The Euro 2024 group stage is over, so we’ve put together six snap judgements from the tournament so far. You may not agree with them all…

It’s Coming Home

Alright, bear with us.

We endured the same three England matches as you. We saw the same group of exceptional attackers fail to come together to be anything close to the sum of their parts. We too saw England stumble into the easier side of the draw with an utterly undeserved first-place finish in Group C.

But while England were pretty atrocious in attack, generating just 2.19 xG in their three games, lower than every other team at Euro 2024 apart from eliminated sides Scotland (0.95 xG) and Serbia (2.11), they were very, very solid at the other end of the pitch.

The only goal they conceded was a Morten Hjulmand long-ranger against Denmark. They allowed their opponents just 1.15 xG, which is not only lower than any other team at Euro 2024, it is also the second-lowest figure by any team in a group stage in any of the last three European Championships (the tournaments for which Opta has this data). The only team who faced fewer expected goals in a group stage were the eventually-victorious Italy at Euro 2020. Defences indeed win titles, especially at major tournaments.

England xG Euro 2024 group stage

Greece (yes, that’s who England are aspiring to be now) won Euro 2004 with three clean sheets in three knockout games; Italy won Euro 2020 after not conceding a single goal in the group stage; Portugal conceded only one goal in four knockout games en route to Euro 2016 glory. Need we go on?

Oh, and did we mention England are on the easier side of the draw? It’s definitely, definitely, definitely coming home.

Mikautadze Deserves A(nother) Big Move

Be honest, who had a Georgia player as the top scorer in the Euro 2024 group stage? No, not us, either.

But after three games for each team, Georges Mikautadze leads the way with three goals. Alright, two have come from the penalty spot, but throw assists into the mix and he has twice as many (4) goal involvements as any other player at the finals. Penalties or not, that is already some achievement.

Georges Mikautadze goal involvements at Euro 2024

It was only last year that Mikautadze got a big-money move from Metz to Ajax, but after failing to light up the Eredivisie – or score a single goal – he was loaned back to France before re-signing permanently shortly after. Metz were relegated at the end of 2023-24, meaning Euro 2024’s current leading goalscorer is, as things stand, playing for a second-tier French side.

International tournaments always lead to big moves and inflated fees for players who stand out, particularly goalscorers, and Mikautadze looks ripe for another transfer after this summer’s performances.

There is, however, more to his game than finishing off moves and scoring penalties. He also ranks among the best players at the tournament for successful dribbles (seven) and chances created from open play (five). We’re going to put our necks on the line and say he’ll be playing top-tier football in one of the top five European leagues next season.

We did tell you he was worth keeping an eye on.

Own Goals Are Going to Shape This Tournament

There have been seven own goals already at Euro 2024. Only one European Championship has ever seen more in the entire tournament than we’ve seen in this year’s group stage (11 at Euro 2020).

So, what conclusions should we draw from this fact?

Is the difference in quality between some of the attackers and the defenders too great? Are some of these defenders’ reactions too slow? Are international defences not well-drilled enough to play at this level?

There’s something deeply unsatisfying about so many own goals being scored, but we can’t quite put our finger on why. Is it just that it’s a bit weird when there’s no goalscorer who everyone can run to for the celebrations? It might be that.

Whatever it is, the numbers from the group stage indicate we might be seeing a few more at Euro 2024. Get ready for a tournament-winning own goal in the final. To break England’s hearts. Of course that’s what’s going to happen.

Wait, we thought it was coming home?

Germany and Spain Are the Teams to Beat

Given quite how badly some of the other tournament favourites have played, this actually seems like a pretty reasonable conclusion from the Euro 2024 group stage.

Germany are the top scorers, with eight goals, while Spain are the only team to boast a 100% record and they also haven’t conceded a single goal despite being in a very tough group. They were particularly convincing against Italy; they might have needed a Riccardo Califiori own goal to win it, but were hugely impressive at both ends of the pitch and dominated from start to finish.

Spain 1-0 Italy stats Euro 2024

The reason this counts as a knee-jerk reaction is that the group stage can often flatter to deceive at major tournaments. Belgium looked like the team to beat at Euro 2020 after winning all of their group stage games, only to lose to Italy in the quarter-finals. Argentina thought they might win the 2010 World Cup after dominating their group, but then got thrashed by Germany in the knockouts. France were everyone’s favourites at Euro 2016 but couldn’t follow through on their early promise.

And the winners aren’t always obviously the best-performing team in the group stage. Portugal won Euro 2016 after failing to win a single game in the groups. Argentina lost their first game of the 2022 World Cup to Saudi Arabia, and Spain lost to Switzerland in their opening match before winning the 2010 World Cup.

There’s still plenty of time for everyone else to click into gear, and there are four games to play for the eventual winners. It only takes one off day in a major tournament to go crashing out, and given Spain and Germany are set to meet in the quarter-finals, only one of them can make the last four anyway.

They look like the teams to beat right now, but that might not last.

Austria Can Cause an Upset

No, this isn’t only an excuse to remind you that we tipped Austria as potential Euro 2024 dark horses, but it is a good chance to (there’s really no need for you to read any of the other teams’ sections in that article, by the way).

Led by much-maligned former Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick, Austria have been hugely impressive, recovering from a narrow and arguably undeserved 1-0 defeat to France to beat Poland and the Netherlands, finishing top of one of the toughest groups at Euro 2024.

They have been entertaining, too, showing a cutting edge in attack that many of the said-to-be ‘best’ teams have been lacking, and scoring six goals in their two wins. In typical Rangnick/Red Bull fashion, they have defended on the front foot, with only Germany (8.8) allowing their opponents fewer passes per defensive action (PPDA) on average than Austria (9.0). England, for comparison, are at the other end of the scale, averaging 17.6 PPDA. With the ball, Austria are more direct and less bothered about possession compared to the main tournament favourites.

Euro 2024 team styles comparison

So, on the ‘easier’ side of the draw with England, they should beat Turkey in the next round, and they have already shown they can beat the Netherlands, who would be their likeliest opponents in the quarter-finals. The draw looks set up for a shock member of the last four, and who knows what will happen after that? Austria could be one to watch. (We told you so 😉).

This Isn’t a Tournament for the Biggest Names

Kylian Mbappé (1 goal from a penalty, 10 shots), Harry Kane (1 goal, 8 shots) and Cristiano Ronaldo (0 goals, 12 shots) are three of the biggest superstars at Euro 2024, and each has been disappointing. There’s a long, long list of less high-profile names who have shown flashes of their best but haven’t played as consistently well as we know they can. Jude Bellingham, Leandro Trossard, Jorginho, Luka Modric, Xavi Simons, Bruno Fernandes, Ousmane Dembélé are just a few who fall into that category.

Of course, the best players perform on the biggest stage when it matters most. It might be, then, that Mbappé, Kane and Ronaldo come to life during the knockouts.

Cristiano Ronaldo xG Euro 2024

But with just two goals between them – as many as Romania’s Razvan Marin and Slovakia’s Ivan Schranz – there’s no denying they have failed to live up to expectations.

After the 2022 World Cup, fans are used to the biggest occasions being lit up by the best players. On the evidence so far, though, Euro 2024 is a very different tournament.

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