Roberto Martinez is daring to dream as Portugal prepare to open their Euro 2024 campaign, where ageing star Cristiano Ronaldo has been selected "on merit".

Portugal are the favourites to top Group F in Germany, opening their tournament against Czechia on Tuesday before facing Turkiye and Georgia.

Martinez's side were the only team to win 100 per cent of their games in the qualifying campaign (10/10), while they also scored more goals than any other team (36).

The former Belgium manager has major-tournament pedigree, too, guiding the Red Devils to third place at the 2018 World Cup and quarter-finals at Euro 2020.

Going further on this occasion remains at the forefront of the Spaniard's mind.

"We must believe, we need to dream big," the Portugal head coach said at Monday's pre-match press conference.

"If we don't dream big, then it will be tough. But we also owe it to everyone to play well.

"Tomorrow will be the right time to show that we're ready, that we can meet all the expectations. 

"I brought seven shirts, not three. But now we need to put it all out there on the pitch for these first three matches."

Portugal have the likes of Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Goncalo Ramos to call upon in attack, though a familiar face remains in Ronaldo.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner holds the record for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the Euros.

Indeed, since 1972, Ronaldo has scored/assisted twice as many goals as any other player at this tournament: 20 in total (14 goals, six assists). Michel Platini is second on 10 (nine goals, one assist).

Ronaldo is also the European player with the most appearances at major tournaments, World Cup and Euros combined (47), therefore his inclusion is hardly a surprise.

 

"Cristiano is in the national team on merit," Martinez added. "Nobody gets into the national team just by having a name.

"Cristiano scored 51 goals in 50 games [for Al-Nassr last season].

"For us he is a goalscorer, someone who can make that final move, someone who can really stretch defenders, really open spaces.

"Obviously, over the years Cristiano has changed his way of playing slightly, but I can only say that Cristiano is in the national team on merit and the numbers are there to back that up."

Ruben Dias says Ronaldo's influence spans further than his influence on the pitch, however.

"I would say he represents inspiration, he represents that everything is possible, he represents that you can dream and you can achieve it," the Manchester City defender said.

"It's obviously a pleasure to have him with us in this moment of his career. He represents to us that he really wants to win again and he's our captain and obviously we follow him to the end."

Overcoming Cristiano Ronaldo is among the main motivations for Czechia ahead of Tuesday's Euro 2024 clash with Portugal, says head coach Ivan Hasek.

Portugal have been touted as serious contenders to lift the trophy on July 14, but they first face group-stage clashes with Czechia, Turkiye and Georgia.

They will once again be captained by Ronaldo, who enters his 11th major tournament as their undisputed first-choice striker after being surprisingly dropped at the 2022 World Cup.

Ronaldo holds the records for most games (25), most goals (14) and joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) at the Euros, also scoring at a record five separate editions of the tournament. 

At World Cups and European Championships, the former Real Madrid and Manchester United man has made a total of 47 appearances, the most of any European player, while scoring 22 goals and assisting eight. 

Rather than playing down the significance of facing the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, Hasek used Monday's pre-match press conference to challenge his players to shut him out.

"We want to neutralise Ronaldo. Especially for our guys, they will remember this for their whole lives," Hasek said.

"Ronaldo is one of the best players and they will be able to say they played against him and maybe they will even be successful. 

"I do not want us not to say after the match that we played against Ronaldo, but that we defeated him."

 

Czechia are appearing at an 11th edition of the Euros (including participations as Czechoslovakia), including their eighth in a row.

That streak began with the 1996 tournament, where they were runners-up in England. Only Germany (14) and France (nine) are currently on longer runs of consecutive European Championship appearances.

With Czechia tipped by many to compete with Turkiye for second place in Group F, Hasek says the key will not be how they start the group stage, but how they finish it. 

"The most important thing at this tournament is the last game. So, the first game doesn't really decide anything," he said.

"All our 26 nominated players are ready, they are healthy, they are fit, and we cannot wait. We are really excited about tomorrow to start everything.

"When you see the pitches, when you see the stadiums, you see this is a really great footballing event."

Joao Cancelo is hoping to guide Portugal to their second European Championship crown in what will be his first appearance at the tournament. 

The 30-year-old, who spent the 2023-24 season on loan with Bayern Munich and Barcelona, was forced to miss Euro 2020 after testing positive for Coronavirus. 

Cancelo was replaced in the squad by Diogo Dalot, but featured at his first major tournament for the Selecao at the World Cup in Qatar two years ago. 

Portugal start their group campaign in Leipzig against Czechia on Tuesday, and the defender is looking to make up for a lost opportunity in Germany this time around. 

“It was unfair, because I had a great season, I felt like I should have been there but life didn't want it that way,” said Cancelo. 

“Maybe I had to wait for this moment to be the right one to assert myself."

"No matter how many clubs I play for, the national team is the highlight of my career because in it I represent my family, my friends who played with me on the street," he added.

"It's always the highlight, whether in a friendly or in top competition.”

Following their encounter with Ivan Hasek's side, Portugal travel to Dortmund to face Turkiye before concluding their group fixtures against Georgia on June 26.

Roberto Martinez will take charge of his first major tournament since being appointed as Fernando Santos' successor at the beginning of 2023. 

The Spaniard guided the Selecao to an unbeaten qualifying campaign, the only side to do so out of the 24 teams in the competition, with Cancelo praising the 50-year-old's impact on the squad since his arrival. 

“He is a coach who from the first day made me feel at ease, both on a sporting and personal level.

“He is very close to the players, has good ideas, likes attacking, offensive and attractive football and I identify with that because I think the same way,” added Cancelo.

“We hope to bring him joy. He has made a difference since he arrived and has adapted very quickly.”
 

Cristiano Ronaldo is prepared to give everything in what could be his final major tournament as Portugal prepare for their Euro 2024 opener against Czechia, says Roberto Martinez. 

The 39-year-old continues to prove that age is just a number, scoring 35 goals in 31 appearances for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League in 2023-24, and he will be a key cog for the Selecao in their quest to replicate their 2016 success.

Portugal cruised through qualifying and were the only team to win all of their group fixtures, and arrive in Germany among the frontrunners to lift the trophy on July 14, despite falling short at their last three major tournaments. 

Ronaldo's influence on the side remains despite his decision to leave Europe, and Martinez believes his presence is an advantage both on and off the pitch. 

"We have 23 players. We create competitiveness and the game makes decisions," he said.

"But Cristiano is prepared to help the team and give everything he can give. And there is no other player in the world of soccer who can bring what Cristiano can to the dressing room."

When asked about Ronaldo's international career, Martinez continued: "There are not many players who have achieved what he's achieved.

"He is an example in many ways. To be the only player to reach more than 200 games for your country – that's something that is not going to be achieved easily.

"What surprised me about Cristiano is that he always defies his age.

"After every session, the technical staff and I will be amazed that a player who's achieved everything, who could have the choice of what effort he puts in training, is driven by winning, is obsessed by being the best, is obsessed about that perfection that he wants to achieve in his career. That's contagious."

Czechia are taking part in their 11th European Championship and will be hopeful of emulating their run to the quarter-finals of the competition in 2020 as Ivan Hasek takes charge for his first tournament. 

The 60-year-old understands the enormity of the task ahead of his side, believing Tuesday's encounter will be a valuable experience for his players when they come up against the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"It's not just Ronaldo. If you take a look at the team, it's clear to see that many of their players play for some of the best clubs in the world," said Hasek.

"They are dangerous. We need to prepare thoroughly. It's also important to know and understand their strengths and weaknesses, which I will keep to myself.

"Although I believe we can play against any team, Portugal do have dominant strengths. It would be quite an experience for any coach [to play against Ronaldo] because he is one of the best players in history.

"It's a valuable experience for anyone to play against him and I am not the only one looking forward to it."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo

Since 1972, Ronaldo has scored or assisted twice as many goals as any other player at the Euros, with 20 in total (14 goals, 6 assists), 10 more than Michel Platini who is in second. 

The veteran forward holds the records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the European Championships. Ronaldo is also the European player with the most appearances at major tournaments, with 47. 

Czechia – Patrik Schick

Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia’s six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a Euro tournament, after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition. 

The 28-year-old scored seven goals in 20 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen as they secured a maiden Bundesliga title last term, just outperforming his xG by 0.96. 

MATCH PREDICTION – PORTUGAL WIN

Portugal arrive in Germany as one of the favourites to secure a second Euros title following their maiden success in 2016, and their qualifying campaign suggests they have what it takes. 

Martinez's side were the only team to win all of their games to make their ninth appearance at the tournament, scoring more goals than any other team (36) while attaining the best defensive record (two goals conceded in 10 games).

Portugal are also the only team to reach the knockout stages of the Euros at each of the last seven editions, a run stretching back to the 1996 tournament, and have always emerged from the group stages when appearing at the competition. 

Czechia are hoping to secure their first victory over their opponents since their maiden meeting at Euro 1996, with Karel Poborsky's goal sealing their place in the semi-finals. 

Only two of the Czechs' last 24 matches at the Euros have ended in a draw (10 wins, 12 defeats), with both coming against Croatia during the group stages of the 2016 and 2020 editions of the tournament. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Portugal – 66.2%

Czechia – 17.9%

Draw – 15.9%

Cristiano Ronaldo says Portugal "deserve to win" Euro 2024, as the skipper issued a rallying cry to the 2016 champions.

Roberto Martinez's side are among the favourites to go all the way in Germany, where they begin their campaign against Czechia on Tuesday, before facing Turkiye and debutants Georgia in Group F.

Portugal were the only nation in qualifying to progress with a 100 per cent record as they won all 10 of their matches, scoring 36 goals and conceding just two, though their impressive form stalled with defeats against Croatia and Slovenia in recent friendlies.

Ronaldo, who netted 10 times in qualifying, is set to become the first player to feature in six editions of the European Championship, in which he already holds the record for most appearances (25) and goals (14).

The 39-year-old is joined by the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Rafael Leao and Goncalo Ramos in a star-studded squad he feels are more than capable of going all the way and landing a second European crown.

"I believe that this generation deserves to win a competition of this magnitude," said Ronaldo, who captained Portugal to glory eight years ago. "Semi-finals? I hope we can go further.

"We have to go step by step, live in the moment, be calm, work as well as we have until now, believe that it is possible. We know it's a short competition, but the team is ready.

"It's getting off to a good start, which is essential. I feel ready, I've prepared myself for this competition.

"It's my sixth European Championship, it's about enjoying it in the best possible way, playing well and making sure the team can win."

From Gerd Muller to Marco van Basten, Alan Shearer to Fernando Torres, some of the greatest strikers to have played the game have had the honour of winning the Golden Boot at a European Championship.

When Europe's finest descend upon Germany for the 17th edition of UEFA's flagship international tournament, a mix of established greats and young prospects will vie to be the continent's best goalscorer.

Can Cristiano Ronaldo mark what will surely be his final major tournament by becoming the first two-time recipient of the Golden Boot, or might Harry Kane or Kylian Mbappe upstage the Portugal legend? 

As the build-up to Euro 2024 continues, we delve into the Opta data to assess the chances of the leading contenders, pick out a couple of potential dark horses and ask what lessons we can take from previous Golden Boot winners.

THE FAVOURITES

Kylian Mbappe

Where else to start but with Mbappe? 

The France captain is again among the favourites to top the goalscoring charts, having netted eight times to win the Golden Boot as Les Bleus came up just short at the 2022 World Cup.

While Mbappe has 12 goals in 14 World Cup matches and looks destined to obliterate Miroslav Klose's record of 16, he failed to score at his only previous Euros, even missing the decisive kick as France went out to Switzerland on penalties three years ago. 

At Euro 2020, only Alvaro Morata (six), Gerard Moreno and Kane (five each) missed more big chances (as defined by Opta) than Mbappe (four). His 14 total shots amounted to 1.7 expected goals (xG), with only Moreno (-2.25) and Dani Olmo (-1.86) underperforming their xG figures by a greater margin. 

However, few would predict a repeat following a season in which Mbappe scored 44 times in 47 games, a tally only matched by Kane among players from Europe's top five leagues. 

Mbappe also scored nine times in eight Euro 2024 qualifiers, though the depth of attacking talent available to Didier Deschamps – and the likelihood of Mbappe playing from the left flank – could mean they are slightly less reliant on one star than other nations. 

France had the largest spread of goalscorers of any side during qualifying, with 14 different players scoring at least once for them, excluding own goals. 

A testing Group D draw could also work against him; Austria and the Netherlands both conceded just seven goals in eight qualifiers, while Poland shipped 10 in their group games. However, should France go all the way, he will likely provide some big moments.

Harry Kane

As the only player in Europe's top five leagues to match Mbappe in 2023-24, many feel Kane was let down by those around him as Bayern Munich relinquished their Bundesliga crown.

Having suffered final heartache at Euro 2020, Kane will be desperate to end his major trophy hoodoo in his new homeland.

Kane is England's record goalscorer overall (63 goals) and their most prolific player at major tournaments (12 goals at World Cup/Euros). Across the last three tournaments (2018 World Cup, Euro 2020 and 2022 World Cup), Mbappe is the only player to match Kane's return. 

He scored or assisted on all seven of his starts in qualifying (eight goals, two assists) and despite failing to capture silverware in his first season in Germany, he sent records tumbling in a brilliant individual campaign.

Thirty-six goals in 32 games made Kane's debut campaign the most prolific in Bundesliga history, with only Robert Lewandowski (41 in 2020-21) and Muller (40 in 1971-72, 38 in 1969-70) ever scoring more in a single season. 

A kind group-stage draw should allow Kane the chance to build some early momentum. Serbia are making their first Euros appearance as an independent nation, while Slovenia are embarking on their first campaign since 2000.

Even Denmark – against whom Kane scored the winner in the Euro 2020 semi-finals – could give up plenty of opportunities.

Their previous 33 matches at the Euros have produced an average of 2.79 goals per game (42 for, 50 against), the highest ratio among the 12 teams to have played at least 20 games.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal's Euro 2020 campaign ended in last-16 heartache against Belgium, but in just four games, Ronaldo did enough to claim the Golden Boot with five goals and one assist, edging out Patrik Schick.

In many ways, this is Ronaldo's competition. He holds the tournament records for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – starting in 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five).

Since 1972, Ronaldo has recorded twice as many goal involvements as any other player at the Euros (20 – 14 goals, six assists), with Michel Platini a distant second (10, nine goals, one assist).

However, age catches up with everyone, and many have questioned the 39-year-old's value to the Selecao since he swapped Manchester United for Al-Nassr after the 2022 World Cup.

Ronaldo may not be playing at the peak of the European game any more, but he set a new single-season record with 35 Saudi Pro League goals in 2023-24, overperforming his xG total of 30.68 even while missing more big chances than any other player in the league (33).

Questions persist regarding Ronaldo's ability to fit into a coherent off-the-ball structure, but if chances fall his way, he is likely to take them. 

He should not suffer from a lack of service. Of the top 10 players in Europe's top five leagues for open-play chances created in 2023-24 (all competitions), three were Portuguese – Bruno Fernandes (first, 111), Bernardo Silva (eighth, 84) and Rafael Leao (joint-10th, 82).

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku became Belgium's all-time leading goalscorer all the way back in 2018 and now has 85 goals in 115 senior international appearances. 

Eleven of those strikes have come at major tournaments (World Cup/Euros), though he struggled enormously in Qatar two years ago and has only netted twice in knockout games for his country.

However, he should not be discounted from the Golden Boot race at this year's tournament.

Lukaku scored an astonishing 14 goals in eight Euro 2024 qualifiers, setting a new record for a single qualification campaign. He scored every 39 minutes on average and converted almost half of his shots (29), accounting for 63.6 per cent of total goals scored by Domenico Tedesco's men (22).

With Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine awaiting Belgium in Group E and a third-place finisher next up if they top their pool, Lukaku should be confident of a strong start.

Like Ronaldo, he will also be serviced by some of the continent's best creators.

Since the start of the 2014 World Cup, Kevin De Bruyne's nine assists at major tournaments (five at the Euros, four at World Cups) are the most of any European player, and he led all Premier League players for expected assists (0.42 xA) and chances created (3.37) per 90 minutes in 2023-24.

Ranking second for xA per 90 (0.33) and third for chances created (2.49)? That would be De Bruyne's City and Belgium team-mate Jeremy Doku. Lukaku will not want for opportunities.

Alvaro Morata

Euro 2020 will live long in the memory of Atletico Madrid striker Morata, but perhaps not for the right reasons.

He netted three times as Spain made the last four, but he was also criticised after missing more big chances (six) than any other player at the tournament. To make matters worse, it was his unsuccessful penalty which allowed Italy to beat La Roja in a semi-final shoot-out.

However, Morata does have a decent pedigree at the Euros, ranking joint-fifth in the competition's all-time goalscoring charts, his six strikes equalling the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Meanwhile, Joselu – Morata's understudy for this tournament – was the only Spain player to match his four goals in qualifying.

Luis de la Fuente's approach does not differ greatly from that of Luis Enrique, so Spain will be patient in their bid to create chances.

La Roja's last 50 goals at the Euros have all been scored from inside the box, their last long-range strike coming via Raul against Slovenia in 2000.

Morata scored 15 goals in 27 LaLiga matches in 2023-24, making it his joint-most prolific campaign in one of Europe's top five leagues (he also netted 15 times for Real Madrid in 2016-17). 

THE OUTSIDERS

Florian Wirtz

The likes of Kai Havertz and Niclas Fullkrug are battling it out to lead the line for Germany, but perhaps their main goal threat will come from deep if Julian Nagelsmann implements a fluid system.

Bayer Leverkusen star Wirtz was crowned Bundesliga Player of the Year after scoring 11 goals and providing 11 assists throughout their unbeaten campaign, also netting four times on their run to the Europa League final.

Gianluca Scamacca

Leverkusen's European campaign ended in heartbreaking fashion against Atalanta in Dublin. While Ademola Lookman did the damage in the final, Scamacca also shone for La Dea and has a great chance of starting at the Euros, given Italy's lack of true striking options.

Scamacca only has one goal in 16 senior appearances for Italy, but if Luciano Spalletti picks his team on form, the former West Ham striker should make it in. He scored 19 goals in all competitions in 2023-24, outperforming his xG total of 11.2 by a huge differential of 7.8.  

Rasmus Hojlund

Might a former Atalanta forward also find himself in contention? Hojlund endured an up-and-down debut season with Manchester United, but he ended it on a high by scoring in his last two Premier League games before helping them triumph in the FA Cup final.

Hojlund top-scored for Denmark with seven goals in qualifying, also leading his team-mates for shots (23), shots on target (13) and xG (5.2). If Denmark are to push England close in Group C, they will need their number nine in top form.

What does history tell us? 

We are highly unlikely to see anyone match Platini's incredible nine-goal haul from Euro 1984, but looking at recent Golden Boot winners does allow us to draw a few conclusions about what is needed to come out on top. 

Since the Euros expanded to 16 teams for 1996, the fewest goals needed to win the Golden Boot was three, with Torres taking the honours in 2012, after his team-mate David Villa did so with four in 2008.

Antoine Griezmann's six goals in 2016 is the closest any player has ever come to Platini's haul, while four of the last seven editions have seen the leading scorer finish on five goals. 

Griezmann and Platini, alongside Shearer in 1996, are also the only standalone winners to claim the award while representing the host nation.

It is also interesting to note that team success does not necessarily translate to individual honours. 

Spain duo Villa and Torres are the only players to claim the Golden Boot as tournament winners since 1992 (when Denmark's Henrik Larsen shared it with three other players).

A deep run of sorts is usually required, though. Ronaldo won the Euro 2020 Golden Boot despite Portugal exiting in the last 16, but the previous four standalone winners all played for teams who reached the semi-finals as a minimum.

As you might have guessed, having the best goalscorer in the competition helps, but it is no guarantee of glory.

Few England fans will be consoled by a Kane Golden Boot if the Three Lions fall short.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE HOSTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FAVOURITES

England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portugal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE UNDERDOGS

Scotland

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

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

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

Austria

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

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

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

Georgia

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

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

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

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

THE BREAKOUT STARS

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

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

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

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

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

The supercomputer's prediction

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

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

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

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

Cristiano Ronaldo will head into his record sixth European Championship as hungry as his first as he targets a dream second title with Portugal.

The 39-year-old scored 10 goals in Euro 2024 qualifying - only Belgium's Romelu Lukaku (14) had more - as Portugal cruised to the finals.

Ronaldo is no longer a guaranteed starter under Roberto Martinez, but he continues to show his importance for his country when called upon.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner struck twice in Tuesday's 3-0 friendly win over Republic of Ireland - his 34th brace at international level.

And heading into what could be his final major tournament for 2016 winners Portugal, Ronaldo is relishing the chance to go out on a high.

"For me, playing for the national team is a passion, a love," Ronaldo is quoted as saying by Record. 

"Any game is special. A European Championship is special. It will be my sixth, which is also a record. 

"Playing in 2004, when I made my debut, or playing today, the feeling is always one of pride and passion. It doesn't get any better than this.

"The thought has to be [winning the tournament]. We have to be positive and take it step by step. 

"Dreaming is free and this team has the talent to dream. Nothing can be achieved without work. We have to work and fight."

Ronaldo has found the net for Portugal in all 21 calendar years since making his senior debut in 2004, scoring 130 goals in 270 appearances.

The first of his double against Ireland was an unstoppable effort into the top corner, which he rates as one of his finest with his left foot.

"I need to rewind, but with the left foot it must be at the top," he said. "The most important thing is that the team played well.

"The objective was to win to give confidence. Whoever came on gave a good response, so I'm very happy with the result."

Portugal have won five of their last nine meetings with managerless Republic of Ireland, losing just once and drawing three times.

The Selecao head into their Group F opener with Czech Republic on a run of mixed form, having won three and lost two games in 2024.

Ronaldo played no part in the 2-1 loss to Croatia last week, while his place in the starting line-up against Czech Republic is far from certain.

However, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is happy to put the team first and respect whatever decision Martinez makes.

"I knew I was going to rest against Croatia. I only started training on the sixth and I was preparing for today's game," he said.

"The most important is the game on the 18th [vs Czech Republic] - we want to start the Euros in the best possible way.

"I'm prepared in the best way. I'm 100 per cent a professional - this is my life. I dedicate myself to giving 100 per cent, not 80 or 90.

"I'm prepared to help the country. It's about respecting the decisions - play or don't play. Those who play give a good response."

Joao Felix was also on target in the win over Republic of Ireland - his first goal in his last five appearances for Portugal and his eighth overall.

Martinez's men follow up their clash with Czech Republic in Leipzig with games against Turkiye and Georgia.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice on his international return as Portugal completed their Euro 2024 preparations with a 3-0 victory over Republic of Ireland in Aveiro.

Roberto Martinez's side were 2-1 losers against fellow European Championship hopefuls Croatia on Saturday but responded three days later with a convincing victory at Aveiro Municipal Stadium.

Joao Felix opened the scoring after just 18 minutes, while Ronaldo was denied by the woodwork in a one-sided first half against John O'Shea's visitors on Tuesday.

Ronaldo would not be stopped after the interval, though, curling in a fine 50th-minute strike before adding a second soon after in a dominant win, just a week before Portugal's Euro 2024 opener against Czechia.

Data Debrief: Ronaldo stars again

Ronaldo stole the headlines with his 129th and 130th goals for his country, having already broken the Saudi Pro League's single-season scoring record in the campaign just gone.

The Portugal talisman was at his brilliant best here, scoring twice from just 0.49 expected goals (xG) – his personal tally marginally higher than the 0.48 xG for O'Shea's lacklustre side.

Cristiano Ronaldo believes Portugal have all the right ingredients to succeed at Euro 2024, but believes the current squad will be judged on the trophies they win as a group.

The 39-year-old will make history in Germany as he becomes the first player to feature in six editions of the competition, already holding the records of having the most games (25), most goals (14) and joint-most assists on record (6). 

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was part of the Selecao das Quinas side that lifted the trophy back in 2016, and is hoping to add another international accolade to his collection. 

"I'm proud to be the first player to play in six EURO tournaments. I'm thrilled about it as it shows the longevity of my career. However, it's merely a chapter in what Cristiano Ronaldo has achieved in football.

"I'm happy and I feel privileged to be here to help the national team achieve its goals and, of course, try to go on and win it, which is our primary goal."

Portugal won all 10 of their qualifiers, but their preparations for the tournament have not gone as planned, suffering defeats to Croatia and Slovenia in recent friendlies.

Roberto Martinez's side face the Republic of Ireland in their final game before they travel to Germany ahead of their Group F opener against the Czech Republic on June 18. 

Despite recent results, Ronaldo believes that the current Portugal squad is full of talented individuals, but insisted that the success of the team will be measured by winning international honours. 

"I firmly believe that this team will bring a lot of joy to the Portuguese fans, beginning with this EURO," said Ronaldo. 

"However, in my opinion, the best generation of players are always those who win (trophies). I hope this national team will win because it's an incredibly talented squad.

"As we all know, though, talent alone is not enough to win. There are many things that go into winning a major tournament like this one. We have all the ingredients to win it, but we'll take it one step at a time, game by game, all the while believing that we can win it.

"What we achieved in 2016 was historic, both in Portuguese football and world football. Now we have our feet firmly on the ground but our mind up in the sky to look up and see that it is possible to win the EURO."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been tipped by John O'Shea to one day manage Portugal once he brings an end to his playing career.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is part of Portugal's squad for Euro 2024, which they kick off with a match against Czech Republic next Tuesday.

Ronaldo will take part in his 13th major international tournament and what could be his last given he will be 41 by the time of the next World Cup.

Despite his age, Ronaldo continues to score regularly for Al Nassr at club level and also netted 10 times in Euro 2024 qualifying.

When the forward does eventually hang up his boots, however, former Manchester United team-mate O'Shea can see him moving into coaching.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's friendly with Portugal, Republic of Ireland interim head coach O'Shea said: "Knowing the type of person he is, the dedication and professionalism he has, I am sure he has plans to carry on in terms of Portugal and where he's going to go.

"I'm sure he has ambitions, further down the line, to manage his country also in tournaments to come - if he wants to bring those pressures on himself. 

"He's had no problem taking the pressure of his country throughout his career. Whatever his next steps will be, I am sure they will be positive for Portugal."

The 10 goals scored by Ronaldo in qualifying was bettered only by Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku (14).

The 39-year-old is the leading scorer in men's international football, netting 128 goals in 206 matches, including 14 in the European Championship finals.

"You see in Saudi, he's scored some goals for this team, and you also see the impact he's had with his goalscoring for Portugal in the campaign to qualify for the Euros, too," O'Shea added.

"I've no doubt whatever plans or rotations Portugal will have to use him, to maximise how far they get in the tournament, I think Ronaldo will be a key part of that, definitely."

2016 champions Portugal will also face Turkiye and Georgia in their Group F campaign.

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.

Roberto Martinez is confident that Cristiano Ronaldo's vast experience will benefit Portugal during Euro 2024.

Ronaldo first played in the Euros in 2004 before winning the competition in 2016, and will surely appear in a record-extending sixth edition later this month.

The 39-year-old is the leading scorer in men's international football, netting 128 goals in 204 official matches, with 14 of those coming in the European Championships.

Ronaldo is entering what could potentially be the final major tournament of his stellar career, and Martinez is hoping to draw on all his experience ahead of their opener.

"Cristiano had very consistent performances at his club. There is no doubt that he is an incredible scorer," Martinez told reporters on Friday.

"He is in his sixth European Championship, and he is the only player who has played in five European Championships. So, we are talking about achieving a unique feat in the world of soccer and his experience is important for us.

"We have 23 players. We create competitiveness and the game makes decisions. But Cristiano is prepared to help the team and give everything he can give. And there is no other player in the world of soccer who can bring what Cristiano can to the dressing room."

Portugal will play a final warm-up game against Croatia on Saturday before beginning their Euro 2024 campaign in Group F against the Czech Republic on June 18. 

Portugal ramped up their Euro 2024 preparations as Bruno Fernandes was twice on target to stave off a late Finland fightback in Tuesday's 4-2 friendly victory.

Roberto Martinez's side were on course for a routine win in their first of three warm-up matches as captain Ruben Dias and Diogo Jota – the latter from the penalty spot – scored in the first half on Tuesday.

Fernandes furthered the hosts' lead after the break at Jose Alvalade Stadium, only for Finland to threaten a comeback just two weeks before Portugal's Euros opener against Czech Republic.

Former Norwich City forward Teemu Pukki twice fired past Jose Sa late on, though his efforts were not enough to salvage an unlikely draw after Fernandes made sure of victory six minutes from time.

Data Debrief: Dominant Portugal avoid late scare

Although Pukki's two strikes within five minutes offered Portugal a little to think about, Martinez's hosts were good value for their win – accumulating 3.05 expected goals to Finland's 0.96

Alongside Fernandes' heroics, Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Vitinha was the star of the show in midfield, creating a game-leading five chances, three more than the entire Finland team managed all game.

Bernardo Silva admits he prefers team awards over individual honours and would choose the Champions League over a Ballon d’Or if given the chance.

Silva was a key figure as Manchester City retained their Premier League title for an unprecedented fourth consecutive season, making 33 appearances in the competition.

The midfielder chipped in with six goals during their title charge, adding nine assists, while also scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup semi-final – a competition they ultimately lost to Manchester United.

Since joining City in July 2017, Silva has won 13 major honours, including six Premier League trophies, two FA Cups, a Champions League, and the Club World Cup.

The Portugal international was ranked the eighth-best men’s player of 2023, but when asked about the subject, he admitted that he does not rate individual awards as highly as those won by a team.

"Recognition is always nice," he told Sky Sports.

"In my opinion, I give the right amount of importance to these awards, because, at the end of the day, we are playing a collective sport. Nowadays, the individual awards always go to the strikers because they have that last touch.

"But if you understand the game, a person who is inside the game, either a player or a manager, you know how important it is to have a proper goalkeeper, a proper defender, a proper midfielder and a proper striker. Not just a proper striker.

"Strikers do not win you titles alone. The base comes from defence. If you defend well, you will attack better. When I look at individual awards and I see that only the guys who score goals win the awards, I feel a bit like it does not represent our sport that well.

"I always do my best to support my team-mates and do what is best for the team. In the end, winning the Champions League is much better than winning a Ballon d'Or. I would not swap it. No chance."

Silva’s attention now turns to Euro 2024 as Portugal aim to challenge for their second title in the competition.

The 29-year-old missed their success in 2016 due to injury, and he concedes there was a "mix of emotions" at seeing Portugal win their first major tournament while not being able to have an impact.

He said: "I was so frustrated before the competition for not going because I wanted to be a part of it. I did all the qualifying. It would have been my first big tournament, and I would have been there, but I got injured.

"But then, in the end, when they won it, I am Portuguese. Everyone was so happy; all my family, all my friends, everyone. So, it was a mix of frustration for not being there but also being very happy because it was our first big title as a country."

However, Silva is up for the challenge of competing in the 2024 edition.

"You are representing your whole country, your family and friends. We are all human. You are going to feel [the pressure] more. Playing for Portugal is always a bit different and special," he added.

"If you love the game, you want to do it well. And if you want to do something well, you feel that responsibility. That is why you feel pressure. In a way, that pressure is a good thing. It is your mind and your body telling you that you want this.

"It is up to you to try to control these emotions."

Portugal begin their Euro 2024 campaign in Group F against the Czech Republic on June 18.

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