Harry Kane made little impact as Bayern Munich’s week went from bad to worse following a shock 1-0 loss in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Lazio.

Ciro Immobile’s second-half penalty proved the difference at Stadio Olimpico to pile pressure on Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel on the back of a damaging 3-0 defeat at title rivals Bayer Leverkusen.

England captain Kane, who is one short of reaching 50 club goals in European competition, barely touched the ball during a tight battle between two former Chelsea managers in the Italian capital.

His side dominated possession before Maurizio Sarri’s men snatched a slender aggregate advantage when Immobile sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way from 12 yards in the 69th minute after Dayot Upamecano was dismissed for a late challenge on Gustav Isaksen.

Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala went closest for the German club, who have plenty to do in the return match at Allianz Arena on March 5.

Bayern arrived in Rome having fallen five points off the pace in the Bundesliga following Saturday’s emphatic loss at Leverkusen.

Under-fire boss Tuchel made three personnel changes in a bid to bounce back, including dropping Eric Dier and recalling Germany internationals Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Muller.

Kimmich curled wide in the opening exchanges before Kane could not keep a close-range effort down following Muller’s pull back, while Luis Alberto lashed over from distance for the side sitting seventh in Serie A.

Former Manchester City forward Sane went close when his 32nd-minute effort whistled past the left post after Leon Goretzka and Muller shifted the angle of a free-kick on the edge of the D.

Musiala then fired over following impressive build-up play as the away side failed to register an attempt on target before the break.

Bayern beat Lazio 6-2 on aggregate as reigning champions at the same stage of the tournament in 2020-21 and were heavy favourites to repeat that feat.

Yet, having been relatively untested defensively, the visitors nearly conceded within three minutes of the restart.

Danish forward Isaksen was sent clear on goal after Bayern centre-back Upamecano was dispossessed by former Liverpool man Alberto, only for his low effort to be repelled by the legs of Neuer.

The six-time European champions were struggling to regain the upper hand and felt aggrieved to fall behind 21 minutes from time during a pivotal moment in the match.

French referee Francois Letexier pointed to the spot and brandished a red card after Upamecano caught Isaksen with his studs inside the box.

Bayern were unhappy with the decision but that did not stop Immobile – fresh from scoring his 200th Serie A goal in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Cagliari – calmly rolling home into the bottom right corner.

Former Tottenham striker Kane saw a long-rang free-kick deflected over as below-par Bayern sought a leveller.

Yet the surprise result could have been worse.

Felipe Anderson and substitute Pedro each went close to doubling Lazio’s lead late on, with Tuchel given plenty to ponder.

Bayern Munich boss Thomas Tuchel has defended “p****d off” Thomas Muller’s right to deliver a withering assessment of his team after their Bundesliga title hopes suffered a major setback.

Bayern, who have won the league for the last 11 seasons, were beaten 3-0 at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday as the hosts opened up a five-point lead at the top of the table, prompting 34-year-old Germany international Muller to reveal he was “p****d off” at their lack of “energy and freedom” in an explosive post-match interview.

However, speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday night’s Champions League last-16 clash with Lazio, Tuchel said: “I think he pretty much hit the nail on the head – and if anybody is allowed to issue a statement like that, it is Thomas.”

Tuchel, who admitted his players are currently struggling to transfer their quality in training into games, added: “Thomas is allowed to say this to the microphones because he’s also going to address it internally.

“And it’s important that the team internally talks about it because when we wake up tomorrow and look out of the window and see Rome, you know it’s a different competition and a new day.

“Even though Bayern Munich loses, the sun will rise again, even though you won’t believe it. We will allow ourselves to really be happy and to try to win. That’s part of the game.”

Tuchel finds himself under pressure heading into the game, but is adamant he will not allow it to distract him.

He said: “No, I don’t feel any increasing pressure. Pressure as such is a privilege, it’s a sporting pressure. I’ve never felt it differently and it hasn’t changed anything.

“It’s important to stay self-confident, to stay self-critical.

“The stronger the noise is around the game and the stronger the pressure gets, it’s more important to stay calm. Nothing will change.”

Lazio will hope to inflict further misery on the 2020 winners, and striker Ciro Immobile is relishing the chance to go head-to-head with Bayern’s 28-goal England striker Harry Kane.

Italy international Immobile told a press conference: “Numbers are important for a striker.

“Being able to compare myself with top-level players like Harry Kane is a big motivation for me. It allows me to understand the level I have reached in my career.

“But tomorrow it’s not a direct match with Kane that matters but the match between Lazio and Bayern.”

The Serie A side returned to form on on Saturday when they won 3-1 at Cagliari, in the process ending a run of three games without a victory, but they remain in eighth place in the table and a full 23 points adrift of leaders Inter Milan.

However, head coach Maurizio Sarri said: “We must not forget that we play to have fun. We need to rediscover the sense of fun on the pitch despite all the responsibilities we have to assume.

“If the child who loved playing football dies, the man also has less fun.”

Harry Kane is confident he will win silverware with Bayern Munich this season before trying to lead England to Euro 2024 glory in Germany.

The 30-year-old is blazing a trail in the Bundesliga following his summer move from Tottenham, scoring 28 goals in 27 games as Bayern are locked in a title race with Bayer Leverkusen and also in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

He hopes his goals continue Bayern’s domination of German football before aiming for more glory in his new homeland with England in the European Championship.

 

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“I’m feeling confident,” he told the PA news agency. “Bayern Munich have been winning their league for the last 11 years or so and also won the Champions League a few years ago, there’s an expectation to be winning every trophy that we’re in.

“The focus is to win both tournaments.”

Asked whether the summer tournament was England’s best chance of ending their trophy drought, he said: “I would probably say ‘yes’, if you look how close we got in the last Euros and getting knocked out in the quarter-final to a great team in France.

“I am just looking at it from a point of view where our experiences as a team, our different ages in terms of having good younger players, good experienced players, young exciting players.

“When you look around the European nations now, we will be looked at as one of the favourites.

“There won’t be too many teams wanting to play us but games in tournaments are hard to win, they’re not easy, that’s why we haven’t won one in 60 years.

“We have to go there and try and achieve it. A great opportunity for us. We’re in a great moment as a team, but as always, we have to go there and make it happen so it is an exciting challenge to do that but a tough one as well.”

As he enters the second phase of his career, Kane has already shown his sustainability in the game, but is also tackling the matter off the pitch.

He has invested in golf sportswear brand Reflo, whose mission is to become the most sustainable apparel brand in the world by using materials derived from single-use plastic waste.

Kane, who will wear the Reflo brand when playing pro-am and exhibition competitions, has tackled social issues such as children’s mental health through his Harry Kane Foundation and now wants to learn more about sustainability.

“It’s more me as a father looking into the future and looking at my kids and thinking, ‘What can I do to help their future’,” he said.

“Sustainability is something that I know not too much about, I am still learning and getting to know more about it but when I am looking to partner or invest in brands, I want to see what they are doing for the future as well.

“Reflo are definitely hitting that market and trying to help a lot of other people understand about being sustainable and the impact that can have on the world itself. I am hoping to learn more as the relationship grows.”

Reflo have pledged to plant 500 trees for every goal that Kane scores in the 2023/24 season so they are going to be busy, with the England captain hitting the ground running in Germany.

Kane became a record breaker twice in the space of two months last season as he broke Jimmy Greaves’ all-time scoring for Tottenham and then became England’s greatest ever scorer the following month.

He has another achievement in his sights with Bayern as he chases down Robert Lewandowski’s seasonal record of 41 goals in the Bundesliga.

Kane, with 24 goals in 20 games so far, admitted he did not expect to be as prolific as he has been but was not focusing on eclipsing Lewandowski’s tally just yet.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I always believed in myself and I had scored goals every year in the Premier League and that’s what I wanted to go and do in the Bundesliga,” he added.

“I probably didn’t picture scoring as many goals as I have now at this stage of the season. But you know me, I don’t like to put a limit on anything.

“I don’t like to think about records in particular, they are a consequence of hard work and doing all the little stuff off the pitch that put you to where you are on it.

“My focus is on the short term and then as we get closer and we get towards the end of the season and I am in touching distance, then for sure it will be something I would love to achieve.”

Harry Kane is proud of how he handled a “difficult” time settling into his new life in Germany.

The England captain swapped London for Munich last summer as he left boyhood club Tottenham to join Bayern.

He spent the first few months of his stay in Germany in a hotel as his wife Kate and their children stayed behind before they all made the move into a new house after Christmas and a new chapter in their lives is now in full swing.

 

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You would never have known Kane was finding it tough given his performances on the pitch, scoring 28 goals in his first 27 games for Bayern.

“It wasn’t easy, the first four or five months being in the hotel and being away from the family,” he told the PA news agency.

“That was for sure difficult so I was proud of the way I was still able to perform on the pitch in those circumstances.

“We’ve had a good winter break and everyone came back with me, the kids are in school, we have got the house.

“Month by month it starts to feel more like home, you meet parents at school, my wife is meeting new friends and you just start to meet new people and see new things.

“Everyone has been fantastic, all the fans here, the club have been great and trying to make me welcome and so far it is nothing but praise for everyone here.”

Now that things are settling down, he cannot wait for the German golf courses to reopen.

The winter weather means he has been unable to play much of his beloved golf lately – though he has still been busy, investing in sportswear brand Reflo, whose mission is to become the most sustainable apparel brand in the world by using materials derived from single-use plastic waste.

Kane, who will wear the Reflo brand when playing pro-am and exhibition competitions, said: “The weather, since the snow hit us we have been struggling, I don’t think the courses open here until March so I have been hitting the golf simulator a little bit and trying to stay in a decent shape for now.

“That is one thing I am looking forward to, I am starting to feel at home with the family, the kids are in school so the next step is to start finding the golf courses when I get some alone time with friends.”

Kane has been determined to immerse himself in the culture of Munich and that includes learning the language.

So how is he getting on?

“I’ve started German lessons and have these at least once or twice a week,” he said.

“I want to fit in as much as possible and learning the language is important and I’m willing to try.

“The Bayern fans are great, I hear them chanting lots of songs throughout the matches.”

:: Harry Kane is a golf ambassador for sustainable performancewear brand Reflo. To find out more about the apparel, visit Reflo.com

Union Berlin head coach Nenad Bjelica saw red after pushing Leroy Sane in the face during Bayern Munich’s narrow 1-0 win in the Bundesliga.

Bayern led through Raphael Guerreiro’s strike early in the second half before Bjelica appeared to push the former Manchester City winger twice in a sideline clash.

The narrow victory moved Bayern to within four points of Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen as they bounced back from the weekend’s defeat to Werder Bremen.

Harry Kane had an effort disallowed for offside while England team-mate Eric Dier made his Bayern debut as a half-time substitute.

Athletic Bilbao’s Williams brothers both scored in extra-time as Barcelona endured more Copa del Rey misery at the San Mames in a 4-2 humbling in their quarter-final.

Inaki came off the bench to put the hosts ahead right at the end of the first additional period before Nico, eight years his junior at 21, applied the finishing touch with the last kick of the game.

The Catalans’ previous two visits in the competition in 2020 and 2022 both ended in defeat and when Inaki Williams reacted brilliantly to a huge stroke of luck by converting his own shot which rebounded off a post, history repeated itself.

It was no less than they deserved after stunning Barca by taking the lead after just 36 seconds through Gorka Guruzeta.

The visitors turned things around with goals from Robert Lewandowski and Lamine Yamal in a six-minute spell midway through the first half but they never looked comfortable and Oihan Sanchet’s equaliser – from a sublime Nico Williams cross – just after the interval paved the way for former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde’s side to win the game over 120 minutes.

LaLiga leaders Girona were also knocked out as they fell to a 3-2 defeat at 10-man Real Mallorca.

The hosts scored three times in the first half courtesy of Cyle Larin and two efforts from Abdon Prats, one a stunning strike and the other a penalty.

Girona pulled a goal back midway through the second half when Cristhian Stuani scored a spot-kick after being fouled by Antonio Raillo, who was sent off, and they reduced the deficit further via a Savio finish in the sixth minute of stoppage time, but a last-gasp equaliser proved beyond them.

Raphael Guerreiro edged Bayern Munich to a narrow victory over Union Berlin to take the champions to within four points of Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen.

On a night when on-loan Tottenham defender Eric Dier made his Bayern debut as a half-time substitute and England skipper Harry Kane saw a 23rd league goal of the campaign chalked off, Union coach Nenad Bjelica was sent to the stands after appearing to push Leroy Sane in the face, an offence which is certain to result in significant disciplinary action.

A 1-0 victory was the bare minimum in the wake of Saturday’s home defeat by Werder Bremen with head coach Thomas Tuchel, who it was announced before kick-off has abandoned his pursuit of Newcastle defender Kieran Trippier, reportedly under pressure after a testing run.

It took a double save by Union keeper Frederik Ronnow to keep the sides level when he first repelled Matthijs de Ligt’s header and then Dayot Upamecano’s follow-up from Joshua Kimmich’s sixth-minute corner.

Kingsley Coman saw an 11th-minute drive turned away and Konrad Laimer dragged another wide of the far post before De Ligt missed the target with another header from a corner as the home side pressed for an opener.

With Jamal Musiala and Sane prominent, Bayern probed away and Coman flicked just off target from a Guerreiro cross before Leon Goretzka curled another attempt over.

Kimmich shot tamely at Ronnow and Guerreiro fired another well wide with Union continuing to frustrate the hosts, although the visitors mounted a rare attack and Janik Haberer blazed over from distance after Robin Gosens had laid off Benedict Hollerbach’s cross.

Worryingly for Tuchel, Upamecano pulled up clutching his hamstring as he pursued Hollerbach, although the central defender managed to complete the half after treatment.

The sides headed for the dressing rooms – to the clear displeasure of some of the locals at Allianz Arena, with the deadlock unbroken – but with both Sane and Musiala having gone close in stoppage time.

Dier belatedly replaced Upamecano at the break and the jeers turned to cheers within seconds when, after Kane’s shot had thundered back off the post, Guerreiro forced the ball past Ronnow at the second attempt to ease the tension inside the stadium.

Kane thought he had extended his side’s lead when he dispatched Sane’s 55th-minute cross, but his effort was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.

For all the home side’s dominance, Union remained in the game as long as only one goal separated the teams, and that jeopardy was highlighted when Kevin Behrens appeared to be tripped inside the box, but not in the opinion of the VAR official.

Tempers frayed on the sideline with 74 minutes gone when Bjelica raised a hand to Sane as the pair wrestled for the ball and received a red card for his actions.

Ronnow had to dive full-length to keep out Goretzka’s 81st-minute header, but the final whistle left many questions unanswered for Tuchel.

Harry Kane produced a long-range stunner to help Bayern Munich close out 2023 with a 2-1 win at Wolfsburg.

Kane fired home from 25 yards in the 43rd minute for his 21st Bundesliga goal of the season to put Thomas Tuchel’s side in control after Jamal Musiala opened the scoring on his landmark appearance.

Wolfsburg captain Maximilian Arnold reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time with a fine strike of his own, but Niko Kovac’s men were unable to take points off his former side Bayern, who stayed second and four points behind Bayer Leverkusen going into the mid-season break.

Tuchel could only name six substitutes at Volkswagen Arena and remained without Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich.

It was actually Wolfsburg who made the stronger start with Manuel Neuer forced to deny Mattias Svanberg early on, but it was not a sign of things to come.

Kane got his first sight of goal soon after although failed to connect sufficiently enough with his attempted volley as Bayern tried to stamp their authority on proceedings.

The visitors dominated possession and should have broke the deadlock in the 28th minute, but Thomas Muller failed to find the net with two efforts after Leroy Sane’s centre.

Muller, fresh from signing a new contract on Tuesday, headed against the crossbar minutes later before he turned provider with 33 minutes on the clock.

Bayern’s experienced attacker cut inside and produced a superb cross with his left foot that Musiala headed home to mark his 100th Bundesliga appearance in style.

A second assist followed for Muller 10 minutes later, but it was all about Kane as he curled into the top corner from range for his 25th goal in all competitions this season before he celebrated by sliding towards the corner flag.

It was not a perfect half for Tuchel though after Wolfsburg reduced the deficit in stoppage time when Arnold’s swerving effort beat Neuer from long range.

Wolfsburg pressed for a second after the break and had penalty appeals turned down when Svanberg went down in the area following contact from Kim Min-Jae, but play was waved on.

Tuchel reacted soon after with Matthijs de Ligt introduced for his first appearance since November 1 following a knee injury.

Raphael Guerreiro could have sealed the points with 16 minutes left, but his close-range shot was blocked.

Wolfsburg did fashion one late opportunity and Neuer punched away Arnold’s speculative effort.

Harry Kane took his Bundesliga goal tally to 20 by scoring twice as Bayern Munich returned to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Stuttgart.

Top-scorer Kane struck after only two minutes and the hosts could have been out of sight by the break but for Bayern loanee Alexander Nubel in the Stuttgart goal.

Kim Min-jae and Thomas Muller both had efforts ruled out by VAR in the first half, but Kane doubled their lead early in the second before Kim headed home the third as Bayern remained four points off league leaders Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern were out to bounce back from their 5-1 thumping by Eintracht Frankfurt weekend and got off to the ideal start as Leroy Sane squared the ball for Kane to steer into an empty net.

Stuttgart attacks were few and far between throughout the contest, but Maximilian Mittelstadt’s tame effort was saved comfortably by Manuel Neuer.

The hosts thought they had a second in the 25th minute when Kim nodded home an Aleksandar Pavlovic free-kick, but it was ruled out by VAR with the defender adjudged to be offside.

Bayern threatened again before the half-hour mark as Sane fired straight at the Nubel at the near post.

The former Manchester City winger had another opportunity a couple of minutes later after being teed up by Muller but rolled it wide of a post.

Another chance came and went for Bayern as a Kane effort was superbly parried by Nubel and Jamal Musiala smashed the rebound over the bar.

Another goal was ruled out by VAR when Bayern capitalised on some poor Stuttgart possession and Muller found himself in space before slotting home, with his celebrations cut short by an offside decision.

The hosts finally doubled their lead 10 minutes after the break. Another free-kick from Pavlovic was flicked on by Kim and Kane was at the back post to nod home his 20th Bundesliga goal in only his 14th game.

Bayern kept pressing and had a third eight minutes later as a Pavlovic corner was headed home by Kim via a deflection.

Fourth-placed Stuttgart had another shot on target with 10 minutes to play as Jamie Leweling advanced into the area and cut on to his left foot, but his drilled strike was saved by Neuer to deny them a consolation.

England captain Harry Kane has enlisted the help of Google’s AI tool Bard to help his family get ready to settle into their new life in Munich.

Kane left boyhood club Tottenham in August to join Bayern Munich in a £100million transfer and has already scored 22 goals in 20 appearances for the German outfit.

While Kane has hit the ground running with Bayern, he has been living in Munich on his own after his wife Kate gave birth to their fourth child Henry a week after his big-money move.

However, Kane’s family are set to permanently join him in Germany shortly and the 30-year-old has joined forces with Google to showcase how Bard can help with every day situations on and off the pitch.

“I am excited to be teaming up with Google, especially on a product as impressive as Bard,” Kane said.

“I recognise how the potential of AI can help me in all sorts of ways with my move to Germany and to get my kids settled into a new life in Munich.

“Bard even suggested some new goal celebrations – we’ll have to see if I use them on the pitch!”

 

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During a series of short video clips, Kane asked Bard to help his children adjust to life in Munich by coming up with a bedtime story to explain why they should be excited about moving to Germany.

He also used Google’s AI tool to plan a treasure hunt through Munich’s most famous sights and got Bard to translate his most commonly used English phrases in post-match interviews to German.

Google UKI’s Eileen Mannion added: “We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Harry Kane on our latest campaign, which shows how Google’s conversational AI Bard can help anyone, even the England’s football captain, in everyday situations.”

Erik ten Hag told his Manchester United players to make sure they get straight back into the Champions League next season after a dismal European campaign ended in an early exit at the hands of Bayern Munich on Tuesday night.

Kingsley Coman’s 70th-minute goal, laid on by Harry Kane, gave the Germans a 1-0 win and ensured United finished bottom of Group A – beaten to second place by FC Copenhagen, operating on a fraction of their budget, and to third and the consolation of Europa League football by Galatasaray.

The final whistle was greeted with boos at Old Trafford, where United lost for the seventh time this season – having now lost more games in all competitions, 12, than they have won, 11.

Ten Hag’s side are out of Europe, out of the League Cup, and sixth in the Premier League going into Sunday’s visit to leaders Liverpool. Defeat also came at a cost, with both Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw picking up injuries before half-time.

“There are still many things to play for now, we can focus on the Premier League,” Ten Hag said.

“This is the level we want to play, the Champions League, so we have to give every effort to get into the top four so next year we are back in the Champions League – and of course there is the FA Cup so there are still many things to play for.”

In a match they needed to win, United mustered only one shot on target, a Shaw effort that never really troubled Manuel Neuer. A much better chance fell to Bruno Fernandes early in the second half but the captain blazed over.

Bayern, already assured of top spot in the group, barely needed to get out of second gear but Ten Hag insisted his side performed well.

“I think the game was like this, both sides had less chances but I think there was a good intensity from our side,” the Dutchman said.

“We brought Bayern out of their rhythm, the defending organisation we did quite well if not very well, especially the first part of second half. Also we had a very good chance from Bruno, so we had our moments but didn’t take them.”

Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel, who bounced back from Saturday’s 5-1 humbling away to Eintracht Frankfurt, admitted he had expected United to progress from Group A and had sympathy for Ten Hag’s position – pointing to United’s long list of absentees.

“I think you could see it’s not an easy time for them. I’m pretty sure he knows what to do next, how to influence his team and he doesn’t need any advice from me,” Tuchel said. “He is experienced enough to go through it.”

Kane set up Coman’s goal with a perfectly placed pass with the outside of his boot and the man United coveted for so long was a constant menace as he linked up Bayern’s attacking play and sent a late header narrowly wide.

“Harry is a difference maker, 100 per cent,” Tuchel said of the England captain. “His personality, his calmness.

“The team knows anything can happen any minute with Harry up front. He can always assist, he can always score.”

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).

Harry Kane continued his record-breaking form by becoming the highest scoring Englishman in a single Bundesliga season with the winner in Bayern Munich’s 1-0 victory at struggling Cologne.

England captain Kane claimed his 18th goal of the season courtesy of a first-half tap-in to fire Bayern to the top of the table, above Bayer Leverkusen.

The 30-year-old striker’s remarkable tally is one more than Kevin Keegan managed for Hamburg in the 1978-79 campaign and the total Jadon Sancho registered for Borussia Dortmund in 2019-20.

His haul has come in just 12 league games since his big-money summer switch from Tottenham, while he has registered 22 goals in 17 outings in all competitions.

Thomas Tuchel’s side dominated proceedings against a team who remain second-bottom but squandered a host of chances to make the scoreline more emphatic, with Leroy Sane particularly culpable.

Unbeaten Bayern were back at RheinEnergieStadion for the first time since dramatically snatching the Bundesliga title from Dortmund on the final day of last season.

They began with purpose and were almost gifted an early lead when Cologne defender Timo Hubers inadvertently diverted the ball on to the outside of his own post with Kane waiting to pounce following fine work for Sane.

Former Manchester City forward Sane then failed to lift the ball over home goalkeeper Marvin Schwabe after being sent through on goal and later scuffed wastefully wide.

Kane’s decisive 20th-minute finish came between those golden chances.

He calmly slotted home on the rebound after Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s initial effort was blocked on the line by Julian Chabot to cap a swift Bayern counter-attack, started by Konrad Laimer’s interception.

Choupo-Moting almost doubled the lead two minutes later when he was denied by Schwabe.

Lowly Cologne, whose only win of the season was a 3-1 success over Borussia Monchengladbach on October 22, offered little from an attacking perspective in the opening period.

Visiting goalkeeper Manuel Neuer had to be alert to repel Rasmus Carstensen’s close-range header but the visitors were relatively untroubled.

For all of Bayern’s control, head coach Tuchel would have been eager to grab a second to secure the points.

However, chances were scant in a largely-forgettable second period which lacked tempo.

Sane saw a powerful effort blocked behind by Chabot, before Kingsley Coman headed against the crossbar from the resulting corner.

Bayern’s failure to kill off the game gave Cologne a glimmer of hope of snatching an unlikely draw going into the closing stages.

Yet the away side comfortably held on to move to the summit as the prolific Kane once again grabbed the headlines.

Gareth Southgate has been pleased by England’s progress during an unbeaten 2023 but knows there is work to do as the team tries to win the European Championship.

The Euro 2020 runners-up are among the favourites to win in Germany next summer but seemed to lose their edge after sealing qualification with two matches to spare.

Friday’s uninspiring 2-0 Wembley win against minnows Malta was followed three days later by an underwhelming 1-1 draw in North Macedonia as the curtain came down on an undefeated year.

November’s double-header will not live long in the memory but Southgate has “learned a lot” from the fixtures, with attention now intensifying on his fourth – and possibly final – major tournament in the dugout.

“We wanted to look at a few different things as well, so we’ve managed to learn from the game as well as the result,” the England boss said in Skopje.

“I have to be pleased with the progress of the team. You know, if you’d said at the start of the campaign that we would be eight wins, two draws at the end of the year, it’s a pretty good record given the fixtures that we’ve had.

“(North Macedonia) was always a game where we knew if you’d needed to come here for that point to qualify would be a very difficult place to come. They took the draw from Italy as well, so credit to North Macedonia for that.

“We can now start to look forward. We’ve got these two exciting games in March to look forward to and prepare for.

“So, yeah, I think we’ve done a lot of things well, but there’s always room for improvement.”

March’s home friendlies against Brazil and Belgium will provide much-needed challenges in the final meet-up before Southgate selects his 23-man squad for Germany.

Two further preparation games will follow before the Euros get under way, with the December 2 draw in Hamburg providing clarity on next summer’s opposition, base camp and potential route to the final.

England’s draw against Macedonia rubber-stamped their place among the top seeds for the Euro 2024 draw and Southgate said: “In the calendar year we’re eight wins and two draws from a particularly tough qualifying group and certainly a friendly in Scotland that was always going to be challenging.

“Of course, you’d like 10 wins out of 10 but not many teams do that.

“I’m really pleased with what the players have given – not just the players that are here tonight, but the players that have represented us through this year because they’ve been excellent.”

Harry Kane has, unsurprisingly, been among the standout performers this year but questions about the Bayern Munich sharpshooter’s back-up remain.

Callum Wilson, Ivan Toney, Eddie Nketiah and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have all been selected in recent times, but Ollie Watkins is the current frontrunner for the job.

The Aston Villa striker had the chance to underline that status against Macedonia but was replaced by Kane just 58 minutes into a frustrating night in Skopje, where the skipper made an immediate impact as he forced Jani Atanasov into an own goal equaliser.

“Look, it was a difficult game,” Southgate said when asked about Watkins. “Very little space, back five, so we’re dealing with three centre-backs, really, and we weren’t quite able to create the clear chance for him.

“But he did fine. It’s not easy when you’re coming in in those circumstances but that’s international football.

“Of course, he’s had games where there’s been more opportunities to score and he’s done that well with us.

“(This) was a different sort of test and, yeah, as a team, it was hard to find the spaces and find the gaps even though moments Phil (Foden) found lovely little passes and Trent (Alexander-Arnold) did.

“It was so crowded around the edge of that box to find those clear chances for our forwards.”

England have had their ups and relative downs as Gareth Southgate’s men qualified for next summer’s Euros and went through 2023 unbeaten.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the highs and lows from England’s eight wins and two draws across the year.

HIGHS

Opening qualification win in Italy

Southgate’s men put their 2022 World Cup frustration behind them by kicking off European qualification with victory at reigning champions Italy in March.

Harry Kane became England’s all-time record goalscorer by striking home a penalty after Declan Rice opened the scoring in Naples, before Mateo Retegui pulled one back.

Luke Shaw’s sending-off for two bookings in quick succession made for a nervy final 10 minutes but England held out for a 2-1 win – their first away to Italy since 1961.

Inspired Saka marmalises Macedonia

Bukayo Saka scored a jaw-dropping first career hat-trick in June as rampant England roared to a 7-0 victory against North Macedonia in a surprise end to the 2022-23 campaign.

Kane struck twice in an Old Trafford annihilation that also saw Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips get in on the act, but ever-improving talent Saka was the star of the show.

Stirring success in Scotland

Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Kane fired England to a 3-1 victory as Scotland were given the runaround by the Auld Enemy at Hampden Park in September.

Southgate was delighted with his players’ commitment, togetherness and mentality in the so-called friendly as they followed up a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in Poland by beating Steve Clarke’s side on a night when Harry Maguire recovered from an own goal and an evening of abuse from the home crowd.

LOWS

Meek Malta win

England were poor in patches in away to Ukraine and struggled to break down Macedonia as their final group game also ended 1-1, but it was Friday’s win against Malta that most disappointed.

An expectant Wembley crowd resorted to paper planes and Mexican waves to entertain themselves in a 2-0 victory that lacked excitement.

Southgate admitted afterwards that he suspected players had subconsciously let their foot off the gas against the side 171st in the world.

Boo boys

During his seven years in charge, Southgate can be rightly proud of the way the fan-base and squad have reconnected.

A few supporters were heard booing Southgate and Jordan Henderson after Monday’s draw in Skopje, with the latter also jeered by England fans in both Wembley appearances since his controversial summer switch to Saudi Arabia.

Travelling fans at Hampden threw their support behind Maguire, who has been booed by pockets of his own fan-base in previous years, but the Manchester United defender was hounded by Scotland fans – treatment labelled by Southgate as “ridiculous”, “a joke” and “beyond anything I’ve ever seen”.

Left-back limitations

England are blessed with options at right-back but they lack alternatives on the other side. Luke Shaw is first choice but has only started twice since being sent off against Italy.

Injury has kept the Manchester United left-back out of the last three squads, with an issue keeping Ben Chilwell out of the previous two camps.

The Chelsea man played in both matches against Ukraine but right-back Kieran Trippier has started as many matches on the left this year.

Levi Colwill, Fikayo Tomori and Rico Lewis have also begun matches there, but Southgate will be praying Shaw and Chilwell get back fit and firing.

England’s calendar year ended with a mundane 1-1 draw in North Macedonia on Monday night.

It was a lacklustre close to 2023 for Gareth Southgate’s side but during the past 12 months they won in Italy for the first time in 62 years and secured Euro 2024 qualification with two games to spare.

Here, the PA news agency goes back over the 10 games played to give collated ratings for players who appeared in at least three fixtures.

JORDAN PICKFORD: 7 (out of 10)
Appearances: 8, Clean sheets: 4

Undoubtedly remains Southgate’s first-choice goalkeeper and started all of the Euro 2024 qualifiers – has an interesting end to the Premier League season after Everton were deducted 10 points.

MARC GUEHI: 7
Appearances: 7, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0
The Crystal Palace man is now seemingly the first cab off the rank if either Harry Maguire or John Stones are unavailable for selection and looks comfortable playing at international level.

HARRY MAGUIRE: 7
Appearances: 9, Clean sheets: 4, Goals: 0
A torrid start to the year for Maguire saw him booed by England fans while poor form meant he was stripped of the Manchester United captaincy, but he has bounced back brilliantly to prove he is still integral to Southgate’s plans.

LUKE SHAW: 6
Appearances: 3, Clean sheets: 2, Goals: 0
Not the sort of year the Manchester United left-back would have hoped for. He was sent off in the opening England game of the year against Italy and the June double-header against Malta and North Macedonia were his last international outings of 2023 before injury struck.

JOHN STONES: 7
Appearances: 5, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0
Injury restricted Stones to just half of the England games played this year but the Manchester City treble-winner oozes a class others do not possess and if he is fit, he plays, as simple as that.

KIERAN TRIPPIER: 6
Appearances: 6, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0

Once again showed his versatility as a viable option at either left-back or right-back, with the Newcastle man closing in on a half-century of caps. He is one of Southgate’s most trusted players and did not put a foot wrong throughout the year.

KYLE WALKER: 7
Appearances: 8, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 1
The Manchester City defender has to be considered in the conversation for England’s finest right-back of all-time and is seemingly still improving at the age of 33. He scored his first England goal and captained the national team for the first time in a memorable year for club and country.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD: 7
Appearances: 5, Goals: 1
Having struggled to get into Southgate’s side at right-back, Alexander-Arnold is now predominantly being picked as a midfielder and flourished there in the away trip to Malta. Still seemingly struggles in the role against bigger nations but is a great option for Southgate.

JUDE BELLINGHAM: 8
Appearances: 5, Goals: 1
A coming-of-age 2023 for the 20-year-old who commands games as if he has been playing at the highest level for years. His move to Real Madrid has showcased his ability and could be in line for a role further forward than he has been playing for England, especially with his goal output in Spain.

CONOR GALLAGHER: 6
Appearances: 4, Goals: 0
The first half of the year was an uncertain one for Gallagher who was in and out of the Chelsea side and looked set to be sold in the summer. Instead, he has become a firm favourite of new Blues head coach Mauricio Pochettino and has been in and around the England squad all year.

JORDAN HENDERSON: 6
Appearances: 7, Goals: 0

While Southgate has kept faith in Henderson, the former Liverpool skipper was jeered by England fans on a number of occasions as they protested against his controversial move to the Saudi Pro League. Is likely to go to the Euros despite the new level he is playing at, such is Southgate’s belief in his ability.

KALVIN PHILLIPS: 6
Appearances: 6, Goals: 1
Another who has retained his place in the squad despite his club situation, with Phillips finding game-time at Manchester City severely limited. May yet have to seek a January move away from the Etihad Stadium to ensure himself of a place at Euro 2024.

DECLAN RICE: 7
Appearances: 9, Goals: 1
A near-ever present across the year for England and his £105million summer move to Arsenal has seen his game go up another notch as he provides the perfect foil for Bellingham to work his magic further forward.

PHIL FODEN: 7
Appearances: 9, Goals: 1
The Manchester City forward was another who was heavily involved throughout 2023 and he will likely battle it out with Bukayo Saka for the right-wing role in Southgate’s side. Could do with adding more goals to his game but was the pick of the players in the November games.

JACK GREALISH: 6
Appearances: 5, Goals: 0
Another who won the treble with City last season but Grealish still often flatters to deceive in an England shirt and has never really looked like an automatic starter since Southgate first brought him into the fold. Only two senior goals also show he needs to up his output.

JAMES MADDISON: 6
Appearances: 4, Goals: 0

Having gone to the World Cup but not played due to a niggling injury, Maddison’s move to Tottenham has seemingly opened the door to him taking on a more sizeable role for England, although he rarely shone when given the chance this year.

MARCUS RASHFORD: 6
Appearances: 8, Goals: 2
His form at Manchester United tailed off massively since the start of the current campaign but Southgate is a huge fan and the 26-year-old still provided the odd moment of brilliance that shows why he remains a key member of the England set-up.

BUKAYO SAKA: 8
Appearances: 7, Goals: 4
Named England’s player of the year for the past two seasons, Saka enjoyed a standout 2023 for club and country. His international highlight came with a hat-trick in the 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia at Old Trafford but he has proven he can be a thorn in the side of a much higher calibre of opponent, too.

HARRY KANE: 8
Appearances: 9, Goals: 9
The England skipper continues to be a talisman for his team and became the first player to pass 60 international goals for the nation. Is scoring for fun since joining Bayern Munich in the summer and will be determined to carry on finding the back of the net in Germany throughout Euro 2024.

Other players used: Sam Johnstone, Aaron Ramsdale, Ben Chilwell, Levi Colwill, Lewis Dunk, Rico Lewis, Tyrone Mings, Fikayo Tomori, Eberechi Eze, Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen, Eddie Nketiah, Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson.

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