Day six at Euro 2024 brought more thrills and spills on the pitch, with Albania sealing a last-gasp draw against Croatia and Germany booking their place in the last 16 by beating Hungary.

Scotland, meanwhile, kept their hopes of progressing from Group A alive by earning a creditable 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the late kick-off.

There was also plenty going on outside the games, from the Tartan Army painting Cologne blue to Kylian Mbappe getting out on the turf two days after breaking his nose.

Here, we run through the best of Wednesday's social media posts from around Euro 2024.

Cologne turns blue for Scotland

One noticeable theme of this tournament has been the colour and noise brought by huge contingents of travelling fans, and an estimated 100,000 Scotland supporters brought the fun to Cologne on Wednesday.

"No Scotland, no party" was ringing around Munich last week, and on Wednesday, it was Cologne's near-800-year-old cathedral that played host to the Tartan Army.

#effzeh pic.twitter.com/R0fFFUnyEs

— 1. FC Cologne (@fckoeln_en) June 19, 2024

Those with tickets were then treated to a spirited performance as Steve Clarke's side went ahead through Scott McTominay, and they were arguably unfortunate not to win as they finished the game strongly after Xherdan Shaqiri's fine equaliser.

Cheesy humour from Swiss fan 

One Switzerland fan, meanwhile, took culinary inspiration for his outfit at the RheinEnergieStadion.

Fortunately for him, Murat Yakin's defence had fewer holes than the Swiss cheese he paid homage to, and they are now all-but guaranteed to make the knockout stages.

 

Hosts on the march

Germany strode into the last 16 of the tournament on Wednesday, a 2-0 victory over Hungary ensuring a top-two finish in Group A.

It's fair to say their performances have gripped the imagination of the German public, with Wednesday's fan march to the Stuttgart Arena a particularly impressive sight.

If Julian Nagelsmann's team can maintain their performance levels, they may just find themselves marching to the Olympiastadion on July 14...

Mbappe out on the grass 

It has only been two days since France captain Mbappe broke his nose in a nasty collision with Austria's Kevin Danso, but the forward is in no mood to rest.

He was out on the training pitch on Wednesday as Les Bleus prepare for Friday's clash with the Netherlands, wearing strapping across his nose.

His participation in that match remains in doubt, and a protective mask will be required for him to return to competitive action, but the sight of him going through his paces will have encouraged France's fans.

Cruyff turn celebrates big Five-O

France's next opponents also had something to celebrate on Wednesday, as it represented the 50th anniversary of Johan Cruyff first wheeling out his signature turn.

The Cruyff turn was born on this day in 1974, the Oranje legend having first performed the move on June 19, 1974, in a World Cup group-stage match against Sweden. 

Jan Olsson, the unfortunate defender on the receiving end of the move, probably remains bamboozled half a century on.

Gallagher in the hot seat

It was Conor Gallagher's turn to take part in England's diary room series on X, with the Chelsea midfielder discussing what he and his team-mates get up to on days off.

He then attempted to match a series of dogs with the Three Lions stars they belong to, posting a pretty good success rate.

The episode began, however, with Gallagher failing to prevent a Jenga set from crashing down around him. England will hope that is not a metaphor for their campaign...  

Memorable day for Gjasula

It initially looked like Wednesday would be a day to remember for all the wrong reasons for Klaus Gjasula. 

Having come off the bench with Albania 1-0 up against Croatia after 72 minutes, Gjasula saw Andrej Kramaric equalise before putting through his own net, all within just four minutes.

However, the midfielder – who plays his club football in Germany with Darmstadt – was in the right place at the right time to level five minutes into stoppage time.

His post-match Instagram post summed up how much it meant to him and his team-mates.

Matchday two in the Euro 2024 group stage began on Wednesday, with hosts Germany headlining another dramatic day of action.

Julian Nagelsmann's hosts became the first team to book their spot in the last 16, but they were pushed far closer by Hungary than they were by Scotland last Friday.

Scotland themselves stopped the rot with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland, though things could have been even better for the Tartan Army had Xherdan Shaqiri's stunning goal not cancelled out Scott McTominay's opener.

In Group B, meanwhile, Croatia and Albania served up another classic, with a 2-2 draw leaving the 2022 World Cup bronze medallists on the brink of an early exit.

But what were the standout stats to emerge from day six at the Euros? 

Croatia 2-2 Albania: Gjasula makes history at either end

The early kick-off slot at this tournament has quickly become a fan favourite, and Wednesday's edition will certainly have converted a few more viewers.

Croatia were set for a comeback win when Andrej Kramaric's strike and Klaus Gjasula's own goal flipped the match on its head, after Qazim Laci had put Albania ahead. 

There were just 147 seconds between the two Croatia goals deep into the second half, with Kramaric celebrating his 33rd birthday with a composed finish. He is the third player to score at the Euros on his birthday, after Jean-Francois Domergue in 1984 and Wesley Sneijder in 2008.

However, Gjasula went from villain to hero five minutes into stoppage time, snatching a famous draw for Albania by slotting a cool finish past Dominik Livakovic. Having come on in the 72nd minute, he is the first substitute to ever score a goal and an own goal in the same Euros match. 

He is only the second player to do so overall, after Anton Ondrus for Czechoslovakia against the Netherlands at the 1976 tournament. 

Being officially timed at 94 minutes and 23 seconds, his goal was also the latest equaliser ever recorded at the European Championships (excluding extra time).

The result leaves Croatia likely needing to defeat Italy in their final game to have any chance of progressing, meaning Luka Modric and company are facing up to the prospect of a humiliating exit just 18 months after getting on the podium in Qatar.

Modric started his 15th Euros game on Wednesday, with Andres Iniesta (16) the only midfielder to ever record more. 

At 38 years and 284 days, he became the oldest player on record (since 1980) to record 100 or more passes in a Euros match (108), while he already held the same record (since 1966) at the World Cup (105 versus Brazil in 2022, 37 years and 91 days).

Germany 2-0 Hungary: Musiala second only to Bene 

Wednesday's second game gave us our first qualifiers for the last 16, with Germany clinching a 2-0 victory over Hungary to make it two wins from two matches, courtesy of goals from Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gundogan.

Musiala's opener – a powerful finish off the crossbar following tireless work from Gundogan – made him the youngest player to score in a nation's first two group games at a single European Championship. He is also the first player to net in Germany's first two matches at the tournament since Mario Gomez in 2012.

At the age of 21 years and 114 days, he became the second-youngest player to score on his first two European Championship starts, after Hungary legend Ferenc Bene in 1964 (19 years, 186 days).

Having assisted Musiala's goal, Gundogan later got one of his own to give Germany daylight. He both scored and assisted in the same match for his country for the first time since October 2019, when he scored two goals and registered one assist in a Euro 2020 qualifier versus Estonia. 

Things were not straightforward for Germany, though, as Hungary fired off 11 shots, with Roland Sallai and Barnabas Varga guilty of spurning particularly good opportunities.

It is the most shots Germany have faced at a Euros match since the Netherlands recorded 14 against them in 2012, but Manuel Neuer stood firm as Hungary failed to score for the first time in their last 13 matches.

Despite Hungary giving a decent account of themselves, Toni Kroos produced another metronomic performance in the middle of the park, completing 124 passes.

That is the second-most on record by a midfielder in a Euros match, after Xavi completed 127 for Spain against the Republic of Ireland in 2012. Kroos' 47 line-breaking passes were at least 30 more than any other player on the pitch. 

Scotland 1-1 Switzerland: Shaqiri out on his own

The final game of the day saw Scotland bounce back from their 5-1 defeat to Germany, and boost their hopes of reaching the last 16, with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Switzerland. 

Steve Clarke's side had the upper hand after 13 minutes, as McTominay's shot was deflected past Yann Sommer by Fabian Schar. This is now the first edition of the Euros to feature more than one Scotland goal since the 1992 tournament (three).

They couldn't hold on, though, as Shaqiri came up with a magical long-range finish into the top-left corner just 13 minutes later, giving Angus Gunn no chance.

Including Euro 2024, the former Bayern Munich and Liverpool man is the only European player to have scored at each of the last six major tournaments, dating back to a hat-trick against Honduras at the 2014 World Cup – his first tournament goals.

He now has 10 goals at major tournaments, while this is the seventh edition of the World Cup/Euros he has appeared at, the most of any Swiss player. His 10 tournament goals are evenly split between the World Cup and the Euros, making him one of just seven players with five or more goals at each. 

He is in good company, with Michel Platini, Jurgen Klinsmann, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku the others on that list.

Despite Shaqiri's big moment, Scotland claimed a valuable point, meaning a victory over Hungary in their final group game will almost certainly seal qualification for the last 16, even if they are unlikely to finish higher than third.

They might wish they could face the Swiss again, having avoided defeat in six of their last seven competitive games against them (two wins, four draws), also remaining unbeaten in two meetings at major tournaments (one win, one draw).

They have now taken 44 per cent of their all-time group-stage points at the Euros (four of nine) against Switzerland. 

Klaus Gjasula went from villain to hero for Albania after cancelling out his own goal with an equaliser in stoppage time to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw with Croatia.

It looked like Ante Budimir had inspired Croatia to a comeback win, playing a part in two goals in two minutes after Qazim Laci's early strike, but they could not hold on.

Albania led after just 11 minutes as Jasir Asani curled a delightful cross into the near post for Laci, who glanced his header past Dominik Livakovic at his near post.

They should have been 3-0 up at the break; Croatia were cut open by Asani's throughball, but Kristjan Asllani's drilled effort was straight at the goalkeeper, who later held onto Rey Manaj's flicked header.

Zlatko Dalic's side came out determined for the second half, but it was not until Budimir's introduction in the 69th minute that it all came together.

Five minutes later, he deftly flicked the ball to Kramaric, who wrong-footed Thomas Strakosha to slot an equaliser into the bottom corner to mark his 33rd birthday.

Just like against Italy on Saturday, Albania struggled to regain their composure. Moments later, Budimir's cutback was struck by Luka Susic, but Berat Djimsiti's block bounced off the unfortunate Gjasula and into the back of the net.

Deep into stoppage time, Gjasula atoned for that incident, latching onto Mario Mitaj's cross to sweep a low shot past Livakovic and into the bottom-left corner.

Data Debrief: Substitutes light up the game

Gjasula is just the second player to score a goal and an own goal in a single game at the Euros, after Anton Ondrus for Czechoslovakia against the Netherlands in 1976.

Despite only playing for 21 minutes, Budimir's introduction also proved an inspired choice by Dalic. Only Andrej Kramaric (three in 90 minutes) created more chances for Croatia than the substitute (two).

After Germany's 5-1 win over Scotland in the Euro 2024 opener, the goals continued to fly in on a busy day of action on Saturday.

Records were broken as Spain beat Croatia 3-0 and reigning champions Italy came from behind to beat Albania 2-1.

Switzerland also dispatched Hungary 3-1 in the other Group A meeting to ensure things are finely poised going into the second round of matches.

The 16 goals scored through the opening four matches of Euro 2024 so far are the most netted at this point of a European Championships or World Cup since Euro '76 (19).

Using Opta data, we take a look at some of the other standout statistics from Saturday's action in Germany.

Hungary 1-3 Switzerland: Swiss start in style

Switzerland have only lost one of their last 15 games across all competitions (W7 D7), a 1-0 defeat to Romania in November 2023, after opening their Group A campaign with a 3-1 victory over Hungary.

It was a tale of two emphatic maiden performances for the Swiss as Kwadwo Duah and Michel Aebischer became only the third and fourth players to score on their European Championship debut for Switzerland.

That first-half dominance saw both players score their first-ever senior international goal, too, in what was Duah's second appearance and Aebischer's 21st for Switzerland.

Aebischer also teed up Duah's well-taken opener in Cologne as the full-back became the first Switzerland player ever to both score and assist a goal in the same match at the Euros.

Barnabas Varga – who became the fifth Hungarian to score on his European Championship debut – pulled one back with his seventh goal in his last 10 international appearances, with assisted help from Hungary's ever-reliant Dominik Szoboszlai.

Since the start of 2023, Liverpool midfielder Szoboszlai has had a hand in 10 goals across 15 international appearances (six goals, four assists), though the Hungary captain could not stop a familiar European fate for Marco Rossi's men.

Breel Embolo's cool, late lob sealed victory to leave Hungary with just two wins from their 12 matches at the European Championships (D4 L6), a win rate of 17 per cent. Among nations with five-plus games at the finals, only Romania (six per cent) and Poland (14 per cent) have a lower success ratio.

This win also marked a special moment for Ricardo Rodriguez, who appeared for a 22nd game at a major international tournament (Euros/World Cup) – the outright most of any player for the nation.

 

Spain 3-0 Croatia: Young guns steal spotlight

Spain got a statement win against Croatia in their Euro 2024 opener, beginning a European Championship tournament with a victory by 3+ goals for just the second time, after their 4-1 win against Russia on MD1 of Euro 2008.

The spotlight was shining on Lamine Yamal, who became the youngest-ever player to feature at the Euros, capping his historic appearance for La Roja with an assist for Dani Carvajal, who became Spain's oldest-ever goalscorer in the competition at 32 years and 156 days, on the stroke of half-time.

In Yamal (16y 338d) and Pedri (21y 203d), Spain are the first side to have at least two players aged 21 or under create at least three chances for a side in a game at the Euros since Germany against Czechia in June 2004 (Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski).

Fifteen years Yamal's senior, Morata became Spain's outright second-highest goalscorer at major international tournaments with 10, and needs only three more to equal David Villa's record of 13.

It was not the dominant performance people have come to expect from Spain though, as they had less possession than their opponents (47 per cent) for the first time in a competitive match since the Euro 2008 final, which they won against Germany (46 per cent), ending a run of 136 such matches where they had the majority of the ball.

On the opposite side of the field, Luka Modric became the oldest player since Lothar Matthaus to appear in the European Championships at 38y 280d, but his experience could not prevent Croatia from suffering their joint-heaviest ever defeat at a major international tournament following 3-0 defeats to Portugal at Euro 1996 and Argentina at the 2022 World Cup.

The Croatia captain also became just the third European player to appear in as many as nine separate editions of major international tournaments, after Matthaus (nine) and Cristiano Ronaldo (10, before Euro 2024).

Italy 2-1 Albania: Azzurri nightmare soon turns into dream start

As the reigning champions, Italy would have been fearing the worst after conceding the fastest goal in Euros history – Nedim Bajrami scored after just 23 seconds when Federico Dimarco gifted him a throw-in.

However, Alessandro Bastoni's 11th-minute equaliser soon settled the nerves, with this the third-earliest time a game at the European Championships has seen both teams score, after Iceland v England in 2016 (sixth minute) and Russia v Spain in 1964 (eighth minute).

The turnaround was complete with Nicolo Barella's 10th strike for the national side, and his goal-scoring touch proved golden once more – Italy have won all 10 games in which he has found the back of the net.

Despite not getting on the scoresheet for the Azzurri, Federico Chiesa also impressed as he became the first player at the Euros to record at least three shots, three successful dribbles (four) and win possession in the final third at least three times since Denmark's Mikkel Damsgaard against Belgium in June 2021.

Albania's goal came from their only shot on target in the match, though it means they have now scored in back-to-back games in the competition for the first time. Now, they need to find just their second-ever win at this tournament against Croatia on Wednesday.

The Eagles will be glad to see the back of Italy having lost all five of their previous meetings with them in all competitions. However, only three teams have ever beaten them more times, with Spain, who they face in their final group game, topping that list (eight).

Zlatko Dalic was left to apologise for Croatia's woeful Euro 2024 showing on Saturday against Spain, whose head coach Luis de la Fuente heaped praise on teenage star Lamine Yamal.

Spain opened a European Championship tournament with a victory by 3+ goals for just a second time, following their 4-1 win against Russia on MD1 at Euro 2008, after a 3-0 triumph against Croatia.

Alvaro Morata, Fabian Ruiz and Dani Carvajal were all on target in a dominant first half, while Bruno Petkovic had a late goal ruled out after his penalty was saved and Ivan Perisic encroached to setup the striker's rebounded finish.

The defeat marked Croatia's joint-heaviest ever defeat at a major international tournament (Euros/World Cup), following 3-0 losses against Portugal at Euro 1996 and Argentina at the 2022 World Cup.

Dalic could only offer his apologies to the travelling Croatia fans after an underwhelming Group B showing in Berlin.

"It was a great atmosphere," the 57-year-old Dalic, who led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and semi-finals of the same tournament four years later.

"I apologise for this bad show today. We were not aggressive enough.

"I hope this was just a bad day."

Yet the opening win largely centered around Yamal, who became the youngest player to ever feature at the European Championships after appearing aged just 16 years and 338 days.

The Barcelona winger saw his inviting cross prodded home by Carvajal for La Roja's third goal, much to the delight of Spain boss De La Fuente.

"Yamal is impressing everyone and going up through the levels," De la Fuente said.

"He has to keep improving every day, and over time he will become a wonderful footballer."

De La Fuente also reserved special praise for Fabian, who teed up Morata's opener after 29 minutes.

"[Fabian] is at the top level," he added. "Based on what we see from him on a daily basis, he's fantastic. He has brilliant technique.

"We should recognise the quality that he has. He has real imagination."

Lamine Yamal described his historic Euro 2024 bow as a "dream" after Spain hammered Croatia 3-0 in their Group B opener on Saturday.

Starting at the age of 16 years and 338 days, Yamal became the youngest player to ever feature at the European Championships, and he rewarded Luis de la Fuente's faith with a terrific performance.

The Barcelona winger saw his inviting cross prodded home by Dani Carvajal for La Roja's third goal, after Alvaro Morata and Fabian Ruiz had put them in control.

Only fellow youngster Pedri matched his total of three chances created, while he led all players for crosses (three) and saw his three successful dribbles equalled only by Dani Olmo.

Speaking after the game, Yamal said of Spain's fine display: "We trust ourselves a lot. We went out to give it our all, because three points already does a lot in the group stage.

"It's a dream. I'm very happy to have played in the European Championship.

"The team is very confident. Now we have to go all out against Italy. Nothing changes for one game. We go with the same confidence. The work of these last few months has been reflected today."

Spain are now in the driving seat in a group many regard as the toughest at the tournament ahead of facing Italy and Albania.

Captain Morata moved to seven European Championship goals with his opener, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (14) and Michel Platini (nine) ever scoring more.

Morata later seemed to be holding his leg in discomfort when he was withdrawn for Mikel Oyarzabal, but the striker has assured fans he will be fit to face Italy on Thursday.

"It was important to start like this," Morata said. "We pressed a great team very well. We must go for the games from the start and now think about the next one."

On the knock he suffered in the second half, he said: "It was just a blow, I was loading other parts of my leg. 

"The best thing was to go out and have another team-mate play better."

Spain sent out a statement in their opening game at Euro 2024 by thrashing Croatia 3-0 in Berlin, with Lamine Yamal assisting as he became the competition's youngest-ever player to feature.

La Roja claimed a 5-3 extra-time victory when these sides met in the last 16 at Euro 2020, but they enjoyed a far more serene outing on Saturday.

Fabian Ruiz released Alvaro Morata to put them ahead after a quiet start, then some clever footwork led to the midfielder's deflected strike beating Dominik Livakovic three minutes later.

Luis de la Fuente made Yamal the Euros' youngest-ever player at the age of 16 years and 338 days, and he rewarded his coach by assisting Dani Carvajal's third on the stroke of half-time.

Croatia looked a shadow of the team that took bronze at the 2022 World Cup and saw a potential consolation chalked off late on, Ivan Perisic being punished for encroachment as he teed up Bruno Petkovic on the rebound from the forward's saved penalty.

The opening exchanges were low on excitement as Spain struggled to combine their patient approach play with penetration, but Fabian provided the telling pass after 29 minutes.

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder split the Croatia centre-backs with an excellent throughball, allowing Morata to race clear and finish left-footed.

Fabian doubled Spain's advantage shortly afterwards. Receiving the ball from Pedri on the edge of the box, he turned Luka Modric before seeing his low drive take a slight deflection on its way into the bottom-right corner.

Croatia sought a response as Unai Simon denied Marcelo Brozovic and Josko Gvardiol volleyed wide, but their troubles deepened in first-half stoppage time, Carvajal pouncing to prod Yamal's inviting cross home.

Yamal could have had a goal to go with his assist seven minutes after the break, but Livakovic made a stunning save to keep his left-footed strike out.

Marc Cucurella made a brave last-ditch block to keep out Josip Stanisic's shot, and Croatia were denied a consolation in bizarre circumstances with 10 minutes remaining.

Simon's mistake led to Rodri pushing Petkovic over in front of a gaping goal, and though the Croatia substitute saw his spot-kick saved, he tapped home Perisic's left-sided cross on the rebound.

However, a VAR review showed Perisic was encroaching, so Petkovic's late finish was disallowed to cap a miserable start for Croatia.

Much-maligned Morata climbs the charts

Euro 2020 was a tournament to forget for Morata, who scored three goals but missed more big chances (six) than any other player before fluffing his lines from the spot as Spain were beaten on penalties by Italy in the last four.

However, Morata came into this tournament on the back of his joint-most prolific campaign in Europe's top five leagues, netting 15 times for Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, and he carried that form into Saturday's Group B opener.

He now has seven goals at the Euros overall (three in 2016, three in 2020, one in 2024), with only Cristiano Ronaldo (14) and Michel Platini (nine) bettering that tally.

Morata is also just the second Spanish player to reach double figures for goals at major tournaments, with 10. David Villa – their leading goalscorer at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup – netted 13.

Youth trumps experience

As Spain made Yamal the youngest player in Euros history, Croatia skipper Modric – aged 38 years and 280 days – became the oldest outfielder to appear at the tournament since Germany's Lothar Matthaus against Portugal in 2000 (39 years, 91 days).

Far from replicating Toni Kroos' metronomic performance in Germany's 5-1 rout of Scotland on Friday, Modric struggled to get a foothold against Spain's cultured midfield trio and was found wanting as Fabian turned him to score La Roja's second.

Veteran Modric and his team-mates struggled to get close to Yamal over on the Spain right, and it was an experienced Spanish campaigner who benefitted from the teenager's creativity.

While Yamal became the youngest player to assist in the history of the Euros, Carvajal became the oldest player to score for Spain at the competition, aged 32 years and 156 days.

Lamine Yamal has become the youngest-ever player to appear in a European Championships game, at 16 years and 338 days old.

Yamal started as Spain began their Euro 2024 campaign against Croatia in Berlin on Saturday.

He breaks the record previously set by Poland's Kacper Kozlowski, who played for the Eagles at Euro 2020 aged 17 years and 246 days.

Yamal is making just his eighth appearance for his country, with Spain boss Luis de la Fuente saying in his press conference on Friday that Yamal and fellow winger Nico Williams "have a gift from God".

Meanwhile, on the other side Croatia's Luka Modric, at 38 years and 280 days, is the oldest outfield player to play at the tournament since Lothar Matthaus for Germany against Portugal in June 2000 (39 years, 91 days).

He starts alongside Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic in midfield, with the experienced trio boasting an impressive 372 international caps between them. 

Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams "have a gift from God", so says Spain boss Luis de la Fuente.

Yamal and Williams are among a number of exciting talents that De la Fuente has at his disposal heading into Euro 2024.

Spain, who have won the European Championships on three occasions, face Croatia in their opening Group B game on Saturday.

They head into the tournament in fine form, having thrashed Andorra and Northern Ireland 5-0 and 5-1 respectively in pre-tournament friendlies, and in Lamal and Williams, have two of LaLiga's most promising young attackers.

"They are young players, especially Lamine, he's a young boy, with incredible talent that only the chosen ones have," De la Fuente told reporters.

"They have a gift from God, very few players have these qualities."

Barcelona teenager Lamal has been involved in five goals in his seven appearances for his country, though revealed this week that he will be doing his school homework during the tournament.

"We're trying to treat the situation normally, but also trying to explain by being humble he will develop so much more," said De la Fuente, who confirmed defender Aymeric Laporte will not be available on Saturday.

"If there are bad moments things can fall away fast and there's huge criticism. That goes at his club as well.

"We're enforcing the education and training from his club. They are special footballers, Nico too, that makes them different from the rest."

That being said, there is no guarantee that either Lamal or Williams will start against Croatia in Berlin.

"You might take it for granted that Nico and Lamine play tomorrow, you might think it's a surprise if they don't, but it wouldn't be for me," added the coach.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, meanwhile, backed Josko Gvardiol, who is likely to play at left-back, to stand up to any attacker he may face.

"Josko has had a really good season at Manchester City, he's one of our key players," said Dalic.

"He's capable of stopping any attacker on the Spain team, he's got it all. I hope he will stop Pedri, Yamal and all the others."

Shoot-outs excluded, Spain have lost only two of their last 22 matches at the Euros (W13 D7), and that was against Croatia and Italy in 2016.

They have reached the knockout stages in six of their last seven appearances, with the only exception coming in 2004.

No tournament is complete without a 'group of death'. 

Euro 2024 may have two, with France and the Netherlands looking to fend off a challenge from Austria in Group D, while heavyweights Spain, Croatia and Italy battle it out in Group B.

It's Spain and Croatia who get the latter pool under way on Saturday, facing off in a huge tussle at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.

La Roja are the only team to win back-to-back editions of the Euros, achieving that feat in 2008 and 2012, yet they have only won two knockout ties across five major tournaments since that latter triumph.

Luis de la Fuente's team did, however, win the 2022-23 edition of the Nations League, overcoming Croatia on penalties in the final. Spain also memorably eliminated Zlatko Dalic's team from Euro 2020, winning an eight-goal thriller in the last 16.

Spain may have previous against Croatia, but few will be writing Dalic's team off following their third-place finish at the 2022 World Cup, at which an ageing but supremely talented side used all their big-game know-how to eliminate Brazil.  

The result of Saturday's game could go a long way to deciding both teams' fates in a group that could easily see a giant fall. Here, we use Opta data to preview the game.

What's expected?

The Opta supercomputer makes Spain favourites for this one, but La Roja's win percentage of 50 per cent suggests the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion.

Croatia were victorious in 24 per cent of match simulations conducted by the supercomputer, with 26 per cent ending level and potentially handing the initiative in the group to Italy.

There will certainly be plenty of familiarity between these two sides. Indeed, Spain and Croatia are facing each other at a fourth successive edition of the Euros.

That has only previously occurred on one occasion, when Spain and Italy met in four straight editions between 2008 and 2020. They will, of course, do battle at a fifth successive tournament when they square off in Gelsenkirchen on June 20.

La Roja have won two of their previous three encounters with Croatia (5-3 at Euro 2020, 1-0 at Euro 2012), while they were beaten 2-1 at Euro 2016.

If recent history is anything to go by, an entertaining affair could be in the offing. 

Three of the last five meetings between Spain and Croatia have contained at least five goals, and the most recent – a 5-3 extra-time win for La Roja three years ago – is the second-highest scoring game in Euros history, after France 4-5 Yugoslavia in 1960.

The supercomputer makes Spain Group B favourites with a 47.3 per cent chance of finishing top, to Croatia's 18 per cent, Italy's 29 per cent and Albania's 5.6 per cent.

With four third-place finishers reaching the last 16, La Roja (89.1 per cent), Italy (80.3 per cent) and Croatia (67.8 per cent) are all expected to progress.

Can Spain add punch to possession play?

At Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup, Spain won plenty of admirers for their patient, possession-based style, with Gavi and Pedri hailed as generational talents.

However, their approach did not win them enough matches. La Roja scraped past Switzerland on penalties at Euro 2020 before going out to Italy on spot-kicks, while a bold rearguard action from Morocco dumped them out in the first knockout round in Qatar. Before that, a shock defeat to Japan almost sent them out in the group stage.

Their patient approach is nothing new. Spain have had more possession than their opponents in each of their last 136 competitive games, last seeing less of the ball when they beat Germany with 46 per cent of the play in the Euro 2008 final.

They have also attempted 1,000 or more passes in four separate World Cup matches but only won one of those, beating Costa Rica 7-0 in Qatar.

Their last 50 Euros goals have all been scored from inside the area, with their last strike from outside the box coming via Real Madrid great Raul, against Slovenia in 2000's group stage.

De la Fuente will not stray too far from Spain's identity, despite Gavi missing the tournament due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

The key to their success will be adding punch to their patient build-up play, and wide duo Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams could hold the key in that regard.  

Williams (second, 191) and Yamal (fourth, 141) both ranked among the top four players for dribbles attempted in LaLiga last season, also ranking third and fifth respectively for carries ending in a take-on (Williams 97, Yamal 82).

Athletic Bilbao's Williams has six goal involvements (two goals, four assists) in 13 senior appearances for Spain, while Yamal will become the youngest player in Euros history as long as he gets an outing before the final, which is one day after his 17th birthday. Few nations boast a pair of wingers as exciting as the Roja duo.

Tournament specialists set up to surprise

As is the case with Spain, control has long been the name of the game for Croatia, yet many would argue they do it with a level of savviness that deserted La Roja long ago.

At the 2022 World Cup, only Spain (135) recorded more sequences of 10 or more passes than Croatia, with Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic pulling the strings in midfield. 

Brozovic (509) and Modric (484), as well as centre-back Josko Gvardiol (505), ranked among the six players to play the most passes in Qatar, with Rodri out in front with 676 despite only playing four matches.

It was not everyone's cup of tea as Croatia relied on the penalty shoot-out heroics of goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in their two knockout triumphs over Japan and Brazil.

Despite playing the full seven games, they only ranked seventh in the tournament for expected goals, their 7.05 xG some five fewer than Brazil, who managed 12.08 xG in five games.

But it was not simply a case of Croatia playing keep-ball until they could show their nerve from the spot. Dalic's team led everyone at the tournament for high turnovers (59), shots from high turnovers (10) and pressed sequences (109).

Andrej Kramaric, Lovro Majer and Ante Budimir are all comfortable doing the dirty work up top, and the latter was on target as Croatia scored an impressive friendly win over Portugal on Saturday – admittedly with Cristiano Ronaldo rested.

Difficult to beat and comfortable in transition and in possession, Croatia deserve their reputation as tournament specialists. Spain will underestimate them at their peril.

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Spain – Alvaro Morata

Missed opportunities have been a theme for Spain at recent tournaments. At Euro 2020, Morata missed more big chances (six) than any other player and also fluffed his lines as La Roja were beaten on penalties by Italy in the last four.

However, after enjoying the joint-most prolific campaign of his career in Europe's top five leagues, scoring 15 goals for Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, Morata will be trusted to shoulder the goalscoring burden again.

 

He ended a five-match goal drought for his country as Northern Ireland were routed 5-1 in a warm-up friendly last week, and though he has his detractors, he has tournament pedigree.

Only Ronaldo (eight) and Antoine Griezmann (seven) have scored more goals than Morata's six across the last two editions of the Euros.

Croatia – Luka Modric

Modric personifies Croatia's measured approach, and despite playing a reduced role for Real Madrid in 2023-24, he will be their key man again at this tournament.

The 38-year-old only started 18 games in LaLiga last term, yet he ranked ninth in the league for total passes in the opposition half, with 923.

Among players with at least 15 starts, he ranked fourth for chances created per 90 minutes (2.94), joint-fourth for open-play chances created (2.14) and seventh for passes into the final third (10.9).

Modric versus Rodri and Pedri could be the most watchable midfield battle of the group stage.

Bruno Fernandes said the criticism that followed Portugal's 2-1 defeat by Croatia at the weekend was a reflection of fans' elevated expectations ahead of Euro 2024.

The Selecao das Quinas concluded their preparations for the tournament with a disappointing display in Lisbon, with Luka Modric's penalty and Ante Budimir's second half strike cancelling giving the visitors their first win over their opponents in their history. 

Portugal won all 10 of their qualifiers, but prior to travelling to Germany this week, have suffered defeats to Croatia and Slovenia in recent friendlies. 

The 2016 champions have since failed to go beyond the quarter-finals of an international tournament, coming at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

Fernandes believes that he enjoys the negativity around the national team, but knows the quality in the sign know they have to do more as a collective. 

"I don't want anyone to think that we came to this point thinking that everything was done and there was nothing to improve," Fernandes told reporters on Monday.

"There are always aspects to improve. To be honest, I like a bit of this negativity around the national team, 'the team isn't as good anymore', 'it's still not what we want'.

"I like it because it's a sign that people expect a lot from us and want more from the national team. It means that we players who are representing the country have the quality to do more.

"We know that, we have ambition and we want to do more and better."

Portugal play the Republic of Ireland in their final warm-up match on Tuesday ahead of their Group F opener against the Czech Republic, before taking on Turkey and Georgia.

Ante Budimir's third international goal ensured Croatia secured a first victory over Portugal as they concluded their Euro 2024 preparations with a win. 

The visitors took the lead from the penalty spot inside the opening 10 minutes after Vitinha's clumsy challenge on Mateo Kovacic saw captain Luka Modric assume responsibility and fire the ball beyond Diogo Costa. 

Croatia's dominance continued for much of the first period, with Lovro Majer forcing Portugal's goalkeeper into making a smart save as Zlatko Dalic's side were rarely troubled by an attacking quartet of Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix and Goncalo Ramos.

However, substitute Diogo Jota was on hand to level the scores three minutes after the restart, tapping home Nelson Semedo's teasing delivery into the area. 

Heading into the eighth meeting between the sides, Croatia had managed just one draw from their previous seven encounters with Portugal, but a maiden triumph was theirs when striker Budimir reacted quickest to turn home Mario Pasalic's shot that had come back off the crossbar. 

The introductions of Premier League duo Pedro Neto and Mathues Nunes offered the hosts more attacking pedigree, but they were unable to find a way past Dominik Livakovic as Ruben Dias squandered a golden opportunity late on to share the spoils, with Cristiano Ronaldo remaining an unused substitute.

Data Debrief: Budimir the boy as Kovacic stays perfect

Budimir's three shots in the encounter produced the highest xG of anyone on the pitch at 1.07, with Portugal's players combined finishing with an xG of only 1.54.

At the heart of Croatia's midfield, Kovacic was the only player for either side to record a 100 per cent pass completion, completing all 39 of his attempted passes. 

Italy great Giorgio Chiellini believes the Azzurri have a bright future ahead of them and says critics have been overly pessimistic regarding their chances at Euro 2024.

Chiellini captained Italy as they overcame England in the final of Euro 2020, but the Azzurri have not been widely tipped to retain their crown after enduring a difficult few years.

Having missed out on the last two World Cups, Italy somewhat scraped their way through qualifying for next year's tournament in Germany, losing home and away to England and requiring a nervy 0-0 draw with Ukraine on the final matchday to avoid the playoffs.

Ahead of Luciano Spalletti's first major tournament in charge, Italy have been drawn to face Spain, Croatia and Albania in a difficult-looking group, but Chiellini believes reports of the Azzurri's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

"I know the Italian draw very well. Croatia and Spain are good teams with experience, with good players," the defender told Stats Perform.

"Albania is our biggest friend that we face. We are very happy that they joined the Euros. I have a lot of Albanian friends and they deserve it. We have to respect that. 

"Obviously, we will try to pass through the group, arrive in the quarter-finals and then we'll see. We have seen also in the last [Euros], we were lucky. 

"I guess also in the round of 16 [against Austria], and we were lucky to win on penalties in the last two games, but at the end we deserved to win. 

"There is a good cycle, a new cycle, with good young players. I think that could be a good spine for the national team. 

"I don't know if they need maybe more time to be in the right moment and in their prime to win, but there is a bright future for the Italian national team."  

Asked who excited him most in the current Italy setup, Chiellini said: "I think [Gianluigi] Donnarumma is by far the best young goalkeeper that we could have and he's really special.

"[Alessandro] Bastoni is a fantastic defender and we have a lot of amazing midfielders. [Marco] Verratti is just 31, he's not 40 like me! We have a good midfield.

"[Federico] Chiesa is someone that could break every line in every moment of the game. Italy have a good team. 

"Now I hope that there are new faces arriving because we have a good academy for the national team, with players coming through. 

"We have a good coach, everything is good. Sometimes in Italy, we are too pessimistic with the team and we talk badly, but I think that we have a bright future and a really good team."

With Saturday's Euro 2024 group-stage draw done and dusted, Europe's elite know what awaits them in Germany next year and all eyes will turn to the opening game in Munich on June 14.

Steve Clarke's Scotland will be Germany's first opponents as they kickstart their bid to become the first sole host nation to win the tournament since France in 1984.

Elsewhere, England can be content with a somewhat kind draw as Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and company look to bring football home, while Group B looks set to earn the title of 'group of death', with defending champions Italy pitted against Spain and Croatia.

As fans across the continent begin plotting their nations' routes to the final, to be held in Berlin on July 14, Stats Perform runs through the best facts and figures from each of the six groups. 

Group A: Germany, Hungary, Scotland, Switzerland

Germany have endured a troubled build-up to their home tournament, with Julian Nagelsmann parachuted in after the dismissal of Hansi Flick in September. The last Germany boss to win a major tournament at his first attempt was Jupp Derwall, who led the team (then West Germany) to Euro 1980 glory.

They will face a familiar foe in the form of Switzerland, who they will meet for the 54th time in senior internationals – no other team has faced Germany as often, but the teams have never met at the Euros before.

Germany's matchday one opponents will be Scotland, who will be making their fourth appearance at the Euros after also qualifying in 1992, 1996 and 2020. They have never reached the knockout stages. 

However, they may fancy their chances of edging out Switzerland and Hungary in what could be a battle for second place this time around. Hungary took bronze when they first appeared at the Euros in 1964, but they have only won one of their nine games at the tournament since then (four draws, four defeats), beating Austria in the 2016 group stage.

Group B: Spain, Albania, Croatia, Italy)

All eyes will be on Group B ahead of the tournament, with three-time winners Spain drawn alongside defending champions Italy – who they beat in the 2012 final – and 2022 World Cup bronze medallists Croatia. 

Excluding penalty shoot-outs, La Roja have only lost two of their last 22 matches at the Euros, winning 13 and drawing seven. The last two teams to beat them? Croatia and Italy in 2016.

Spain are the only nation to win back-to-back editions of the Euros, doing so in 2008 and 2012. Luciano Spalletti's Italy are looking to replicate that feat, having inched past Ukraine to claim second place in their qualification group.

The Azzurri have now qualified for eight successive editions of the tournament, though this is the first time they have reached a major competition while losing two or more games in their qualifying group, having been beaten home and away by England.

While Spain and Italy will feel unfortunate to have landed in such a difficult group, the omens are good for teams that face Croatia when it matters. They have lost to the eventual winners at four of their last six major tournaments, being beaten by Spain at Euro 2012, Portugal at Euro 2016, France at the 2018 World Cup, and Argentina in Qatar last year.

GROUP C: England, Denmark, Slovenia, Serbia

Gareth Southgate may be relieved to have avoided some of the heavy hitters with England landing in Group C, where they will start against Serbia on June 16 before taking on Denmark and Slovenia.

England's rematch with Denmark – who they beat in the Euro 2020 semi-finals – could be decisive in the battle for top spot. The Three Lions are unbeaten in all three of their meetings with Denmark at Euros/World Cups (two wins, one draw), with Switzerland the only team they have faced as often at tournaments without ever losing.

With Kane thriving at Bayern Munich and Bellingham a former star at Borussia Dortmund, two of the Three Lions' star players are no strangers to German turf.

 

They also have an excellent record against Slovenia, winning five and drawing one of the teams' six all-time meetings. The only one of those games to take place at a major tournament came at the 2010 World Cup, when Jermain Defoe hit the winner in a 1-0 victory for Fabio Capello's team.

Serbia, meanwhile, will be featuring at the Euros for the first time as an independent nation. They competed as Yugoslavia or FR Yugoslavia in five editions, finishing as runners-up in 1960 and 1968.

Group D: France, Austria, Netherlands, play-off winner A

With Kylian Mbappe spearheading their star-studded team, France head to the Euros among the favourites. Boss Didier Deschamps captained his country to glory at Euro 2000, and he could become the first person to win the competition as both a player and a head coach.

Les Bleus, however, face a tough set of opponents in Group D, none more so than the Netherlands.

France have faced the Oranje more often at the Euros without ever winning than they have any other side, losing their last two such matches against them at the 2000 and 2008 tournaments.

Ronald Koeman might be pleased to see his team drawn alongside Austria, with the Netherlands winning their last seven matches against them, averaging 2.9 goals per game throughout that run (20 in total).

The final team in Group D will be decided via the play-offs in March, with Wales, Finland, Poland and Estonia vying for a ticket to Germany. France have met any of those nations at the Euros.

Group E: Belgium, Romania, Slovakia, play-off winner B

Belgium headline Group E, with Domenico Tedesco at the wheel as the last members of the Red Devils' so-called golden generation look to finally deliver on their promise.

Since losing to West Germany in the final of Euro 1980, Belgium have never reached the semi-finals of the tournament, being knocked out in the last eight at each of the last two editions – versus Wales in 2016 and Italy at Euro 2020.

They will be content with a kind-looking draw, with Romania the team drawn into Group E from pot two. Their win ratio of just six per cent at the Euros is the worst of any nation to qualify for more than one edition, winning just once in 16 games at the tournament. 

Slovakia, meanwhile, have only won two of their seven games at Euro tournaments (one draw, four defeats), also failing to score in four of their last five games.

Ukraine, Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland will battle for the final spot in this group in March.

GROUP F: Portugal, Turkiye, Czech Republic, play-off winner C

Group F contains 2016 winners Portugal, the only team to reach the knockout stages of the last seven editions of the Euros, a run that stretches back to the 1996 tournament. In fact, they have always progressed from the group stages in their eight previous appearances at the Euros.

Cristiano Ronaldo seems set to be sticking around for this tournament. He will be 39 by the time it rolls around. The Al Nassr attacker holds the records for most games (25) and most goals (14) at the Euros, has also managed a joint-record six assists (since records began in 1972).

Ronaldo's 20 total goal involvements at the Euros are twice as many as any other player since assist records began, with Michel Platini second on 10 (nine goals, one assist).

Roberto Martinez's team open their campaign against the Czech Republic, who are featuring at an eighth successive edition of the Euros (including appearances as Czechoslovakia). Only Germany (14) and France (nine) are currently on longer runs of consecutive appearances.

One of Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan and Luxembourg will join Turkiye in rounding out the group. They are looking to improve on their dismal showing at Euro 2020, and have qualified for three successive editions of the Euros for the first time. However, they have lost six of their last seven matches at the tournament (one win).

Spain boss Luis de la Fuente believes La Roja have received the toughest draw for the group stage of Euro 2024, having been handed games against Italy, Croatia and Albania.

As one of five teams with the best records across the qualification groups, Spain joined hosts Germany, as well as England, France, Portugal and Belgium in pot one for Saturday's draw in Hamburg.

That did not stop them being handed a tough set of opponents, however, with reigning champions Italy and 2022 World Cup bronze medallists Croatia joining La Roja and Albania in Group B.

Spain are the only team to win back-to-back editions of the Euros, triumphing in 2008 and 2012, and excluding penalty shoot-outs, they have only lost two of their last 22 matches at the Euros, winning 13 and drawing seven.

The only two teams to beat La Roja at the tournament during that time are Croatia and Italy, both of whom did so in 2016.

While De la Fuente says there is no such thing as a straightforward group, he believes Spain will face a particularly difficult challenge in Germany.

"The level is very high. All the groups are tough, complex, but ours may be the highest level," the Spain boss told reporters at Saturday's draw ceremony.

"There are other complicated ones, like France and the Netherlands [in Group D], but I think ours is the most complex. 

"We are playing in a European Championship, and we all know that the difficulty is at the maximum, including for teams playing against Spain.

"But that will make us concentrate from the first moment. We know perfectly how to play Italy and Croatia, and Albania are a very dangerous team. 

"Italy was not in the favourites' pot, but it was guaranteed that no one wanted them. Their potential is better than the moment they are going through." 

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