Football News

England Route To The Final: Potential Opponents for Three Lions at Euro 2024

By Andrew Francis

Published: 10:52, 2 May 2024

As Euro 2024 approaches we take a look at who the Three Lions might face on their route to the European Championships final.

England Route To The Euro 2024 Final: Potential Path

England enter Euro 2024 as one of the favourites to be crowned champions this summer. The Three Lions qualified from Group C to reach Euro 2024, remaining undefeated in their qualification campaign. They’ve been drawn into Group C at the finals, a group they should qualify from with relative ease. Denmark, Serbia and Slovenia await them in Germany but who else could Gareth Southgate’s men take on at the biggest international tournament in Europe?

European Championship Qualification – Group C
Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GF GA Points
1 England 8 6 2 0 22 4 20
2 Italy 8 4 2 2 16 9 14
3 Ukraine 8 4 2 2 11 8 14
4 North Macedonia 8 2 2 4 10 20 8
5 Malta 8 0 0 8 2 20 0

England’s potential route to Euro 2024 final

England’s Group C fixtures

vs Serbia (16 June, 8pm BST) – England’s opening game of Euro 2024 sees them travel to Gelsenkirchen, the site of their infamous penalty shootout loss to Portugal at the 2006 World Cup. They’ll be looking to lay that ghost to rest when they open their 2024 campaign but they face a stiff test in the form of Serbia. The Serbians, ranked 33 in the world, finished as runners up in Group G of qualifying and have only played England once before (a 2-1 loss in 2003). If England have hopes of winning Group C they’ll need a positive result in this game ahead of what looks to be their trickiest fixture up next.

vs Denmark (20 June, 5pm BST) – This is the fixture that will be giving Gareth Southgate the most angst in Group C. The two nations met in the semi-final of Euro 2020, with England coming out on top but the Danish side have been able to put that behind them, winning Group H to qualify for the 2024 final. Ranked at 21 in the world, they represent the biggest challenge to England’s chances of topping Group C this summer.

vs Slovenia (25 June, 8pm BST) – On paper, this is the easiest game of the group for England and one that they could welcome as their final group game. There have been six meetings between the two nations over the years, with England winning five of those. There was a solitary draw between the two in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup but it’s been fairly smooth sailing for England when facing Slovenia over years, something they hope will continue in Germany.

If England finish top of group C

If England win Group C, as many expect them to they will face the best third placed finisher from Group D, E or F in the round of 16.  Based on betting odds, Austria are the most likely side to finish third in Group D, whilst Romania and Czech Republic are most likely to occupy those positions in Group E or F respectively.

If the Three Lions progress to the quarter final, they’ll face the runner up of Group A or B. Hungary or Switzerland are both 5/1 to finish second in Group A, whilst Italy are the most likely nation to finish second in Group B, setting up a potential rematch from the Euro 2020 final.

A semi final appearance would present England with another stiff test. The winners of Group E, most likely to be Belgium, or winner of Group D (France are the current favourite to top that group) are the possible opponents for Gareth Southgate’s men. They could also face the Runners Up of Group F, possibly Turkey, or the team that finished third in Group A, B, C or D (Switzerland, Croatia, Serbia or Austria respectively).

A final appearance opens up a whole host of possibilities with any of the sides in Euro 2024 being England’s potential opponents.

If England finish runner-up in group C

A slip up by England, resulting in a second placed finish, would see their route to the final change significantly. They would take on the winner of Group A, setting up a possible match against Germany, or perhaps even Scotland.

The route to the final doesn’t get any easier after that, with the winner of Group B or the third placed team in Group A, D, E or F. Group B should be won by one of Spain, Italy or Croatia whilst the third placed team is likely to be one of Switzerland, Austria, Romania or Czech Republic.

The Three Lions semi-final opponents would be either the winner of Group F (possibly Portugal), Runner Up of Group D (Netherlands are the most likely), Runner Up of Group E (the favourite is Ukraine) or the third placed team from Group A, B or C (Switzerland, Croatia or Serbia respectively).

This route to the final is certainly far from easy and definitely looks like one England would do best to avoid.

If England finish third in Group C

A terrible group stage for Gareth Southgate’s side could see them still manage to qualify as one of the best placed third placed teams. It’s also where things get a little messy.

There are two potential routes if England qualify for the Round of 16 as a third place team. They’ll either face the winner of Group F (Portugal are the favourites) or the Winner of Group E (Belgium are considered the most likely.

At that point things separate either further for the quarter final stage. If England overcome Portugal they’ll replace the Runner Up of Group D (Netherlands) or Group E (Ukraine) whilst if they beat Belgium they’ll face the Winner of Group D (France should be the clear winners of Group D) or the Runner Up of Group F (Turkey seem best positioned).

Again there are multiple options in the semi-final if England reach that point. The route that saw them overcome Portugal in the Round of 16 would pair them up against the Winner of Group A (let’s assume that is Germany), the Winner of Group B (Spain seems most likely), the Runner Up of Group C (Denmark or Serbia) or the Third Placed team in Group A, D, E or F. Switzerland, Austria, Romania or Czech Republic are the most likely outcomes from that scenario.

We’re not quite done there! If England beat the winner of Group E in the Round of 16, there’s another different set of circumstances in the semi-final. The winner of Group C (likely to be Denmark), the Runner Up of Group A (one of Switzerland, Scotland or Hungary, or the third placed team from Group D, E or F await. Austria, Romania or Czech Republic are the betting favourites for those scenarios.

England’s Reasons for Optimism

There’s plenty for England to be optimistic about heading into Euro 2024, not least the wealth of talent available to them particularly in attacking positions. The form of Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Cole Palmer should all fill England fans with dreams of glory this summer.

There has also been consistent progression with the ranks at England with appearances in the semi-finals, and finals, at major tournaments arriving with more regularity than they ever had before. If England continue with this trajectory, a tournament victory looks more and more likely.

One of the frontrunners for the tournament, England are in the mix alongside France, Germany and Portugal to be lifting The Henri Delaunay cup this summer. There isn’t a standout nation that looks to be the team to beat though, with most of the biggest favourites looking very evenly matched. This could be a positive for Gareth Southgate, giving his side a confidence boost regardless of who stands in their way in Germany.

England’s Potential Roadblocks

Whilst there is plenty going in England’s favour this summer, there are reasons for Three Lions fans to hold some trepidation ahead of Euro 2024.

England may have progressed to the latter stages in recent tournaments but when it’s come to the biggest games England have been found wanting. The 2018 World Cup semi-final saw Croatia come from behind to win the match and it was a similar story in the Euro 2020 final, where Southgate wasn’t able to see his side hold onto the lead against Italy, losing on penalties. The 2022 World Cup saw England fall to France at the quarter final stage, making it the third tournament in a row that England were unable to defeat nations that sit around them in the FIFA World Rankings. This summer will be another test as to whether England have the ability to break out from the pack and become the elite national side that many believe they can.

All three of those losses in recent years have fallen at the feet of Southgate, with many England fans blaming the coach for tactical mistakes or substitutions that were ill-judged or mis-timed. With Southgate’s future still under question following Euro 2024, this could be his last chance to prove that he can get the small things right and lead England to European glory.

Gareth Southgate Tactical Insights

For the majority of their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, Southgate opted for a 4-3-3 formation. The only times he deviated from this was in the victory at Wembley over Italy, where he preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation to give his side another body in midfield, and in the final group game against North Macedonia, where qualification was already assured and a more experimental team was set out.

Southgate has definitely stuck with preferred personnel during his tenure but, more recently, he’s shown more willingness to be slightly more experimental with his team selections. The back four, when all fit, isn’t likely to change much with Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw being the preferred back line.

Declan Rice is the lynchpin of the midfield but the spaces around him are certainly up for grabs with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher, Kalvin Phillips, Jordan Henderson and Kobbie Mainoo all in the mix.

Attacking areas are where the biggest selection headache comes for Southgate though but it’s a problem that is worth having. There’s some serious talent available to the England manager and whilst Harry Kane looks to be assured of his place up front, there are questions over who else will play in the attacking positions. Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Cole Palmer and Bukayo Saka have all been in fine form this season but there are only limited spaces in the starting eleven so someone will have to miss out.

It’s a nice problem to have but one Southgate will have to solve if we wants to lead his side to success this summer.

Fan and Media Perspectives

There’s a quiet optimism amongst England fans that this could finally be the summer that they put their major tournament hoodoo behind them. Whilst there are still reservations from some around Southgate’s ability to achieve his England squad’s potential, there is certainly the talent within the ranks to compete with the very best. Not always known for their optimistic attitude ahead of tournaments, this summer feels a little bit different ahead of Euro 2024.

The media can be the England squads best friend or worst enemy from day to day and this summer is likely to be no different. A media backlash following a poor performance could have an impact on the side, whilst similarly if the media is on side the squad could receive a big boost ahead of a knockout stage run.