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Euro 2024 Group B guide: Fixtures, squads and star players to watch as Italy take on Spain

World Cup semi-finalists Croatia make this a tough quartet to come through, with Albania back for the first time in almost a decade

Karl Matchett
Thursday 13 June 2024 12:29
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(AFP via Getty Images)

One of the most intriguing initial quarters at Euro 2024 comes in Group B, containing two former winners - including at the most recent European Championship - plus a nation which has reached the semi-final stage of the last two World Cups.

Spain will be many peoples’ favourites to progress, given some of their star names, while Italy are still working towards a new identity after a period of struggle since their triumph at Wembley three years ago. Croatia, meanwhile, have yet to really star at a Euros but have shown their ability to get results on the world stage, including in Qatar two years ago.

Finally, Albania are appearing at a national tournament for only the second time - the first since Euro 2016 - and while they will be fourth favourites to reach the knockouts, notably beat Czech Republic and Poland in qualifying to top their group.

Spain and Italy are fifth- and sixth-favourites to win the tournament outright, though in reality it’s the Spanish who are seen as being among the group of likely winners and then reigning champions Italy heading up the next group of potential candidates, with some distance between their odds ahead of the tournament.

Here’s everything you need to know about Group B:

Squads for Euro 2024

Spain

Goalkeepers: Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad), David Raya (Arsenal), Unai Simon (Athletic Club)

Defenders: Aymeric Laporte (Al Nassr), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad), Alex Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Dani Vivian (Athletic Club), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Nacho (Real Madrid), Marc Cucurella (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Fabian Ruiz (PSG), Alex Baena (Villarreal), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Rodri (Manchester City), Pedri (Barcelona), Fermin Lopez (Barcelona)

Forwards: Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Joselu (Real Madrid), Lamine Yamal (Barcelona), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Ayoze Perez (Real Betis), Ferran Torres (Barcelona), Nico Williams (Athletic Club)

Morata and Nico Williams could lead Spain’s attack
Morata and Nico Williams could lead Spain’s attack (Getty Images)

Italy

Goalkeepers: Gigi Donnarumma (PSG), Guglielmo Vicario (Tottenham), Alex Meret (Napoli)

Defenders: Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Matteo Darmian (Inter), Alessandro Buongiorno (Torino), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Riccardo Calafiori (Bologna), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Raoul Bellanova (Torino), Federico Dimarco (Inter), Andrea Cambiaso (Juventus), Federico Gatti (Juventus)

Midfielders: Nicolo Barella (Inter), Davide Frattesi (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Nicolo Fagioli (Juventus), Jorginho (Arsenal), Michael Folorunsho (Hellas Verona)

Forwards: Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli), Mateo Retegui (Genoa), Gianluca Scamacca (Atalanta), Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma)

Chiesa celebrates for Italy
Chiesa celebrates for Italy (Getty Images)

Croatia

Goalkeepers: Dominik Livakovic (Fenerbahce), Ivica Ivusic (Pafos), Nediljko Labrovic (Rijeka)

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (AEK Athens), Josip Juranovic (Union Berlin), Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City), Borna Sosa (Ajax), Josip Stanisic (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Sutalo (Ajax), Martin Erlic (Sassuolo), Marin Pongracic (Lecce)

Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Mateo Kovacic (Manchester City), Marcelo Brozovic (Al Nassr), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta), Nikola Vlasic (Torino), Lovro Majer (Wolsfburg), Luka Ivanusec (Feyenoord), Luka Sucic (RB Salzburg), Martin Baturina (Dinamo Zagreb)

Forwards: Ivan Perisic (Hajduk Split), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Bruno Petkovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Marko Pjaca (Rijeka), Ante Budimir (Osasuna), Marco Pasalic (Rijeka)

Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic will be in midfield for Croatia
Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic will be in midfield for Croatia (Getty Images)

Albania

Goalkeepers: Etrit Berisha (Empoli), Thomas Strakosha (Brentford), Elhan Kastrati (Cittadella)

Defenders: Ivan Balliu (Rayo Vallecano), Mario Mitaj (Loko Moscow), Elseid Hysaj (Lazio), Arlind Ajeti (Cluj), Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta), Enea Mihaj (Famalicao), Ardian Ismajli (Empoli), Marash Kumbulla (Sassuolo), Naser Aliji (Voluntari)

Midfielders: Medon Berisha (Lecce), Klaus Gjasula (Darmstadt), Nedim Bajrami (Sassuolo), Qazim Laci (Sparta Prague), Ernest Muci (Besiktas), Ylber Ramadani (Lecce), Kristjan Asllani (Inter Milan), Amir Abrashi (Grasshoppers)

Forwards: Jasir Asani (Gwangju), Rey Manaj (Sivasspor), Taulant Seferi (Baniyas), Armando Broja (Fulham), Mirlind Daku (Rubin Kazan), Arber Hoxha (Dinamo Zagreb)

Albania’s last appearance at a finals came eight years ago
Albania’s last appearance at a finals came eight years ago (Getty Images)

Fixtures

15 June

17:00 Spain vs Croatia (Berlin)

20:00 Italy vs Albania (Dortmund)

19 June

14:00 Croatia vs Albania (Hamburg)

20 June

20:00 Spain vs Italy (Gelsenkirchen)

24 June

20:00 Albania vs Spain (Dusseldorf)

20:00 Croatia vs Italy (Leipzig)

Four players to watch

Spain: Dani Olmo

While the squad isn’t packed with the match-winners of previous years, a handful in Spain’s group are genuinely elite and Dani Olmo is up there with them. The versatile forward combines movement and technical quality with eye for goal - he’s likely to be crucial if they are to go deep this summer, as even if the likes of Rodri and Pedri in midfield are near-perfect, Spain still need a reliable presence in the final third.

Italy: Alessandro Bastoni

Bastoni will be key at the back for the Azzurri
Bastoni will be key at the back for the Azzurri (Getty Images)

Already one of the more important members of the Italy squad, Bastoni’s prominence is only enhanced now by injuries to two defenders from the initial announcement, including the very impressive Bologna centre-back Giorgio Scalvini. That leaves 25-year-old Bastoni as the man blending peak physical traits and some reasonable international experience while being at the top of his game, fresh off the back of another title with Inter. They’ll need his consistency and fierce, combative nature.

Croatia: Luka Modric

Who else? The oldest player in the entire group, and yet still quite possibly one of the best. Even if he’s not a 90-minute performer in all three group games, he’s likely to be a big difference-maker for Croatia if they’re to go through to the knockouts. While he would have wanted more game time with Real Madrid this season, that might turn out to be a bonus for his national team in summer. Closing in on 180 caps for the Vatreni.

Albania: Rey Manaj

If they are to have any hope of getting through this difficult group, they’ll need to score goals, simple as that. A couple of draws might be good enough for one team to get through, with the best-third-placed scenario in action, but after goal difference it’s goals scored to determine which four teams who finish third will go through. Albania only have 15 in the squad who have an international goal and none have more than Rey Manaj’s seven - and he comes into the tournament after a fine domestic campaign with Sivasspor where he netted 18. Will win free-kicks, will shoot from anywhere, will be a battering ram if Albania need him to be.

Odds to win Group B

Spain 5/6

Italy 5/2

Croatia 4/1

Albania 30/1

Prediction

Spain look more than capable of progressing with ease and topping the group and while it’s not a surprise pick, Italy’s recent performances show they should go through too without fuss. Croatia or Albania picking up a win against each other will be key to hopes of a third side’s progressions - it would be a surprise if Croatia don’t manage it.

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