Football Features

Five things learned as Euro 2024 Group D concludes: Toothless attack has France worried

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:17, 25 June 2024

We moved another step closer to finding out the last 16 of Euro 2024 as Group D came to a close.

Going into the final round of fixtures, we knew that both Netherlands and France were guaranteed at spot in the knockout stages. But we didn’t know where they would finish, and whether Austria would be joining them.

So, here’s what transpired.

Toothless France must improve

France were among the favourites to win Euro 2024 and what matters to them is that they are in the knockout stages.

But if they are to win Euro 2024, France need to improve massively. And fast.

There’s a sense of pragmatism to France’s side, ensuring they have a defence that’s tough to beat. After all, you can’t really lose if you don’t concede (unless it goes all the way to penalties). But fans are feeling the disappointment when looking at France’s attack.

For all the attacking talent in their squad, France are yet to score from open play at Euro 2024. Their opening 1-0 win over Austria came via an own goal, before the goalless draw against Netherlands.

And, against Poland, Mbappe opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Jakub Kiwior brought down Ousmane Dembele. It was France’s 42nd shot at Euro 2024, one of the longest waits for a goal in the tournament’s history.

But it wasn’t enough. For France’s 19 shots and eight on target, with an xG of 2.35, they didn’t test the goalkeeper enough. And that could be a worry.

Historic own goal sets Netherlands en route for tough path

Netherlands went into the final round of Group D fixtures top of the table. They knew that their destiny to top the group was in their hands, but they fell apart.

Their 3-2 defeat to Austria started by an own goal from Donyell Malen in just the sixth minute. It was a historic own goal on three parts. It was both the first own goal Netherlands have conceded at the European Championship and the first Austria have benefitted from. It was also the earliest own goal in European Championship history.

It gave Netherlands a mountain to climb and every time they pegged Austria back, they crumbled again. After Cody Gakpo equalised moments into the second half, they then conceded to Romano Schmidt 12 minutes later. There were just five minutes between Memphis Depay making it 2-2 and Marcel Sabitzer winning the game for Austria.

Netherlands gave up five shots on target and allowed Austria to make 117 passes in the final third, 12 more than the Oranje managed at the other end of the pitch.

Austria shock Group D

When the draw for this group was first made, everyone was looking at France and Netherlands as the potential group winners. Nobody batted an eye at Austria. But, for all the potential dark horses at Euro 2024, Austria were certainly the most capable of going far.

Of course, that’s easy to say after the fact, but the signs were there were. Austria were one of the top teams in qualifying despite not winning their group. They won six of their eight qualifying matches, only drawing and losing to group winners Belgium.

After that they beat Julian Nagelsmann’s Germany and thrashed Turkey 6-1 in some of their friendlies. The question was, how would they fare at the major tournament?

They started the group with a narrow defeat to France, beaten by an own goal having frustrated Didier Deschamps’ men. They set up to protect their goal and did just that, falling only to a stroke of misfortune.

They stepped things up in the 3-1 win over Poland, keeping their last 16 hopes alive. But the odds were still against them in their final group game. They shouldn’t have been.

Austria, favoured more for their defending, targeted the weak points of Netherlands’ defence and capitalised. Even when they were pegged back, twice, Austria struck to secure a big win.

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Poland avoid unwanted statistic

Poland’s Euro 2024 dreams were over after their first two games, so they went into their final match against France with just pride on the line.

The Eagles don’t do well at the European Championships, winning just two of their 17 games at the tournament. Both of those victories came in 2016 as Poland made the quarter-finals, otherwise exiting winless in the other four tournaments.

And for the third time, Poland have finished a European Championship group stage with just one point. It looked set to be worse as Poland went 1-0 down to France, on track to being the only team without a point at Euro 2024.

Since the group stage format first came in at Euro 1984, 13 teams have ended without a point, and Poland were close to becoming the 14th. But Robert Lewandowski’s retaken penalty earned them a point, a kept them from joining the history books.

They’ve also avoided being the worst team at Euro 2024, with a better goal difference than Scotland — who also finished on one point.

A wonderful route for the neutrals

France finishing second in Group D has set up a fascinating side of the knockout stage draw.

Les Bleus are now on the side of the draw as Spain, Germany and Portugal and would likely have to face two of the three should they wish to reach the final.

Portugal would be their potential quarter-final opponent, while Spain or Germany might await in the semi-final.

You can read more about France’s route to the Euro 2024 final with our in-depth breakdown here.