15 June 2024

Euro 2024 day two: Spain and Croatia to open campaigns in heavyweight clash

15 June 2024

After Germany made the perfect start to their home European Championships with a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland on Friday night, day two will see holders Italy and three-time champions Spain begin their campaigns.

Three matches will take place on Saturday with Hungary and Switzerland set to conclude the first round of Group A fixtures before all eyes turn to this year’s group of death with Spain against Croatia, while Italy take on Albania in Group B.

Here, the PA news agency looks ahead to an action-packed second day of Euro 2024.

The Germans always win

Gary Lineker memorably stated “football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win” but that had not been the case at the last three major tournaments. Germany lost their 2022 World Cup opener to Japan, suffered a similar fate at the 2018 edition to Mexico and in between had lost 1-0 to France in their first match at Euro 2020.

Scrutiny is always intense on Germany, but it was ramped up given they were hosts’ and yet they provided the best answer at Allianz Arena with a dazzling display on Friday. Julian Nagelsmann was off down the touchline with only 10 minutes played when Florian Wirtz drilled in.

Jamal Musiala delighted his home Munich crowd when he blasted in nine minutes later before Kai Havertz netted from the spot. It was substitute Niclas Fullkrug though who arguably grabbed goal of the night when he lashed into the top corner from 16 yards before Emre Can curled home deep into stoppage-time.

While Manuel Neuer would be denied a clean sheet, Germany could not have dreamed for a better start, but it was a night to forget for Scotland even if the Tartan Army delivered and were able to celebrate Antonio Rudiger’s late own-goal.

More of the same please?

Undoubtedly the match of day two is the Group B opener between Spain and Croatia in a rematch of the last-16 tie at Euro 2020, which was one of the ties of the Covid-affected tournament. Spain subsequently won 5-3 and made the last-four, but it is a much-changed team with Luis Enrique replaced by former Olympics coach Luis de la Fuente, who has promoted several younger players, including 16-year-old Lamine Yamal.

Remarkably, Manchester City maestro Rodri was only a late substitute in Spain’s triumph over Croatia three years ago, but in the ensuing time period has established himself as one of the best in the world and was typically bold about the chances of his country in Germany.

“We know that we’re here as one of the countries with the most European Championships and we’re here to go after our fourth,” Rodri told a press conference before his eagerly-anticipated battle with Real Madrid veteran Luka Modric.

Barnsley Beckenbauer ready to go

John Stones sparked more fitness fears when he missed training on Wednesday due to an illness, which followed long-serving defensive partner Harry Maguire being left back in England after he failed to recover from a calf injury.

Stones, who had also been forced off in the 1-0 friendly loss to Iceland last week, was able to resume preparations for England’s Group C opener with Serbia on Thursday and faced the press on Friday where he admitted it was probably a good time to pick up a sickness bug.

“I don’t get ill or sickness. I think it was a good time, if it was ever going to happen, during this week and I got back out on Thursday,” Stones explained, which is important given England’s lack of big tournament experience at centre-back with Marc Guehi tipped to play there on Sunday.

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Who’s up next?

Hungary v Switzerland, 2pm, ITV

Spain v Croatia, 5pm, ITV

Italy v Albania, 8pm, BBC One

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