceding just two.

With the likes of Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Rafael Leao, Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Pedro Neto all making their squad, Portugal have one of the most exciting attacking line-ups at the tournament. 

A kind group-stage draw – pitting them against Czechia, Turkiye and tournament debutants Georgia also plays into their hands – and the Selecao also know topping Group F would put them on the opposite side of the draw to England and France, should they also win their groups.

Lionel Messi's triumph at the last World Cup will only have heightened Ronaldo's desire for more international silverware. With a strong supporting cast behind him, he should not be written off.

THE UNDERDOGS

Scotland

Scotland fell flat on their first tournament appearance of the century at Euro 2020, but there are reasons to suggest the Tartan Army might have more to cheer this time around. 

Steve Clarke's side were promoted to the top tier of the Nations League in 2022-23, while a famous 2-0 win over Spain at Hampden Park – courtesy of a Scott McTominay double – set the tone for their successful qualification campaign.

Having lost Aaron Hickey, Nathan Patterson and Lewis Ferguson to injury, Clarke's men face a difficult first test against Germany. However, one win could be enough to qualify under the 24-team format, and they might just fancy their chances of upsetting Hungary or Switzerland. 

Austria

Looking to bloody the noses of France and the Netherlands in Group D are Austria, tipped by many to be something of a surprise package under Ralf Rangnick.

Austria finished just one point behind Belgium in qualifying, Rangnick needing little time to implement his high-pressing style. They allowed opponents just 8.3 passes per defensive action (PPDA) in qualifying – the fewest of any team.

Austria also attacked with the highest direct speed (2.03 metres per second), and if their Group D opponents do not match their intensity, they could spring a surprise.

Georgia

One of the stories of the tournament can be found in Group F, with Georgia featuring at a major tournament for the first time as an independent nation – they are the only Euros debutants in Germany.

They failed to qualify directly - their Nations League performance teeing up a penalty shoot-out victory over Greece in the play-offs. They were the only team to reach the tournament while posting a negative goal difference (-6) in their qualifying group.

When it comes to one-off games, though, they do have match-winners. Napoli's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia completed the joint-most dribbles of any player in qualifying (44), alongside Jeremy Doku, also scoring four goals and providing one assist.

Georgia also have international pedigree in the dugout, with Willy Sagnol their head coach. The former France right-back only lost one of his 12 games at major tournaments as a player (six wins, five draws).

THE BREAKOUT STARS

All eyes may be on Kane, Mbappe and Ronaldo, but major tournaments are often defined by breakout stars, those players who earn big-money moves or become household names within a matter of days.

Slovenia's Benjamin Sesko could be a candidate, having attracted interest from several of Europe's biggest clubs, though he has now signed a new deal with RB Leipzig. Bellingham (19) was the only player aged 21 or younger to better his 14 goals in Europe's big five leagues last term. 

The Netherlands, who are shorn of Frenkie de Jong, may need to spread the goals around in the absence of a top-class number nine, and Feyenoord's Lutsharel Geertruida – who has played at centre-back, right-back or in midfield – had 13 goal involvements in the Eredivisie last term (eight goals, five assists).

Defending champions Italy are being overlooked by many as Luciano Spalletti oversees a period of transition. Inter midfielder Davide Frattesi could emerge as a star for the Azzurri, having scored five goals in 15 caps – more than any team-mate since his debut in 2022.

This tournament has been touted as something of a last dance for Belgium's 'Golden Generation', and PSV winger Johan Bakayoko is the Red Devils' next big hope. Only seven players bettered his 164 opposition-half take-ons in Europe's top six leagues last term, with fellow Belgium wide-man Doku (171) among them.

The supercomputer's prediction

According to the Opta supercomputer, football may finally arrive home on July 14. 

England emerged triumphant in 19.9 per cent of Opta's 10,000 tournament simulations, making them favourites ahead of France (19.1 per cent).

There is then a significant gap to the third favourites, with Germany victorious on home soil in 12.4 per cent of projections, ahead of Spain (9.6 per cent) and Portugal (9.2 per cent). 

The Netherlands (5.1 per cent) and Italy (5.0 per cent) are next, with tough group-stage draws working against them. Belgium (4.7 per cent), Denmark (2.2 per cent) and Croatia (2 per cent) round out the top 10.

Troy Parrott proved the last-gasp hero as Ireland stole a 2-1 friendly victory over Hungary, who suffered a blow less than two weeks before their Euro 2024 campaign starts.

Adam Idah opened the scoring in the first half at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, only for Adam Lang to level for the visitors four minutes later.

Yet Marco Rossi's team, who face Switzerland in their Euros opener on June 15, fell to late defeat as Parrott delivered a 92nd-minute winner for the home side.

That late strike ended Hungary’s 14-match unbeaten run (W9 D5) since losing 2-0 to Italy in a Nations League match back in September 2022.

Rossi may not be too concerned as that run was their longest undefeated streak since an 18-match streak between September 1954 and November 1955.

Hungary will also take comfort from the dominance of Dominik Szoboszlai, who created six chances in this match, the most of any player on the pitch and the same amount as all of his team-mates combined.

Switzerland, who join Hungary, Scotland and hosts Germany at the upcoming European Championship, were victorious on Tuesday after a 4-0 success against lowly Estonia.

Steven Zuber, Xherdan Shaqiri, Zeki Amdouni and Nico Elvedi were all on target at Swissporarena in Lucerne as Murat Yakin's men eased to a convincing warm-up win.

Switzerland continue their preparations for the Euros with their next friendly against Austria, who battled to a 2-1 victory over Serbia in Vienna.

Christoph Baumgartner scored one and assisted another for Patrick Wimmer before Strahinja Pavlovic pulled one back for Dragan Stojkovic's side.

Serbia open their Euro 2024 campaign against England on June 16 before meeting Slovenia, who were triumphant earlier in a day littered by international action.

Armenia's Varazdat Haroyan levelled after Jan Mlakar's early opener for Slovenia before veteran Josip Ilicic snatched a 2-1 victory for England's group opponents.

In the least entertaining game of the midweek action, Romania and Bulgaria shared a goalless draw in Bucharest.

Ralf Rangnick has confirmed he will remain in charge of Austria's national team beyond Euro 2024, having turned down Bayern Munich's interest.

Rangnick confirmed last week that Bayern had been in touch regarding the possibility of him taking over ahead of next season.

Bayern are aiming to fill an impending void, with current coach Thomas Tuchel set to leave the club at the end of the campaign.

But Rangnick has now confirmed he will be staying put, though he insisted he did not "reject" Bayern.

"I am national team coach of Austria with all my heart," he said in a statement released by the Austrian Football Association (OFB).

"This task brings me a lot of joy and I am determined to continue down the road we have started.

"I want to clearly stress that this is not a rejection of Bayern Munich but rather a decision for my team and our common goals."

"We are fully focused on the Euro. We will do everything we can to go far."

There have been calls from some Bayern fans for Tuchel to stay in charge, with some going as far as to sign a petition.

Bayern wanted to appoint Xabi Alonso as Tuchel's successor, but the former midfielder has elected to stay with Bayer Leverkusen.

While Leverkusen stormed to the Bundesliga title to end Bayern's 11-year dominance of the competition, Tuchel's team can still salvage silverware in the form of the Champions League.

Bayern head into the second leg of their semi-final tie with Real Madrid on the back of a 2-2 draw in Munich in Tuesday's first leg.

Ralf Rangnick has confirmed Bayern Munich have been in contact over their soon-to-be vacant coaching position.

Bayern are on the lookout for a new coach, with Thomas Tuchel set to depart at the end of the season.

The Bundesliga giants wanted to appoint Xabi Alonso, but the 42-year-old snubbed their advances, and those of Liverpool, to stay at Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern's search has now seemingly led them to Rangnick, the former Manchester United interim boss who is now coach of Austria's national team.

Rangnick, though, is paying full attention to Austria's upcoming Euro 2024 campaign.

"There has been contact from the side of Bayern Munich and I have informed the Austrian Football Association," Rangnick said in an interview with 90 Minuten.

"We have a very trusting relationship. My focus is on the Austrian national team. We are focusing completely on the European championships.

"I feel very well here. At the moment there is no reason to intensively deal with this."

Rangnick has plenty of Bundesliga experience, having previously coached Stuttgart, Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig.

While Bayern's hopes of securing a 12th Bundesliga title have long since been over, they remain in with a shout of salvaging their season, with a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid on the horizon.

According to Opta's predictive model, Bayern only have a 37 per cent chance of overcoming Los Blancos, however.

 

Austria, meanwhile, have been drawn into a Euro 2024 group that also includes Poland, the Netherlands and tournament favourites France.

Rangnick's team will face Les Bleus on June 17, before taking on Poland four days later, and rounding off their group campaign against the Dutch on June 25. 

England head coach Sarina Wiegman believes her side have “moved on” from the heartbreak of missing out on Olympic qualification.

The Lionesses face Austria on Friday and Italy next Tuesday in a pair of friendlies which have replaced what they hoped would be Nations League semi-finals.

A 6-0 thrashing of Scotland looked to have secured top spot in Group A1 in December, only for the Netherlands to score twice in added time against Belgium to pip England on goal difference and end Team GB’s hopes of qualifying for Paris 2024.

“This is really the start of our Euros campaign and after the very disappointing result of not qualifying for the play-offs to qualify for the Olympics we moved on,” said Wiegman, whose side will bid to defend their European title in Switzerland next year.

“This is the start, with two friendlies which is really good for us because we can try out some things.

“We are also very close to the Under-23s [also training in Spain] so we can see them, we can connect with them and we get a lot of players that we can see where they are at this moment.

“This is a great start because in April the Nations League starts which are the qualifiers for the Euros.”

Euro 2022-winning captain Leah Williamson had been named in Wiegman’s squad for the first time since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament rupture, but the Arsenal defender withdrew with a hamstring injury on Sunday.

Asked if club coaches had requested a limit on player minutes amid a three-way Women’s Super League title race and a spate of high-profile injuries, Wiegman said: “Not this time.

“We are in contact with each other all the time, we update each other and of course we know how important the Women’s Super League is too but also the German League for Georgia [Stanway] and the Spanish league for the players who play in Spain at the moment.

“Of course, we want to take care of the players but we want to do lots of things. We play to win but we also have the opportunity now to try out things and also manage minutes. With a busy calendar I think that’s something to be aware of.

“The issue of injuries is a bigger picture and it’s about the load on the players. The calendar we talk about a lot, that we really have to address the calendar. I spoke up about that last week – we really ask FIFA and UEFA to change things.

“But we are doing a job as good as possible with all the expertise we have in our team and staff. We have a programme and we monitor the players really well.

“You’re in an environment where an injury can happen because it’s a physical sport, but if you can diminish the risk of injuries as much as possible, that’s also what we try to do.”

England boss Sarina Wiegman is happy to have Leah Williamson back in her squad.

Williamson has been named in a 23-player group for friendlies against Austria and Italy in Spain later this month.

It marks a first return to the Lionnesses’ camp for the 26-year-old since she suffered an ACL injury last April, which ruled her out of last summer’s World Cup.

Wiegman said: “It is really nice, especially for her, she is back, she is gaining minutes at Arsenal, doing well, she is happy at Arsenal and they are of course happy too.

“It is really nice to have her back because she is a very good player, even though she has been out for months, now she has come back her decision-making is still really good.

“She is still building. The team picked up very well, players stepped up but it is still really nice to have her back.”

Williamson captained her country to Euro 2022 success, but Wiegman did not say whether she will still have the armband.

“I have to talk to the players first about that,” she said.

“We come in and we have to start again, we will revisit that and have a conversation with the players first.”

There was no room in the squad for in-form Manchester United forward Nikita Parris, who has been overlooked despite scoring 15 goals in the last 16 matches for her club.

Wiegman spoke to the 29-year-old to explain her decision but says she has tough choices to make.

“The competition up front is really high, in the autumn she didn’t play much,” Wiegman said. “Since the new year she has played in the nine position and has done really well, of course we have noticed that too.

“We have had a little chat and I hope she shows consistency because we are talking about her again but I made some other choices now for this camp.

“With the players we have, they have done well so it was a hard decision.

“I had conversations with her in the autumn, that was a different situation. I had a short conversation with her yesterday and I explained a little bit and that is now just the way it is.

“We have many players up front, it is so competitive that I have to make choices and some players who are doing really well will be kept out. She is available and she knows we are watching her closely.”

The Lionesses take on Austria on February 23 and Italy four days later.

England will play matches against Austria and Italy during a training camp in Spain next month, the Football Association has announced.

Both games will take place at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador in Algeciras, with the Lionesses facing Austria on February 23 before taking on Italy four days later.

Sarina Wiegman’s side were last in action in December when they saw their bid to reach the Nations League semi-finals – and secure a Paris Olympics place for Great Britain – end despite winning 6-0 against Scotland at Hampden Park.

The February double-header of friendlies comes ahead of the Euro 2025 qualifying draw taking place on March 5, and that campaign getting under way in April.

Wiegman, who earlier this month signed a contract extension running to the 2027 World Cup, said in a statement from the FA: “This will be our kick-off to get ready for the Euro qualifying campaign beginning in April, so there’s no time to waste in February.

“Heading to Spain with hopefully warmer weather and great facilities will allow us to maximise every minute together. Playing two games against good opposition in Austria and Italy, should be excellent preparation for another big year ahead.

“They are two good and different opponents who will want to start the year strong too, so it will be important to come together again as a team and use these games to prepare for the qualification matches starting in April.”

Reigning European champions and World Cup runners-up England will be joined in Marbella by Emma Coates’ Under-23s, who are set to play matches against Spain and the Netherlands.

Formula One will again hold six sprint weekends in 2024 with discussions ongoing about potential tweaks to the format.

The sprint weekends will be at the returning Chinese Grand Prix followed by races in Miami, Austria, Austin, Brazil and Qatar.

A number of drivers and team principals, including Red Bull boss Christian Horner, have called for changes to the sprint format.

It is likely that qualifying for the sprint will return to being held on Friday ahead of the sprint race on Saturday, which will be followed by qualifying for Sunday’s grand prix.

Other options may be considered to shake up the format, with changes to rules over parc ferme conditions – where alterations to the car are prohibited – and even a move to reverse part of the grid order for the sprint among possible options.

F1 bosses are keen to retain the sprint and believe having meaningful action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of a grand prix weekend bring benefits for TV audiences and fans in attendance.

Stefano Domenicali, president and CEO of Formula One, said: “I am delighted to announce six exciting venues for next season’s F1 sprint events, including two new hosts China and Miami, both of which will be fantastic additions and provide great racing for all our fans at the race and watching at home.

“Since its creation in 2021, the sprint has been consistent in delivering increased audiences on TV, more on track entertainment for the fans at events and increased fan engagement on social and digital platforms, and we are looking forward to the exciting events next year.”

A decision on how the sprint format will look next season is likely to be made in January.

Speaking in November, Horner said: “I think it’s clear that the sprint needs to evolve a bit. I can understand the concept and it being action on all three days, which for the promoter and for the fans has an interest.

“But I think the sprints in some cases have been slightly underwhelming – there’s no pit stop, it tends to stay in grid order and it’s a little bit like getting a medal for a long run.

“I think there can be a little bit more racing introduced, but then you’ve got to look at the consequences of that, if you were to reverse the grid, if there were points involved etc, etc.”

England, Scotland, Spain, France, Portugal, Turkey, Belgium and Austria all secured their places at Euro 2024 in the latest round of qualifying fixtures.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what still to be resolved in November and the play-offs.

Group A

Scotland and Spain have both qualified for the finals, but top spot remains up for grabs.

Spain head to Cyprus and then host Georgia, while Scotland face a trip to Tbilisi before welcoming Norway to Hampden Park – where the Tartan Army are expected to revel in a Euro 2024 qualification party.

Georgia are set to go into the play-offs based on their Nations League ranking as a group winner.

Norway are one of several countries who will have to wait on all the other results to see if they can make the cut as one of 12 teams split through three paths.

Group B

While France have qualified automatically for the finals as group winners, the Netherlands still have work to do.

The Dutch edged past Greece with a stoppage-time penalty from captain Virgil van Dijk on Monday night – and victory over the Republic of Ireland in Amsterdam will secure a top-two finish.

Greece, though, could also still reach Euro 2024, having already been assured of a place in the play-offs.

Indeed because of UEFA’s complex weighted system based on overall Nations League rankings, the Republic are still not theoretically out of the running to be involved in the play-offs in March – and could even see their slim hopes boosted by a loss in Amsterdam on November 18 if other results also fall into place.

Group C

England’s 3-1 win over Italy at Wembley on Tuesday night saw them qualify with two matches left.

Italy are third, but qualification remains in their own hands if they can beat North Macedonia.

The Azzurri would then edge out Ukraine to the runners-up spot should they go on to avoid defeat in the final group game between the two countries in Leverkusen on November 20.

Italy are also assured of place in the play-offs should it be needed.

Group D

Turkey have secured qualification, but the race to join them looks set to go to the wire.

Wales will if they beat Armenia in Yerevan and Croatia suffer an unexpected defeat away to Latvia.

Armenia, though, are still not out of the mix, sitting just three points behind Wales and Croatia with two games left.

Qualification could all hinge on the very last round of fixtures – which sees Wales host Turkey in Cardiff and Croatia play Armenia in Zagreb on November 21.

However, Croatia are assured of at least a play-off spot if they do not qualify automatically.

Group E

In another tight group, leaders Albania, the Czech Republic, Poland and even Moldova can all still qualify.

Albania will qualify if they avoid defeat by Moldova in their next match or if Poland – currently third and with just one game left – beat the Czechs.

An away win in Warsaw, though, would see the Czech Republic qualify if Moldova do not beat Albania.

Moldova have two games left, which they realistically would need to win to keep in the qualification mix.

Despite being bottom of the table with just one point from seven games, the Faroe Islands could yet find themselves in the play-offs depending on other results.

Group F

Austria and group leaders Belgium have both qualified.

Belgium’s game against Sweden at the King Baudouin Stadium on Monday night was abandoned at half-time after two people were shot dead in Brussels. It has yet to be confirmed whether the fixture will be replayed.

Azerbaijan are not theoretically out of play-off contention, while bottom side Estonia are the top-ranked team from Nations League Group D.

Group G

Leaders Hungary – who have Barnsley midfielder Callum Styles in the squad – missed the chance to qualify after having to recover to draw 2-2 in Lithuania.

However, a point in their next match away to Bulgaria would see them through, as would Montenegro not beating Lithuania.

Second-placed Serbia will qualify if Montenegro fail to win on November 16 or they themselves beat Bulgaria in their last game.

Bottom side Bulgaria have slim play-off hopes, but Serbia are secured a spot if they need it as one of the Nations League group winners.

Group H

Slovenia, who beat Northern Ireland in Belfast on Tuesday night, and Denmark are in the driving seat to qualify, sitting four points clear of Kazakhstan.

A win in Copenhagen for either team on November 17 would see them through, as would San Marino getting an unlikely positive result against Kazakhstan.

Finland will go into the play-offs, which is also the likely route for Kazakhstan.

Group I

Switzerland’s fightback with two late goals to draw 3-3 against Belarus left them second in the table, a point behind leaders Romania having played a game less.

Israel – assured of at least a play-off spot – are four points adrift, and have their rearranged match with the Swiss on November 15.

Switzerland will qualify if they win their next two fixtures, while Romania will if the Swiss lose in Tel Aviv and they themselves then beat Israel on November 18.

Romania are set to host Switzerland in the final round of fixtures, while Israel’s postponed match against Kosovo has still to be rescheduled.

Group J

 

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Portugal qualified for the finals as runaway group winners with a 100 per cent record so far through eight games.

Slovakia will also qualify with a match to spare if they avoid defeat against Iceland.

Luxembourg are five points behind, so look likely to go into the play-offs along with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kylian Mbappe scored twice, including a stunning strike from just outside the box, as France beat the Netherlands 2-0 in Amsterdam to secure Euro 2024 qualification.

After putting Les Bleus ahead with a seventh-minute finish, Mbappe added a breathtaking second eight minutes into the second half, exchanging passes with Adrien Rabiot and sending a curling shot over Bart Verbruggen and into the top corner.

Quilindschy Hartman reduced the deficit with seven minutes of normal time remaining.

The result extended France’s perfect record in Group B to a sixth victory as they rubber-stamped their place in next summer’s finals in Germany with two fixtures to spare.

Their opponents dropped from second to third, replaced by Greece – who won 2-0 against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

Georgios Giakoumakis and Georgios Masouras scored in the first half as Ireland’s chances of automatic qualification officially came to an end.

Greece are now three points clear of the Netherlands, who have a game in hand.

In Group F, Belgium sealed progress to the finals with a 3-2 win away against second-placed Austria.

The visitors appeared to be cruising after Dodi Lukebakio’s double and a Romelu Lukaku effort had them three goals up before the hour mark.

Things then became less comfortable as Konrad Laimer pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute, Belgium were reduced to 10 men by a red card for Amadou Onana six minutes later, and Marcel Sabitzer scored an 84th-minute penalty – but Domenico Tedesco’s side managed to see out the win.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan registered their first win in the group as they beat Estonia 2-0 in Tallinn.

Portugal also completed the job of qualification via a 3-2 victory as they defeated Slovakia in Porto, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice.

Goncalo Ramos and a Ronaldo penalty had the hosts two goals up at half-time, and after David Hancko’s reply, Ronaldo made it 3-1 in the 72nd minute with his 125th international goal.

Stanislav Lobotka netted a second for Slovakia, who are second behind Portugal in Group J.

Friday’s other matches in the pool saw Iceland and Luxembourg draw 1-1 in Reykjavik and Bosnia and Herzegovina win 2-0 in Liechtenstein.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp played down his record-breaking 50th European win after the 3-1 victory over LASK in Austria.

His side came from behind for the fourth time in six matches as goals from Darwin Nunez, Luis Diaz and substitute Mohamed Salah secured the German’s 50th European victory for the club – surpassing the record he held with Rafael Benitez.

“Let me say it like this, if I still have 50 after the group stage, then even if I’ve still got the most wins in Europe as a Liverpool manager then everybody will hate that,” he said.

“The highest number of wins but everybody will hate it.

“So it’s nice – we have played a lot of games in Europe, but it is good we have won that many and we have frequently qualified for finals.

“No it’s great but probably because the competition now has so many more games than in the past.”

Klopp made 11 changes from the weekend win over Wolves and that contributed to the disjointed, sluggish start.

LASK, in the biggest game in their history, took full advantage as they flew out of the blocks and scored through Florian Flecker’s expertly taken strike from a well-rehearsed corner.

“Tough start, yes. Obviously the first shot on target after a set-piece and we conceded,” the Reds boss added.

“We had very good moments but I saw the boys didn’t feel that. It was not that we could gain confidence from our good moments – we didn’t seem to think we should do that again.

“So we suffered from the less good moments confidence-wise and frustration grew. It makes no sense. Human, but it makes no
sense anyway.

“We showed them (at half-time) two football situations from the first half where we did pretty well. The boys clearly thought there was nothing good in the first half but that was not true.

“We told them they had to get rid of the frustration getting back into the game again, and then we would have a good chance to turn it around, and that’s what we did eventually.

“I’m really, really happy because I said before I knew it would be really difficult, and it was difficult, even if people didn’t believe me. Well-deserved win in the end and that’s it.

“I know that people expect us to fly through this competition. In the group stage it will not happen, in the knockout it will not happen. We have to dig in, dig into it.”

LASK coach Thomas Sageder was disappointed they could not capitalise on their good start.

“We played very brave, we were aggressive and we had a chance to score the second goal but it was only 1-0 at half-time,” he said.

“In the second half we saw how good a team Liverpool were but we fought to the end.”

Liverpool took time adjusting to life back in the Europa League but for the fourth time in six matches this season they came from behind to win 3-1 against LASK in Linz.

It had been 2,682 days since they last appeared in UEFA’s second-tier competition, having played in three Champions League finals and won one, and that adaptation to a new reality took a while to bed in.

The Austrians had no such problem in the biggest game in their history as the visit of Manchester United in 2020, when they were hammed 5-0, happened behind closed doors because of the pandemic.

They were so fired up they predictably took an early lead through Florian Flecker’s brilliantly-taken goal but once Jurgen Klopp’s side came to the realisation the Europa League will be just as tough a task as the competition favourites this season’s familiar trait emerged.

Within the space of eight second-half minutes Darwin Nunez fired home a penalty and Luis Diaz converted from close range and late on substitute Mohamed Salah clinched Klopp’s 50th European victory, the most of any Anfield manager.

Pre-match the German had insisted this was not a competition for handing out “opportunities” but then proceeded to name a completely different side from that which won at Wolves at the weekend.

Not to say that it was weak with first-choice centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate at the back and Diaz and Nunez up front but in between was the untried midfield of newest signing 21-year-old Ryan Gravenberch, on his first start, and Harvey Elliott (20) either side of the 30-year-old ‘veteran’ Wataru Endo who had played just 89 minutes for Klopp’s team since his own summer move.

The real excitement was reserved for livewire winger Ben Doak, who became the club’s fourth-youngest player to play in Europe at the age of 17 years and 314 days on his first start.

But while his first real run at the LASK defence saw him glide past Rene Renner to win a corner he was starved of opportunities by a malfunctioning midfield which could not gain any control in the first half and the young Scot was replaced just past the hour.

Stefan Bajcetic’s misjudgement, the 18-year-old midfielder asked to play the Trent Alexander-Arnold hybrid right-back role, in missing a cross led to a LASK corner and the opening goal.

Flecker was picked out on the edge of the penalty area and he took a touch before drilling a shot through a crowd of players past Caoimhin Kelleher as a training-ground move paid off from their first shot on target.

Liverpool were not so clinical as Nunez headed over an inviting Elliott cross before seeing his close-range nod towards goal from Van Dijk’s header at a corner clawed out by goalkeeper Tobias Lawal.

The raucous home crowd cheered not only that but every block, every tackle, every Liverpool corner repelled, every corner won.

Liverpool’s first move of any quality brought the equaliser when Diaz was brought down by Philipp Ziereis, after Elliott, Doak and Bajcetic had combined down the right, and Nunez powered home from the spot in the 56th minute.

It was the signal for Klopp to make changes with summer signings Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister, two of his new first-choice midfield, replacing Doak and Endo with Joe Gomez giving Bajcetic a break after his first game since March after injury.

They went ahead when Nunez brought down Gomez’s pass from deep, laid off to Elliott who sent Gravenberch racing down the right and his low cross was turned home by Diaz.

If life was not difficult enough for the hosts Mohamed Salah was introduced in the 76th minute and created two chances and had a shot inside his first 60 seconds before weaving himself into a position to poke through the legs of the goalkeeper two minutes from time.

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will prepare for the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup scheduled for June 24-July 16 in the USA and Canada with two friendlies against Qatar and Jordan on June 15th and June 19th, respectively, at the Wiener Neustadt Ergo Arena in Austria.

The Reggae Boyz last faced Qatar on August 26th last year, playing out a 1-1 draw while this will be the first time Jamaica and Jordan will be doing battle.

JFF President Michael Ricketts said the matches are to give the Reggae Boyz the best opportunities to prepare for the Gold Cup.

“We want to place coach Hallgrimsson and his team in the best position to perform at their optimum at the Gold Cup,” Ricketts said.

“This is the third year consecutively that we will be hosted in this city, a location that is perfect for preparation. I believe that with the quality of the team we now have, combined with the quality of coaching, we have an outstanding opportunity to create history by winning the coveted trophy.”

Jamaica’s first match of the 2023 Gold Cup will come against defending champions USA on June 24th at Soldier Field in Chicago.

David Alaba has offered an explanation for his vote at the FIFA Best awards after he listed Lionel Messi ahead of his Real Madrid team-mate Karim Benzema.

Alaba was subjected to online abuse, including racist remarks, after his choice was made public with Madrid fans starting a hashtag of #AlabaOut after he voted for Messi first, Benzema second and Kylian Mbappe third.

The Austria captain took to Twitter to explain that the vote was not his alone, but that of his entire national team.

"Regarding FIFA The Best Award: The Austrian national team vote for this award as a team, not me alone," he wrote. "Everyone in the team council is able to vote and that's how it's decided.

"Everyone knows, especially Karim, how much I admire him and his performances and I have often said that for me he is the best striker in the world, and that is still the case. Without doubt."

Messi claimed the men's prize at an awards ceremony in Paris on Monday after leading Argentina to glory at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Leeds United have signed Max Wober for an undisclosed fee, the third player the Premier League club have acquired from Salzburg in the last two transfer windows.

Head coach Jesse Marsch, who was in charge of Salzburg between 2019 and 2021, brought in Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen at the end of last season, and has gone back to the Austrian club for his first signing of the January transfer window.

Wober spent three and a half years at Salzburg, making 125 appearances and scoring nine goals as he picked up three league and cup doubles.

The 24-year-old has signed a four-and-a-half-year deal at Elland Road and could make his debut in Sunday's FA Cup third-round clash with Cardiff City.

Wober, who can play at left-back or centre-back, has 13 caps for Austria and had spells with Rapid Vienna, Ajax and Sevilla before Marsch signed him for Salzburg in 2019.

Leeds host West Ham in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Wober told Salzburg's website: "It was not an easy decision, but I have decided to leave Salzburg.

"The last three and a half years in this city and at this club really influenced me as a player and a person. The numerous highlights, which I have gained both on and off the pitch, will be remembered by me for as long as I live.

"If I think back to our first season in the Champions League, our very first match in the competition against Genk or our comeback against Liverpool, then it still gives me goosebumps. Thank you for all these moments we have enjoyed together. I have grown to love Salzburg and see it as a second home."

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