Top countries are struggling through the European Championship group stage: ‘England is not giving up again’

European Championship

This article was last updated on June 27, 2024

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Top countries are struggling through the European Championship group stage: ‘England is not giving up again’

France, Netherlands, Italy, England and Belgium. These are countries that could compete for the European title, but the group stage was at times a major struggle for these teams.

Some countries have already been dealt with harshly. We asked three-time international and NOS analyst Wout Brama to take a closer look at the countries that are struggling.


England was the favorite with the bookmakers. After the lost European Championship final in 2021, this would be the tournament in which the English would finally strike again.

But things seem to be working out completely differently so far. Although they did not lose yet, the English game was painful to the eyes throughout the group phase. Losing points against Serbia (1-0 win) had not even been undeserved and the draws (1-1 against Denmark and 0-0 against Slovenia) could also have been defeats.

There was considerable criticism of the English team and especially national coach Gareth Southgate. Supporters even threw empty cups at the trainer after the match against Slovenia. “I understand that criticism and I don’t shy away from it,” Southgate responded.

“I have never seen another qualified country receive so much criticism. But I am proud of the players for holding up so well.”

Brama understands that Southgate is under fire. “They all have top coaches at the top of the English league, but the national team does not have the best coach.”

“England is really disappointing, but that is a repetitive story,” Brama continues. “It often happens that they don’t concede at final tournaments. But I really don’t understand why they field three right backs. Kieran Trippier on the left makes sense due to Luke Shaw’s injury, but why is Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield?”


France is also a big favorite for the title. Les Bleus have so much quality that not only the starting XI could win the tournament, but a B team could also go a long way.

But the French are not yet shining either. The first match was won by Austria with an own goal and the matches against the Netherlands and Poland were difficult with draws.

Brama: “It cannot be due to the quality of the players. The amount of quality just cannot be reconciled with the game. They never play very offensively, but now that they are also less good with the ball this tournament, it is noticeable that they are struggling. If they did play offensively, people would pick up on that more quickly than they do now.”


Perhaps the biggest disappointment at this tournament: Italy. It became clear during qualifying that the European Championships would not go without a fight. The reigning European champion barely qualified directly for the final round. Things were also difficult in the practice matches before the European Championship.

The Italians continued that line in the group stage. The first match was won with difficulty against Albania (2-1) and the team had to see all corners of the field against Spain (1-0 defeat).

Croatia ultimately seemed to be putting Italy on hold for another round, but in the 95th minute Mattia Zaccagni saved the furniture.

Brama: “Italy wants to, but this is also the Italy it is now. They no longer have the Roberto Baggios as they used to have. The quality is simply much less. In addition, the system switch from 4-3-3 to 3 -5-2 also hasn’t turned out the way they wanted.”

The Netherlands

The Dutch team is not the top favorite for the overall victory, but the practice matches for the European Championship gave hope and confidence. Could there be a repeat of 1988 after all?

The match against Poland did not change that image, but the matches against France (0-0) and Austria (2-3) changed sentiment again.

Dutch media were very harsh after the match against Austria. “The Netherlands makes a muddy figure” and “Disappointment” adorned the headlines. National coach Ronald Koeman also had to acknowledge the latter.

Koeman must admit: ‘A disgrace, you can’t beat anyone like that…’

“You can’t beat anyone like that,” said the national coach.

Brama: “The Netherlands has a top defense, but offensively we all have players who are not quite world class. In addition, we have a midfield that largely plays for PSV, which is not even sub-top in Europe.”


The golden generation had already said goodbye, so expectations in Belgium were not high. However, the country is still third in the FIFA world rankings and Domenico Tedesco’s team must be taken into account.

The first match showed how vulnerable they are. The defeat against Slovakia hurt. They did win against Romania, but the Red Devils played a disappointing draw again in a nerve-wracking match against Ukraine. This secured second place in the group.

The Belgians’ play led to a big whistle concert from the fans after the match on Wednesday. The players didn’t quite understand that.

“We qualified, that is the most important thing. There are no easy matches at this European Championship, some people forget that,” said defender Wout Faes afterwards.

Belgian players are disappointed with whistling fans: ‘A bit frustrating’

Brama: “Belgium has the opposite of the Netherlands. There the attack is top and they have many options, but the team has a very weak defense. Will Belgium get further than the Netherlands? No, you will get further with a good defense than with a good attack.”


Germany, like Spain, seems to suffer the least from problems. The chance of a repeat of the summer fairytale of 2006 remains present. Although the match against Switzerland (1-1) was very disappointing. A point was saved in the final minute.

Brama: “Germany is one of the better teams, together with Spain they have the most structure. But you also saw their problems against Switzerland. They still give away too much at the back and they lack a finisher. But to win a tournament you have to “You want to be stable and I think they can do that very well in Germany.”

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