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Cristiano Ronaldo will make his sixth appearance in the tournament Image Credit: AP

Europe's top football leagues concluded just last month, but for passionate fans like myself, it has felt like an eternity. But fear not, the beautiful game is back with a bang.

Euro 2024 kicks off on June 14, with a four-week festival of football taking place in Germany to determine who will be crowned European No.1.

Here’s the lowdown on this year’s edition.

The format

Twenty-four teams will go to battle but only one will emerge victorious at the 17th edition of the European Championship.

The teams have been split into six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group booking their spot in the last 16 along with the four best third-placed finishers.

From the last 16, the competition will be a straight knockout until the winners are crowned in the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on Sunday July 14.

Should any knockout game be level after 90 minutes then 30 minutes of extra time will be required to determine a winner. If the tie is still level, a penalty shootout will decide the outcome.

The Groups
Group A: Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland
Group B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania
Group C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England
Group D: Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France
Group E: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine
Group F: Türkiye, Georgia, Portugal, Czechia

Who are the favourites?

Despite failing to lift major silverware for 58 years, England are the pre-tournament favourites with the bookmakers.

Gareth Southgate’s squad, who finished runners-up in the last edition after losing to Italy on penalties, boast a wealth of world-class attackers but their lack of quality at the back will be a cause for concern.

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Harry Kane will be a crucial player for England Image Credit: AFP

Although the Three Lions went unbeaten in qualifying, twice getting revenge over Italy in the process, their preparation for the tournament took a turn for the worst last week when losing at home to Iceland in their final warm-up game. England will look to put that right straight away against Serbia on Sunday in their opening match.

Boasting a squad that includes the likes of Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and Phil Foden, all of whom have enjoyed superb seasons for their respective clubs, this could well be the best chance they have at ending the trophy drought.

France will be hot on their heels as they look to get their hands on the trophy for the first time since 2000. Les Blues will be eager to put the disappointment of the last Euros firmly behind them after crashing out to Switzerland on penalties in the last 16.

Kylian Mbappe, arguably the world’s greatest player right now, will lead the charge and will no doubt be buoyed by his recent move to Champions League winners Real Madrid following another 40+ goal campaign for PSG.

The 2018 World Cup winners are almost certain to reach the latter stages of the tournament but must first navigate a tricky group which includes Austria, Poland and the Netherlands.

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Kylian Mbappe will be hoping to add a European Championship title to his ever-growing honours Image Credit: AFP

Germany, backed by a home crowd, will be hoping they can rediscover their form after a difficult few years, while 2016 champions Portugal can call on a host of stellar names in what looks like their strongest squad in a long time.

The dark horses

The European Championship is no stranger to unexpected champions. Greece won the 2004 edition when ranked 35th in the world, while Denmark hoisted the trophy in 1992 despite only being granted last-minute entry to the tournament when war-torn Yugoslavia was banned.

Romania looked strong in qualifying, finishing top of their group and not losing a single game in the process, while only conceding five goals throughout the campaign. That water-tight defensive unit could be key to getting out of a Group E that includes Belgium, Ukraine and Slovakia.

Hungary are looking to impress once again Image Credit: AFP

Hungary is another team to keep an eye on. At Euro 2016 they finished top of their group, which included eventual champions Portugal, before Belgium knocked them out in the last 16. Last time out, they were drawn against Portugal once again, along with Germany and France.

Although they finished bottom, the Hungarians took points off both Germany and France and kept Portugal at bay for 84 minutes. The draw has been much kinder to them this time around, so expect them to ruffle a few feathers if they are to reach the knockout stages.

Five players to watch

Kylian Mbappe, France

Kylian Mbappe is the world's best player Image Credit: AFP

With Cristiano Ronaldo's and Lionel Messi’s best years behind them, Kylian Mbappe has emerged as the world's premier player. The Frenchman is electric and almost impossible to defend against when he is at the top of the game. Many defences will be shaking at the Prospect of facing him. The 25-year-old is already a World Cup winner and nearly dragged his side to a second title, France's third, two years ago, scoring a hattrick in the final, only to be denied by a fairy-tale victory for Messi in Qatar.

Phil Foden, England

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Phil Foden stepped up to the plate last season Image Credit: AP

Phil Foden's talent has always been evient, but he had never delivered on all fronts until the season just gone. The Englishman claimed a career-best 19 goals and eight assists in the 23/24 Premier League and was rightly named the league's Player of the Season after stepping up in the absence of injured playmaker Kevin De Bruyne. His exceptional first touch, close control, balance and poise on the ball make him one of the biggest threats in the tournament.

Florian Wirtz, Germany

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Florian Wirtz was a standout for Bayer Leverkusen last season Image Credit: Reuters

Florian Wirtz enjoyed a stellar season with Bayer Leverkusen, helping the German side record an unbeaten season in the Bundesliga en route to securing their first ever title. The 21-year-old played a key role in the club’s success, which also included victory in the DFB-Pokal, scoring 18 and assisting 19 across the season. Wirtz will be eager to impress from the left of an attacking three after missing the World Cup in Qatar with a knee injury.

Lamine Yamal, Spain

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Lamine Yamal has an extremely high ceiling Image Credit: AFP

Spanish sensation Lamine Yamal has already introduced himself to the world at the tender age of 16, setting records for the youngest scorer for Barcelona, youngest scorer in La Liga history and youngest scorer for Spain. The teenager is a generational talent who has a real gift with the ball at his feet, often dribbling past defenders with the ball seemingly glued to his boots. His ability to instantly read the game and instinct in the final third have already made him a star.

Jeremie Frimpong, Netherlands

Walker Zimmerman of the United States, background, and Jeremie Frimpong of the Netherlands jump for the ball during the Qatar World Cup round of 16 match, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, December 3, 2022.
Jeremie Frimpong will likley play further forward for the Netherlands Image Credit: AP

Another key member of Bayer Leverkusen’s invincible Bundesliga squad, Jeremie Frimpong is looking to replicate his domestic success on the international stage. Despite playing predominantly as a right-wing back, the 23-year-old bagged nine goals and seven assists in 31 Bundesliga appearances last season, but only made one appearance in qualifying for the Netherlands. He has featured in their last two friendlies, scoring and assisting against Canada, but with Denzel Dumfries the preferred option at right back, expect Frimpong to feature on the right side of midfield or part of a front three in Germany.

Record-setting Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is gearing up for an unprecedented sixth European Championship, he is also currently the only man to have played in five editions.

He heads to Germany as the most capped player in international football history, having lined up his country a staggering 207 times since making his debut in 2003.

The Portuguese icon, who scored 35 goals in 31 appearances for Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League last season, could well break even more records over the next four weeks.

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Cristiano Ronaldo will look to add to his 15 European Championship goals in Germany Image Credit: AFP

The 39-year-old is well clear as the competition’s top scorer with 15 goals but could also become the outright assist leader if he is to set up one goal in this year’s edition, with Ronaldo currently tied on six with Karel Poborský.

He could also overtake another Portuguese icon for most chances created at the tournament as Ronaldo is just one behind Luis Figo at the top of the charts on 42.

Fans in the UAE can catch every match live on BeIN Sports. Coverage begins with the opening game, Germany v Scotland, at 11pm GST on June 14.