Euro 2024 Daily: Italy get second chance to find themselves


Euro 2024 is underway! Our daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what to watch for and best reads.

Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Germany all the way up to the final July 14.


The lead: Zaccagni gives Italy second chance to find themselves

LEIPZIG, Germany — It turned out to be the night of redemption and heroes in Leipzig. Likely heroes such as Luka Modric, who redeemed himself after his penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma materialising in the box and poking in what looked to be the winner, and unlikely heroes, such as Mattia Zaccagni.

The Lazio winger turned 29 a week ago, is a late bloomer who won the first of his measly six Italy caps at 26 and, until now, was perhaps best known for regularly ranking alongside Vinícius Júnior among the most fouled (and most booked) players in Europe’s Big Five leagues. And yet he was the guy — in the eighth and final minute of injury time — who smacked a loose ball just inside the far post, saving Italy’s second place in Group B by snatching a late 1-1 draw against Croatia on Monday.

That goal also spared Italy the dual embarrassment of losing two out of three group games (a first for them at the Euros) and having to endure 48 hours of wracked nerves, finger-pointing and second-guessing before they found out whether they’d be advancing as one of the four best third-placed teams. Instead, their reward is a round-of-16 clash with northern neighbors Switzerland in Berlin.

Not a bad outcome when you think about it.

You imagine Luciano Spalletti will do the old ball coach thing of telling the players they got an unexpected second chance and challenging them to make the most of the opportunity. Great. But what they really need is consistent messaging.

Spalletti talked about wanting them to have a clear identity and sticking to it. Fine. Except that apparently went out the window after the Spain defeat on Thursday. The scheme changed from 4-3-3 to 3-4-2-1, the forwards changed from Federico Chiesa and Gianluca Scamacca to Mateo Retegui and Giacomo Raspadori. The general identity — a vague sense of wanting to be proactive and attacking and pressing — stayed the same, but the patterns of play were all different.

Spain made Italy pay for it because they had two roadrunners on the wings and a central midfield packed with quality and dynamism. Croatia didn’t have quick wide men, and while they obviously had talent in midfield, the likes of Modric and Marcelo Brozovic won’t be mistaken for N’Golo Kante off the ball at this stage of their careers. And yet, Italy’s pressing-and-possession setup — even with the new 3-4-2-1 scheme — seemed fragile.

Simply put, Spalletti can’t have it both ways. You either adapt to your opponent or you make your opponent adapt to you.

Zaccagni’s improbable buzzer-beater gives Spalletti and Italy another chance to figure out who they want to be. — Gabriele Marcotti


Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Albania exit with heads held high as Spain remain unbeaten

“Anything is possible in 90 minutes,” Albania coach Sylvinho said before his side’s final group game against Spain and, for a short while, that did seem the case. As the smoke from the flares seeped out from beneath the “Stronger Together” tifo held up by the thousands of Albania fans at the Arena Düsseldorf and filled the night sky, the knockout stages didn’t seem so far away. The players responded with a thundering start. They had scored early against Italy and Croatia and the noise that greeted their first corner in the fifth minute was deafening. But then, in the 13th minute, Ferran Torres netted his 20th goal for Spain and punctured the mood.

Sylvinho had said something else before the match: “Spain’s second team would be favourites in the final of the Euros.” After disposing of Croatia and Italy, La Roja were afforded the luxury of making 10 changes to their team in Düsseldorf. It didn’t knock them out of their stride. The heavily rotated side did a better job of containing Albania than Italy and Croatia managed. However, there were chances for Albania as they pushed for a result that would have taken them through to the knockout round for the first time ever. Spain goalkeeper David Raya denied both Kristjan Asllani and Armando Broja twice.

Spain could have added to their tally, too, but one was enough as the Group B winners became the first team at the tournament to make it three wins from three. The night ended as it began, though, with Spain’s victorious support drowned out by Albania’s fans making an almighty racket — this time with the players in front of them, thanking them for their backing in Germany after coming up just short in one of the tournament’s most fearsome groups. — Sam Marsden

Ronaldo borrows Bruno’s boots

If you are a keen observer with an eye for detail, you may have noticed that Cristiano Ronaldo changed boots at half-time of Portugal’s 3-0 win over Turkey on Saturday. He was wearing his usual green “Nike Mercurial Superfly 9 Dream Speed 8” model in the first half but after the break, he had the new pink “Nike Mercurial Vapor 15 Mad Brilliance” on.

In itself, that is a bit unusual. Players may change their boots for studs or for those moulded based on the turf, but don’t usually change models. What is even more bizarre in this case is that Ronaldo actually borrowed a pair belonging to teammate Bruno Fernandes.

How do we know this? Well, what gave it away is that “Matilde” was written on the side of the boots. Players often add the names of their children, or their country’s flag, and Matilde is Bruno’s daughter.

The two players clearly have the same shoe size, but it is not clear as to why the Manchester United midfielder lent his captain a pair of his own made-to-measure boots. Did Ronaldo not feel comfortable in his usual ones? We know that he has his boots made really tight, so were they too tight in this case? Or maybe after not scoring in the first game against Czechia, or in the first half against Turkey, Ronaldo wanted a change to bring him some luck?

A goal didn’t come with borrowed boots either, but later in the second half, the Al Nassr forward assisted Bruno for Portugal’s third. — Julien Laurens

Berlin fan zone expanded to double its size

Euro 2024 fever has taken over Germany, so much so that the 35,000-capacity fan zone in the capital Berlin had to be closed during their first two games against Scotland and Hungary because of overcrowding.

With Germany’s third group game against Switzerland scheduled for a Sunday night, coupled with the expectation of sunny weather, authorities expanded the fan zone to accommodate 70,000 fans. The roar when Niclas Füllkrug scored a stoppage-time equaliser to ensure the hosts finished top of Group A could be heard in the bars and restaurants around Potsdamer Platz, more than a mile away.

The fan zone around Brandenburg Gate — which also houses a number of television studios — will keep its increased capacity for every other Germany game during the tournament along with selected others. Julian Nagelsmann’s team could play another four games, starting with a round-of-16 clash against the runner-up in Group C — possibly England — on June 29. — Rob Dawson


Stat of the day

At 38 years and 289 days old, Luka Modric is the oldest scorer in European Championship history and joins Cristiano Ronaldo as the only men to score in 4+ European Championships (Ronaldo has scored in 5 entering 2024). — ESPN Stats & Information


Match previews for Tuesday

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Why France won’t panic despite 0-0 draw vs. Netherlands

Craig Burley, Don Hutchison and Frank Leboeuf believe the French will bounce back and still remain favourites to win Euro 2024.

Group D: France vs. Poland (Dortmund; 6 p.m. local / midday ET)

Odds (via ESPN BET): France -340, Draw +450, Poland +750

Forget “The Masked Singer,” the popular TV show where you have to guess which singing celebrity is hidden under a costume and mask — this game is all about “The Masked Player.” And at least, we know who is underneath it. After breaking his nose in the 1-0 win against Austria on June 17 and missing the 0-0 draw with Netherlands on June 21, Kylian Mbappé will be back to lead France against Poland on Tuesday as Les Bleus look to claim top spot in the group.

Didier Deschamps will need his captain at his best. So far, France have been very solid defensively with the return of 33-year-old defensive midfielder N’Golo Kanté and the rise of young Arsenal centre-back William Saliba, but offensively they have missed too many chances. They need to get it right and better Netherlands’ result (or score more goals than them if the two results are the same) to finish first.

Robert Lewandowski should start his first game for Poland in this Euro after his injury, but this will not scare a highly confident France team who easily beat their opponents 3-1 only 18 months ago at the World Cup. — Julien Laurens

Group D: Netherlands vs. Austria (Berlin; 6 p.m. local / midday ET)

Odds: Netherlands +120, Draw +210, Austria +260

There will be a lot to play for when Netherlands and Austria meet in Berlin, as top spot in Group D is still up for grabs. Netherlands need to better France’s result against Poland, while Austria can top the group if they win and France either lose or draw.

Austria’s performance in a narrow defeat to France and their aggressive, intense display in the win over Poland have seen Ralf Rangnick’s side emerge as potential Euros dark horses. Austria midfielder Marcel Sabitzer has recent experience of causing big-tournament upsets after helping Borussia Dortmund defy the odds and reach the UEFA Champions League final.

“Once you’re on a run in the knockout phase, anything can happen so the most important thing is to get through the group stage and into the round of 16 and then we’ll see what happens,” Sabitzer said. “I know that from the Champions League, especially this season.” — Rob Dawson

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Burley bashes Harry Kane for England criticism comments

Craig Burley says Harry Kane should accept criticism as part of the job after the England captain responded to media negativity.

Group C: England vs. Slovenia (Cologne; 9 p.m. local / 3 p.m. ET)

Odds: England -300, Draw +400, Slovenia +750

England need a response despite sitting top of Group C heading into the final round of matches. It may seem an odd juxtaposition given they are unbeaten, have only conceded one goal and hold their fate entirely in their own hands. But England were viewed as pre-tournament favourites, and there has been little evidence so far to suggest they could go all the way.

Manager Gareth Southgate and players Harry Kane and Jordan Pickford are among those calling for calm amid wider criticism, but that will only come with a convincing performance. Slovenia are unbeaten in their past eight matches and drew their first two games, the latter a consequence of conceding a 95th-minute equaliser to Serbia.

Among Southgate’s bigger calls will be whether he perseveres with playing full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in central midfield, while Luke Shaw’s return to training offers hope that the only natural left-back in England’s squad could finally make his first appearance for club or country since February. — James Olley

Group C: Denmark vs. Serbia (Munich; 9 p.m. local / 3 p.m. ET)

Odds: Denmark +125, Draw +240, Serbia +210

Both Denmark and Serbia will have their sights set on making the knockout stages when they meet in Munich on Tuesday evening. Denmark come into the game with two 1-1 draws to their name, while Serbia lost 1-0 to England and then drew 1-1 with Slovenia. Amid the criticism levelled at England after their 1-1 draw with Denmark, it’s perhaps forgotten how well Denmark played. They were well-organised and dominated the midfield, with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg impressive, and they should have a clean bill of health for Tuesday’s match with Thomas Delaney back training after illness. If Christian Eriksen plays — and Simon Kjaer doesn’t — then Eriksen will move on to a record 133 Denmark caps, one ahead of Kjaer.

Serbia can still have a say in the competition after Luka Jovic scored an injury-time header against Slovenia to secure a point. But they will need a win on Tuesday if they are to progress, and to achieve that, their strikers need to find some form. Both Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic are yet to score in the tournament, so they’ll want to put that right against Denmark. Serbia are without winger Filip Kostic, who suffered a knee injury against England. — Tom Hamilton


Betting tip (odds via ESPN BET)

Oh, England. What on earth do we do with this game? It really shouldn’t be this hard, but Southgate’s side have been so poor in their opening two matches it’s difficult to have any faith in them. They have been slightly better in first half, so let’s go with that. First-half result to England is -115 — Dan Thomas


One big read

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Why Rangnick’s Austria are ‘not fun’ to play against at Euro 2024

Gab & Juls discuss Austria’s performances under Ralf Rangnick at Euro 2024.

“This guy is not even a coach,” Cristiano Ronaldo said of then-Manchester United coach Ralf Rangnick in 2022. “All the coaches that I had in my career, I call them boss because if they assume the job we have to call them in that way. But deep inside me, I never saw him as the boss.”

Unloved at United, not least by the players, Rangnick took the job as Austria national team coach in April 2022 before his temporary spell at Old Trafford had even come to an end. But in the two years since, he has taken Austria from the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup in Qatar to qualifying easily for Euro 2024 and standing one game away from reaching the round of 16. In the process, the 65-year-old has rebuilt his reputation and put a different slant on those dark days at United.

– Rob Dawson: Unloved at Man Utd, Rangnick restores reputation with Austria


And finally …

Could Harry Kane leave Bayern Munich for SG Lauscha/Neuhaus?

England chose to put up captain Kane to speak to media, as they anticipated more difficult questions after days of criticism following their disappointing 1-1 draw against Denmark. What the Football Association — or anyone else for that matter — didn’t prepare themselves for was a transfer offer.

Kane, 30, is Bayern Munich’s No. 9 and one of the world’s best strikers who moved clubs for €100 million last season, but that didn’t stop SG Lauscha/Neuhaus, a team in the seventh tier of German football, trying to prise him away from the Bundesliga heavyweights.

Local comedian Jonas Greiner, representing broadcaster MDR Jump, took the microphone at Kane’s news conference to explain how grateful they were to have an elite squad in the quiet German state of Thuringia, where England have based themselves for Euro 2024.

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Greiner then produced a contract and stated the terms: “You get free Thuringia rostbratwurst all you can eat, free drinks in every bar, and mindestlohn [minimum wage]. You will have much more time for the national team. If you want, I have your jersey here.”

To laughter in the room, Greiner held up a yellow Lauscha/Neuhaus shirt to complete his joke pitch and awaited Kane’s response.

“[The contract is] very well prepared,” Kane said. “I’ll have to talk to my agent and see what we can do! But you have good golf courses. I mean the golf course we’re staying on is fantastic, so yeah, it’s not a bad plus. I don’t know if it’s on my mind to move here one day, but we appreciate you guys hosting us.”

Kane subsequently signed the shirt, but left the contract blank. — James Olley





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