Looking to end 58 years of hurt, England get their Euro 2024 campaign under way against Serbia on Sunday.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has suggested it may be a case of all or nothing as he enters his fourth – and potentially final – major tournament at the helm.

Southgate has transformed England from perennial underachievers to genuine contenders, overseeing a surprise fourth-place finish at the 2018 World Cup, then seeing the nation's old nemesis – the penalty spot – haunt them in the Euro 2020 final versus Italy and a 2022 World Cup quarter-final against France.

Penalty shoot-outs excluded, the Three Lions have only lost one of their last 18 games at the Euros (10 wins, seven draws), going down by a 2-1 scoreline in an infamous last-16 clash with Iceland in 2016.

Despite the same opponents inflicting another defeat upon England in their final pre-Euros friendly last week, the Opta supercomputer makes them tournament favourites.

They lift the trophy in 19.9 per cent of competition simulations, just ahead of France (19.1 per cent).

Serbia, however, will be looking to throw a spanner in the works on their first Euros appearance as an independent nation, with the presence of several capable attackers leading some to tout them as a potential surprise package.

Here, we delve into the Opta data to preview Sunday's game.

What's expected?   

England have started all three of their major tournaments under Southgate with a victory, and the Opta supercomputer is backing them to do so again in Germany.

They are given a 62.1 per cent chance of a win, with Serbia only triumphing in 16 per cent of scenarios and the spoils being shared in 21.9 per cent.

 

In the supercomputer's Group C predictions, the Three Lions are given a huge 95.4 per cent chance of reaching the last 16, finishing top in 66 per cent of simulations. 

Serbia advance in 56.2 per cent of projections, fewer than Denmark (69.2 per cent) but more than Slovenia (42.1 per cent). However, they are only given a 12 per cent chance of topping the pool.

This will be England and Serbia's first encounter since the latter re-emerged as an independent state in 2006. In fact, since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, England have only faced Serbia and Montenegro once, winning 2-1 in a 2003 friendly.

The Three Lions are, though, unbeaten in their last six matches against Serbia or Yugoslavia, winning each of the last four.

Their most recent defeat to them was a particularly notable one, though, as Alf Ramsey's world champions lost 2-1 in the semi-finals of Euro 1968, a four-team competition that saw Yugoslavia finish as runners-up.

Attack the best form of defence for Serbia

With Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen, Anthony Gordon and Eberechi Eze competing to support Harry Kane, England's firepower is not in question.

Their ability to keep things tight at the back, though, just might be.

With Harry Maguire sidelined by a calf injury and Luke Shaw not yet ready to feature after recovering from a hamstring issue, Southgate will be forced to field a new-look backline on Sunday. 

Marc Guehi is expected to partner John Stones, and England need to recapture the solidity they displayed at previous tournaments under Southgate. 

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. 

Should they fall short of those standards in Gelsenkirchen, the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic and Dusan Tadic are well-equipped to punish them.

Serbia have only managed five clean sheets in 25 competitive outings under Dragan Stojkovic, who took over in 2021.

However, they have only failed to score on two of those outings, against Norway (0-1 in the Nations League) and Brazil (0-2 at the 2022 World Cup).

Generally using a 3-5-2 shape and looking to isolate Mitrovic and Vlahovic against their markers, Serbia will pose a real physical test. They scored one third (five of 15) of their goals in Euro 2024 qualifying via headers, the highest percentage of any team to reach Germany.

The Three Lions must be prepared to withstand an aerial bombardment. 

Can Alexander-Arnold solve midfield conundrum?

Aside from Maguire's replacement, the main talking point in the build-up to England's opener has been the identity of Declan Rice's midfield partner.

Manchester United's Kobbie Mainoo looked to be in pole position at the end of the domestic season, but reports now suggest Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold – who will don the number eight shirt – will start as first-choice.  

Alexander-Arnold has played a total of 25,078 minutes of competitive football for Liverpool, and only one per cent of those have come in central midfield, so playing the position at a major tournament could represent something of a baptism of fire.

However, Alexander-Arnold – who is accustomed to inverting into central areas at club level – could prove a useful asset as England look to prise open low blocks.

 

He ranked eighth among all outfielders for accurate long balls (147) in the Premier League last season and third for switches of play (32). If he can help to get the likes of Foden and Saka isolated against Serbia's wing-backs on Sunday, that could be key to opening the door.

Meanwhile, England are well aware of the importance of dead balls at major tournaments. They ranked either first or joint-first for goals from set-pieces at the 2018 World Cup (six goals), Euro 2020 (three) and the 2022 World Cup (two).

Since making his Premier League debut in December 2016, Alexander-Arnold leads all players in the division for set-play assists (20) and ranks joint-third for chances created from such scenarios (184). 

Maguire may be absent, but if Alexander-Arnold brings his dead-ball prowess to Germany, England will be a force to be reckoned with from corners and free-kicks.  

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Serbia – Aleksandar Mitrovic

Mitrovic, who is Serbia's all-time leading scorer with 58 goals in 91 matches, still looks sharp despite swapping the Premier League for the Saudi Pro League last year.

The former Fulham man plundered 28 goals in 28 league games for Al-Hilal in 2023-24, with only Cristiano Ronaldo – with 35 strikes in 31 matches – topping him in the scoring charts.

Under Stojkovic, Mitrovic has 21 goals in 23 competitive appearances for his country, with the majority of his goals coming via headers (52 per cent).

England – Harry Kane 

If England are to go all the way, they will need Kane to deliver in his new home country, after he saw a 44-goal debut season with Bayern Munich go unrewarded in terms of silverware.

 

Kane is also a proven operator on the international stage, scoring 12 goals across the last three major international tournaments – six at the 2018 World Cup, four at Euro 2020 and two at the 2022 World Cup. 

No European player has bettered that tally, with only France's Kylian Mbappe matching it.

He also scored or assisted on all seven of his starts in qualifying (eight goals, two assists), including a brace in an impressive 3-1 win over European champions Italy last October.

Atlanta United interim head coach Rob Valentino is hoping to get off to a positive start when they welcome Houston Dynamo to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta announced on June 3 that they had parted ways with Gonzalo Pineda, with Valentino stepping into his shoes with the Five Stripes sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference.

They have won just one of their last 11 matches in the MLS – beating Inter Miami 3-1 – but defeat to Charlotte FC last time out spelt the end for Pineda.

"I want to get back to that enjoyment," Valentino said. "How we can find that every day, on and off the field - and shared success.

"When you look at teams and organizations, it is not one person's fault, it is shared in terms of where we are. There is that responsibility and accountability.

"But on the other side of it, I want there to be shared success. We really want to enjoy the day-to-day. I think that is going to be the message going forward from myself."

Meanwhile, Houston are seventh in the Western Conference after losing just two of their seven matches before the mid-season break.

Having ended their scoreless run in May, head coach Ben Olsen is keen to ensure their good run in front of goal continues.

"Even on the road, we're putting up numbers," said Olsen. "We're constantly working to fine-tune some things and push the guys in making real actions and moving with conviction in the final third.

"[Not scoring] was a frustrating period for us, so now, hopefully, the goal stays big for us. There's a lot still to be desired, but I'm looking forward to being back at work."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Atlanta United – Thiago Almada

Almada scored his fourth goal of the campaign in Atlanta's defeat to Charlotte FC last time out, making him joint-second in the team’s scoring charts this season. He is now just one behind top scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis.

Houston Dynamo – Sebastian Kowalczyk

Kowalczyk has scored in consecutive games for the Dynamo after having found the net just once in his first 21 career MLS matches. Kowalczyk is the third Dynamo player to score in consecutive appearances this season after Latif Blessing, Ibrahim Aliyu.

MATCH PREDICTION: ATLANTA UNITED WIN

The home side has won all three meetings between Atlanta and Houston. The home side have outscored the visitors 13-1 in the three games, with the hosts scoring at least four times in all three meetings.

However, Atlanta have lost a club-record five straight regular-season home matches. Prior to this run, Atlanta had never lost more than two consecutive home league games before.

Since moving to the Western Conference in 2015, the Dynamo have managed just five wins in 41 away matches against Eastern foes (D9 L27). Since the start of the 2019 season, Houston have lost 14 of 19 away matches against the East (W2 D3).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Atlanta United – 44%

Draw – 26.8%

Houston Dynamo – 29.2%

Borussia Dortmund have appointed former midfielder Nuri Sahin as their new head coach following the departure of Edin Terzic.

Having led Dortmund to the Champions League final earlier this month, when they were beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium, Terzic surprisingly resigned on Thursday.

The 41-year-old – who was in his second spell in charge – had previously overseen a second-placed Bundesliga finish in 2022-23, when a final-day draw with Mainz allowed rivals Bayern Munich to snatch the title.

Terzic brought Sahin in as an assistant manager in January, just a few days after he left his first head coaching role with Turkish Super Lig team Antalyaspor.

On Friday, Dortmund confirmed Sahin would step up to the top job after signing a contract to run until June 2027.

Sahin came through Dortmund's youth system and made his senior debut for the team as a 16-year-old in 2005.

He made 274 appearances for the club throughout three spells as a player, either side of stints with Real Madrid and Liverpool.

Sahin became Antalyaspor boss at just 32 years of age in 2021, having previously represented them as a player. 

He led them to a seventh-placed finish in the Super Lig in 2021-22, though they dropped to 13th in his second season at the helm. Overall, Sahin won 44 of his 94 games in charge of Antalyaspor (46.8 per cent).

Earlier on Friday, Dortmund also confirmed veteran centre-back Mats Hummels was leaving the club, having made 508 appearances across two spells totalling 13 years at Signal Iduna Park.

Jordan Pickford has urged England to embrace the pressure of being one of the favourites to win Euro 2024.

England made it to the final of Euro 2020, ultimately losing on penalties to Italy, as well as reaching the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the last two World Cups under Gareth Southgate.

According to the Opta supercomputer, England are the slight favourites going into Euro 2024, with a 19.9 per cent chance of lifting the trophy for the first time, narrowly ahead of France (19.1 per cent).

Pickford has faith that the squad, despite being quite young, will be able to cope with the expectations placed on them due to the favourites tag.

"Apart from Russia in 2018 [World Cup], where there was no pressure on us, to be a top, elite team you have got to have pressure," Pickford said. "You have got to deal with it. To be one of the favourites, you have got to enjoy that pressure.

"I think we've got the right balance [between experience and youth]. With experience, we can help the younger lads who haven't had as many caps, but everyone has different experiences through their own football careers.

"Some of the lads who are newer have been to major tournaments at younger levels and you have got to go away from home for a while. Everyone has been through those experiences.

"The senior lads, we have got to help those younger lads if needs be, but they are top players, they don't need much help."

The goalkeeper has also shrugged off worries that the defensive changes in England's squad will affect their chances at the tournament.

Harry Maguire, a mainstay in previous tournaments under Southgate, had to withdraw from the preliminary squad due to a calf injury he sustained in April.

Meanwhile, Luke Shaw will not be fit to start the Euros, and John Stones missed training on Wednesday due to illness, though he returned on Thursday.

Despite an unsettled look to England's back four, Pickford is confident whoever starts in front of him against Serbia will be prepared for the challenge.

Pickford said: "It doesn't affect us. [There's] lot of lads I've played with anyway. Anyone who's in the England squad is there for what they have done for their club.

"It's easy [playing with younger defenders]. They're there because of talent.

"When they're talented, I can help them, guide them, because I can see the full pitch and just my communication is hopefully a key to help them. That's what I think I'm good at. They know what they're doing in front of me.

"Everyone is fighting for a spot. Whoever plays, we are always ready and prepared. That's what the manager and the staff do. They get us ready and prepared for whoever it is."

England's Euro 2024 campaign begins against Serbia on Sunday, with Denmark and Slovenia following in Group C. 

The ties between Jamaica’s football and corporate Jamaica got stronger on Thursday as well-loved brand Wray & Nephew unveiled plans for a newly minted Wray & Nephew Football Programme.

The programme, inspired by the longstanding partnerships with the island’s most impactful sporting competitions, was developed to foster the technical advancement of football in Jamaica, with a special emphasis on coaching education and bolstering the journey of the Reggae Boyz and Reggae Girlz towards the World Cup.

The investment will be to the sum of approximately $200 million over the next three years.

“The Wray and Nephew Football Program has been created to support our commitment to advance football in Jamaica. To that effect, we have decided to increase and widen our support and investment in the beautiful game,” said Jean-Philippe Beyer, Managing Director at J. Wray & Nephew.

“Supporting football from grassroots programs to professional leagues is a privilege for us and I say this because, through this partnership, we are not only seeing the triumphs of our players and our coaches, we are also seeing the positive impacts their achievements have on their families and communities,” he added.

In addition to being the title sponsors of both the JPL and Major League, Wray & Nephew will also be the official spirit of the senior Reggae Boyz and Reggae Girlz, supporting them in their dream of qualifying for the World Cup.

Beyer also announced that Wray & Nephew are in the process of directly sponsoring some stadiums.

“We are still in discussions with a number of them but tonight I can announce that we are at the contract stage with Ferdi Neita Park and Waterhouse Mini Stadium,” he said.

Ferdi Neita Park is the home of Portmore United while Waterhouse Mini Stadium houses Waterhouse FC.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts, who was also on hand on Thursday, has always pleaded for corporate Jamaica to get more involved in the country’s football and he was understandably elated that Wray & Nephew has done just that.

“When we get a positive response from our daily calls from corporate Jamaica to come on board and help us use the sport of football to socially impact the well-being of boys and girls in this country, I am absolutely delighted,” he said.

The Hon. Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, recognised the importance of the partnership between corporate Jamaica and sport.

“This evening, we add another to the many partnerships between Jamaican companies and sporting bodies, communities and the Government over the years,” she said.

“This partnership with a Jamaican-born company, J. Wray & Nephew Ltd, is a cause for celebration because, not only are we stronger together, but this partnership also highlights our shared passion for football and our vibrant sporting culture which, together, have brought so much joy to our people,” she added.

 

 

Luciano Spalletti is confident Italy can live up to expectations as they aim to win a second consecutive Euros title.

Roberto Mancini led Italy to Euro 2020 glory during an impressive 37-game unbeaten run as they beat England 3-2 on penalties at Wembley Stadium.

Since taking over, Spalletti led Italy to qualification for the tournament and is unbeaten in six matches.

Now trying to emulate his predecessor's success, the 65-year-old is confident his squad have what it takes to become just the second team to win back-to-back editions of the tournament.

"For any child that goes out every evening and sweats, grazes their knees, then we are their heroes, what they dream of," he said.

"It's up to us to live up to that. Giants and heroes don't go out with fear; they go out with passion and belief. Every one of us needs to ensure they have their toolbox and can screw or unscrew what they need to.

"We have our own brand of football, and need to keep faith in it, but sometimes your opponents stop you. That's football! But I'm confident we can impose our game plan."

Spalletti also confirmed Nicolo Barella could be in contention for Italy's opener against Albania after overcoming a muscle injury that kept him out of their warm-up friendlies.

"Yesterday he did everything," Spalletti added. "We will see what happens today. We will see how he feels.

"But as of yesterday evening, everything suggests that he will be available for selection."

Gianluigi Donnarumma was the hero in the Euro 2020 final, saving Bukayo Saka's penalty in the shootout to ensure victory for the Azzurri.

Now captaining the side, the goalkeeper is hoping to get off to a positive start against Albania to avoid any early nerves over their fate in the competition.

"This match is the biggest banana skin in our group," Donnarumma said. "We have to be 100 per cent switched on. Albania have a lot of pace, a lot of threat. This match will be hugely important.

"When you prepare to embark on a competition like this, then you can only be motivated. We start in the same spirit of three years ago, and we will try to recreate the magic of 2021. The survivors of three years ago will certainly give the newer players a few pointers.

"If we win tomorrow night, it will be a big step to qualification. Winning will put us in a strong position; not winning would put us under pressure."

Seamus Coleman says he is "going to cherish and enjoy every moment" after signing a new one-year deal at Everton.

The club captain, who arrived from Sligo Rovers in January 2009, has extended his contract with the Toffees, ensuring he will play in their final season at Goodison Park.

Coleman has made a record 364 appearances for Everton in the Premier League, while only 12 players have appeared more times than the Republic of Ireland defender across all competitions (422).

The 35-year-old full-back, who was appointed skipper in 2019, is thrilled to remain with "this special club", especially as they prepare to say farewell to Goodison.

"Everyone knows what Everton means to me, and I'm very proud and honoured to sign a new contract and to keep playing for this special club in the best league in the world," Coleman told evertontv. "I'm going to cherish and enjoy every moment.

"It's hard to believe it’s going to be our last season at Goodison, such a special place to me and every Evertonian. Of course, I want to be part of that. 

"I still feel I can do a job for this football club on and off the pitch. This being our last season at Goodison is a nice way to go into the campaign, but I wouldn't have signed the contract if I didn't feel capable of contributing to the team."

"From the day I became Everton manager, Seamus has been a great example to his team-mates and staff of what it means to play for the club," head coach Sean Dyche added.

"He is a model professional and helps set standards, and his leadership is rightly admired by everyone. His vast experience and know-how on the pitch will continue to be valuable qualities for us in the season ahead."

Borussia Dortmund have confirmed the departure of Mats Hummels after a combined 13-and-a-half years at the club.

Hummels initially joined on loan from Bayern Munich in January 2008 and went on to make 508 appearances across two spells with Dortmund, who he left in 2016 before returning three years later.

The decorated defender won back-to-back Bundesliga titles with the Black and Yellow in 2010-11 and 2011-12, while also helping them reach two Champions League finals.

The latter of these came earlier this month when Edin Terzic's side were beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid at Wembley.

During his second spell, Hummels made 367 Bundesliga appearances - 343 of which were starts - with Dortmund winning 216 of those and keeping 108 clean sheets along the way.

The decorated defender, who also won three Bundesliga titles with Bayern as well as the 2014 World Cup with Germany, is the club's second significant departure in as many days, with head coach Terzic resigning on Thursday.

"It was a huge honour and pleasure for me to have played for BVB for so long and to have been part of the journey from 13th place in January 2008 to what Borussia Dortmund is today," he told the club's official website.

"This club with its fans is something very special - and for me, much more than that. I would also like to thank all the BVB employees who do great work for this club and, of course, the countless great coaches and fantastic team-mates I have been able to experience here.

"I'll be cheering from afar and hopefully in the stadium, from time to time. I will miss you."

"In Mats Hummels, we are undoubtedly losing an outstanding personality, perhaps one of the last of his kind in football," sporting director Sebastian Kehl added.

"Mats has not only shaped BVB during his career, but has also taken the centre-back game to a new level worldwide. In addition, Mats is a real guy who challenges himself and others at all times.

"I thank Mats for his passion, for his will to succeed, also for his rough edges. Everyone at BVB wishes him all the best for his sporting and private future. Personally, I will always remain connected to Mats, whom I have held in high esteem for many, many years."

Jamaica warmed up for the 48th edition of the Copa America with back-to-back tame displays in their World Cup qualifiers. A slender 1-0 home win over Dominican Republic was followed up with an insipid 3-2 triumph in Dominica.

It is back to the drawing board for Jamaica head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, who will be chasing regional bragging rights when the leading 16 nations from the Caribbean as well as North and South America tackle the marquee tournament.

Although his ultimate goal would be for the Reggae Boyz to lift the crown in Florida on 14 July, Jamaica need to navigate themselves out of the group phases before trying to net the top prize.

The 2024 Copa America, hosted in the US from 20 June to 14 July, will feature 10 CONMEBOL members from South America and six invited countries from the North America and Caribbean CONCACAF region.

All eyes will be on Argentina, the defending champions and FIFA World Cup winners, to make it a hat-trick of trophies.

GROUP A | Argentina, Chile, Peru, Chile
Argentina hardly ever concede goals, kick-off their campaign with a star-stunned squad that includes Angel Di Maria, the legendary Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Montiel, whose spot-kick secured the World Cup final win over France.

Argentina beat both Chile (2-1) and Peru (2-0) in 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Yet Peru, who failed to get a shot on target in their November tie with Messi and his mates, had held Argentina to three draws on the spin before their last encounter.

Chile, the Copa America 2016 champions Chile, have been off colour recently under veteran manager Jorge Fossati, and rely on veterans — like Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas — to add sparks.

Canada should be better than their results suggest under recently appointed head coach Jesse Marsh, who won two caps for the US. He has a plethora of talents — like Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David — keen to start matches on Canada’s Copa America
Prediction: 1st Argentina, 2nd Canada, 3rd Chile, 4th Peru

GROUP B | Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Jamaica

Mexico went two-and-a-half matches without scoring at the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. They brought in Jaime “Jimmy” Lozano as interim head coach for the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and after winning the top prize he was appointed on a permanent basis. Yet he is surprisingly shelving veterans for the Copa America, instead giving emerging talents an opportunity to showcase their silky skills.

This appears to be a hit and miss group with Ecuador, Jamaica and Venezuela all capable of beating understrength Mexico. However, the Mexicans will benefit from vociferous support in the stadiums.

Ecuador and Venezuela ended in a bore scoreless draw last October. Defensively-minded Ecuador have stars Moises Caicedo, Piero Hincapie and Willian Pacho. Venezuela have hit a purple patch by purring through their World Cup qualifiers.

Jamaica still have failed to produce eye-catching displays under former Iceland head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson, despite their array of English Premier League stars. The Boyz just grind out results, although tend to make good progress in tournaments mainly thanks to reliable shotstopper Andre Blake.

Prediction: 1st Mexico, 2nd Jamaica, 3rd Venezuela, 4th Ecuador

GROUP C | Uruguay, USA, Bolivia, Panama

Uruguay are a real force to be reckoned with, with stunning victories over Argentina and Brazil last year under head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Uruguay are a terrific blend of future stars and seasoned aces with names like Darwin Nunez, Luis Suarez, Manuel Ugarte and Fede Valverde enough to scare opponents.

The US will be under pressure with high expectations from their fans on home soil. Despite being FIFA’s highest-ranked CONCACAF side, there are flaws with defensive uncertainty and an inability to find the back of the net despite having an array of striking power from the likes of Folarin Balogun, Weston McKennie, Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic and Haji Wright.

Panama, narrowly beaten by Mexico in the Gold Cup final, will kick themselves if they fail to reach the quarter-finals. They are brimming with confidence having hit a rich vein of form.

Bolivia are the weakest South American side, with a dreadful World Cup qualifying campaign. They are unlikely to end their 11-match run of failing to win a Copa America group stage match.

Prediction: 1st Uruguay, 2nd Panama, 3rd USA, 4th Bolivia
GROUP D | Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica

Colombia have become a fantastic side since hiring head coach Nestor Lorenzo last year. They arrive at the Copa Amercia as the only South American nation unbeaten in World Cup qualifiers, including a 2-1 win over Brazil last year. Striker Luis Diaz can be lethal, and will be keen to better his tally of four goals at 2021 Copa America.

Five-time World Cup winners Brazil, having tasted three World Cup qualification defeats on the bounce for their worst run since 2001 are arguably no longer the force they once were. After their 1-0 reversal to Argentina last November, their first-ever home World Cup qualifying loss, Dorival Junior was brought in as head coach. Under Junior’s tutelage they beat England and drew with Spain. Hot-shots Vinicius Junior and 17-year-old wonderkid Endrick are aiming to transform Brazil’s fortunes.

Paraguay will be aiming to shoot down Brazil, but need a solid goalscorer. They are pretty solid defensively, and could be sensational if midfield maestro Miguel Almiron and striker Julio Enciso can replicate their silky skills seen in the English Premier League. Costa Rica face an uphill task to navigate their way to the knockout stages, and there will be big boots to fill between the sticks with iconic keeper Keylor Navas recently announcing his international retirement.

Prediction: 1st Colombia, 2nd Brazil, 3rd Paraguay, 4th Costa Rica

 

Bayer Leverkusen have completed the signing of Girona captain Aleix Garcia on a five-year deal.

The Spain international is Leverkusen's second arrival during the close season, along with Jeanuel Belocian, who will join the club from Ligue 1 side Rennes on July 1.

Garcia played a key role in the middle of the park during a memorable 2023-24 campaign for Girona, with three goals and six assists in 37 appearances as they finished third in LaLiga and qualified for the Champions League for the first time.

The 26-year-old will link up with compatriot Xabi Alonso, who oversaw an unbeaten domestic season as Leverkusen landed the first Bundesliga title in their history.

Die Werkself also captured the DFB-Pokal and were runners-up to Atalanta in the Europa League, and Garcia hopes he can help the club build on that success.

"I'm very happy to join this big club," he told Leverkusen's official website.

"Like football fans in the whole of Europe, I have admired Bayer Leverkusen for their exceptional achievements in the season just gone. That's why I wanted to join this club, to do big things.

"I've been thrilled that a club like this has done so much to get me. Now, I definitely want to fulfil all the expectations of myself, and make my contribution to this team and the club in continuing to be successful."

Conor Gallagher is parking any thoughts about his Chelsea future to focus on England's bid for Euro 2024 glory in Germany.

The 24-year-old midfielder has been linked with a Stamford Bridge exit amid reports the Blues might cash in to ease their Profit and Sustainability rules situation, with any sale for Gallagher classed as 100 per cent profit due to the fact he came through the academy.

Tottenham and Aston Villa are among those to have been linked with a move for Gallagher, who was one of Chelsea's more consistent performers in a topsy-turvy 2023-24 Premier League campaign.

However, Gallagher - chosen for a second successive major tournament - is not allowing himself to look beyond the Euros as Gareth Southgate's men prepare to begin their Group C campaign against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.

In quotes reported by BBC Sport, Gallagher said: "I'm a Chelsea player right now and I'm just thinking about England and the tournament.

"It's not difficult. I'm away with England and I couldn't be happier with the position I'm in.

"I've just been focusing on England. This is the most important thing right now for me and the country.

"I'm hoping I can help the team more on the pitch in this tournament."

Eric Ramsay is looking forward to the challenge Minnesota United face when they travel to Seattle Sounders in the MLS on Saturday.

Minnesota are third in the Western Conference, having lost just one of their last nine matches in the competition.

With leaders Real Salt Lake just four points in front of them, the Loons are looking to keep on the pressure, but they have never earned a point when travelling to Seattle.

However, Ramsey is confident his team can put that history behind them after watching them rise to challenges throughout the season.

"It's a challenge that we can go and meet head-on," he said. "We've met challenges all the way through this season in that way.

"I can only imagine it's a positive, if anything. I said to the group that every time they've been asked to rise to the occasion, largely they've done that.

"Going to a place like that, where we obviously find it difficult - we have a big few days that could arguably define the upcoming period."

Meanwhile, Seattle have won just one of their last five outings and sit outside the playoff places in the table.

Captain Stefan Frei admitted it is tough to look on the bright side after their poor run, but is hopeful they can get themselves out of trouble.

"Finding positive things has been hard this year. Finding frustration is very easy," said Frei. "Finding negatives is very easy.

"But you cannot succumb to that because no good will come from it. You've got to keep trying to find positives and, if not, create them so that we can all find a way out of this hole. Even as an individual, to find a way through it, so you can help the rest of the team."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Seattle Sounders – Stefan Frei

Seattle conceded the game-winning goal to Kansas City in the 85th minute on Saturday in a 2-1 defeat.

The Sounders have allowed a result-changing goal in the last 10 minutes five times this season, including in three of their last four regular-season matches (two equalizers, one winner). Stefan Frei will be aiming to avoid conceding another late goal on Saturday.

Minnesota United – Hassani Dotson

Dotson scored just his second goal of the season in Minnesota's 1-1 draw with FC Dallas last time out. Only five players for the Loons have netted more times than him this season.

MATCH PREDICTION: SEATTLE SOUNDERS WIN

The Sounders have won all eight of their home matches against Minnesota United (incl. playoffs). The longest home winning streak by one team over another in MLS play (incl. playoffs) is nine straight, done five times, most recently by Philadelphia Union against D.C. United (2015-22).

Six of Seattle's last eight home MLS matches have ended in draws (W1 L1), including the last three in a row. Dating back to last June, the Sounders have split the points in 10 of their last 15 home league games.

Meanwhile, Minnesota have lost only one of their last nine regular-season matches (W5 D3) following a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas on Saturday. The Loons enter their 17th match of the season with just three defeats this year after having never had fewer than five losses in the first half of a full season before.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Seattle Sounders – 41.6%

Draw – 26.7%

Minnesota United – 31.8%

Andy Robertson challenged Scotland to "make history" as they prepare for their Euro 2024 opener against hosts Germany on Friday.

Scotland qualified for their second consecutive European championships after a strong qualifying campaign saw them finish second in their group behind Spain.

In Euro 2020, Scotland were knocked out at the end of the group stage having earned just one point from their three games.

Now, Robertson has urged the Tartan Army to become the first side in the nation's history to make the knockout stages of the competition, despite the tough test ahead of them.

"We know that's what's at stake," said Robertson in a press conference. "We've got a lot of incentives, but one is becoming that legendary squad - that has to drive us forward.

"We have to be at our best and if we can do that, who knows where we'll be come 23 June.

"We don't want to have any regrets this time. What's the worst that can happen? We go on to a long list of teams that haven't made it out the group, or we put ourselves in a position to make history.

"We're excited by the challenge, we're excited about what's ahead, and if we perform the way I know we can perform, then I'm confident we can make history."

Steve Clarke is the first Scotland manager to lead the team out in two consecutive Euros, and he is confident his team can block out the noise surrounding the fixture and get a positive result.

"One of the mantras I've had is respect everyone and fear no-one," Clarke said. "We know they're a good team, but hopefully, we can show everyone we're a good team as well.

"We're proud we've been able to do back-to-back tournaments and hopefully, by the end of this, we'll be even more proud at having done something a bit more special."

LA Galaxy captain Maya Yoshida says the team are not satisfied with their position at the halfway stage of the MLS season, with Sporting Kansas City next up on Saturday.

The Galaxy's six-match unbeaten streak ended before the mid-season break, with the Chicago Fire coming from behind to beat them 2-1.

They sit fourth in the Western Conference, five points behind leaders Real Salt Lake, but Yoshida believes they should be challenging for the top spot.

"It's a big improvement on last season, but I'm still not satisfied. I'm still not happy enough," Yoshida said.

"Maybe, generally, people say the Galaxy are doing well, but I feel like we could play better and get more points. We should be top of the league. I'll always stay hungry and greedy, and I want to do more and more and more."

Head coach Greg Vanney echoed his thoughts, saying: "I'm pretty happy with the point total that we have from the first half of the season.

"We let a couple of opportunities to be a little higher go. I think we learned a lot about ourselves that we need to clean up or keep using as we understand ourselves better."

Sporting snapped a 10-match winless run last weekend with a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders, leaving them in 12th.

Peter Vermes is confident his team can use that victory as a platform to push them forward for the second half of the season.

He said: "This is a good team. The issue last year, which was different, was for the longest time, I had to be the one to tell them that. Our win over [Colorado] should reinforce that message that they're good. When they want to play, they can play."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

LA Galaxy – Riqui Puig

Puig has found the net in three consecutive appearances for the Galaxy for the first time in his MLS career. The Spaniard has been involved in seven goals since the beginning of May with only four players in MLS involved in more in that time.

Sporting Kansas City – Johnny Russell

Russell scored his seventh career regular-season goal against Seattle Sounders in the win on Saturday, his most against any opponent, breaking a tie with three other teams against whom he has scored six times, including the Galaxy.

MATCH PREDICTION: LA GALAXY WIN

The Galaxy ended a six-match winless run against Kansas City (D3 L3) with a 3-2 road win on March 24. The win was just the Galaxy's third in their last 17 matches against Sporting dating back to October 2015 (D7 L7).

LA have lost only one of their last 17 regular-season home matches (W8 D8), including winning four of their last five in Carson (D1). The 17 matches in that run have seen a total of 67 goals for an average of 3.9 per match.

Meanwhile, Kansas City ended a seven-match losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Seattle on Saturday. Sporting came from 1-0 down in the match as they have gone behind in 10 straight league matches dating back to mid-April.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

LA Galaxy – 53.5%

Draw – 23.8%

Sporting Kansas City – 22.7%

Julian Nagelsmann is confident his side can beat the pressure of being the host nation as they prepare to kick off the tournament against Scotland on Friday.

The 36-year-old is taking charge of his first major tournament with Germany after taking over from Hansi Flick in September and has lost just one of his eight games since taking over.

Germany have struggled in recent major tournaments, getting knocked out of Euro 2020 in the round of 16 before crashing out of the 2022 World Cup in the group stages.

However, Die Mannschaft are aiming to end that run, chasing a fourth European title and their first since 1996, with Nagelsmann confident his team can channel their nervous energy into positive performances.

"I think we're a bit nervous, but it's an important point, we have to have a certain nervousness," he said. "There was such a buzz [in the camp], a bit like in school. It was really loud: 'Can everyone please calm down a bit!'.

"I look in our players' eyes and see the belief and will to win. I want us to believe in ourselves: we have great players, good togetherness, home advantage, we've had great training sessions and a good mentality.

"We have everything: we just have to show it tomorrow, and that's why belief is very important.

"We can beat pressure, and we can beat Scotland as well."

Scotland arrive as heavy outsiders and are making just their fourth appearance at the Euros compared to Germany's record 14.

The Tartan Army qualified second in their group after a strong opening to their campaign, and Nagelsmann praised their performances under Steve Clark.

"They don't have world stars, but that makes them very dangerous," he added. "They work very hard and have a classic mentality, but it's not a kick and rush team. They can do that, but they can play football.

"We will have more pressure on us than Scotland, and they will want to capitalise on that."

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