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Euro 2024: Group B Predictions – Spain, Italy, Croatia, and Albania

Euro 2024: Group B Predictions – Spain, Italy, Croatia, and Albania

Kai Iliev Kai Iliev

Group B is undoubtedly the “Group of Death” of the 2024 Euros. It features heavyweights Spain and Italy and is rounded out by Croatia and Albania, two Balkan nations.

Italy, the reigning European champions, will aim to defend their crown. They will be eager to erase the memory of missing the 2022 World Cup, while Spain, considered the favourite, will look to take the lead.  While it’s tempting to predict Italy and Spain as the likeliest to advance, history has repeatedly shown that football is not about status, especially in knockout formats.

Croatia is a nation that has risen through the ranks in recent years. Finalists in the 2018 World Cup, Croatia has now rebuilt into a solid team after losing their golden generation. In 2022, they proved in Qatar that they remain a force to be reckoned with, serving as a warning to Spain and Italy not to take the Croats lightly. 

Albania is undoubtedly the underdog and is expected to struggle. However, surprises are always possible in football.

Spain: A Favorite with a New Generation

Group Winner Odds: 1.82 (22bet)

Spain is, by default, one of the title favourites. Despite their unexpected exit in 2022 World Cup, when Morocco eliminated them on penalties, La Roja keeps producing new talents thanks to Spain’s excellent academy system. 

Ansu Fati, who has fallen out of grace since his stint at Brighton, will not be the team’s focal point. Instead, another Barcelona talent is taking over: Lamine Yamal. Although he may not be able to drive a car yet, he can certainly drive his team to success. Additionally, players like Nico Williams and Pedri bring a balance of talent to the squad that Spain has not had in recent years.

Spain will kick off the group stage by facing Croatia, and this could prove to be an exciting match-up. Croatia is rebuilding after their 2018 Golden Generation, and underestimating them could be costly for Spain. The Spaniards were eliminated by Italy in a tight match-up in the last Euros, which eventually saw the Italians win the tournament. La Roja will be determined to seek revenge.

Although Spain suffered a 2-0 loss against Scotland, it did not stop the Iberians from topping their group. The 5-0 victory against Andorra, the game one before the start of the tournament, proves that they are ready. The 3-3 draw against Brazil in March stated Spain’s intention for this tournament: to bring the trophy back home.

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Italy: A Favorite with a New Generation

Group Qualification Odds: 1.11 (22bet)

Given their history of missing major tournaments, Italy is never an easy team to predict. They were absent from the past two editions of the World Cup (2018,2022) but won the Euros in 2020. This inconsistency means that while the team has potential, it is tough to expect anything concrete from the Italians. 

Roberto Mancini led the 2020 group, but this time, former Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti has been chosen to lead Italy. Defending a title is never easy, and it is even tougher in Italy’s case.

Italy would typically be one of the top teams by status, but their rebuild in recent years has been challenging. 

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that key players like Manuele Locatelli have not been selected without good reason. However, the Italians will benefit from the services of Gianluca Scamacca (Atalanta), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), and Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli). 

As often is the case with Italy, the defensive lines are stacked. How the Italians navigate the group, though, is a question few can answer.

The Italians will first face Albania, which is considered the “easiest” encounter of the group. 

Croatia: A Mix of Veterans and New Blood

Group Qualification Odds: 1.3 (22bet)

Croatia has become a household name in international competition. Zlatko Dalić, hired in 2017, led the team to a breakthrough in 2018, resulting in further success for the small nation. The Vatreni surprisingly secured a spot in the World Cup final against France after eliminating England.

They differentiated themselves by playing a compact style of football, featuring stars such as Ivan Rakitić, Mario Mandzukić, Luka Modrić, and Dejan Lovren. While most of this generation is gone, Modrić is still the team captain. The tireless Croat has one last chance to lift a trophy with Croatia.

Croatia has already lined up a new generation after the 2018 Golden Generation retired. The 2020 Euros were a major disappointment, as Croatia did not make it past the Last 16.

Zlatko Dalić made up for it in the 2022 World Cup when the Western Balkan country surprised the world by eliminating Brazil, one of the tournament favourites. Although Argentina eventually eliminated Croatia, they showed once again that they were ready to compete with their strong mentality, a key factor in their success.

Luka Modrić can now count on newcomers, such as Joško Gvardiol, Josip Stanišić, along with established players like Brozović, Kovačić, and Majer. The attack might not sound as promising as the forward line, but it includes Kramarić, Petković, Budimir, Perišić, and Pjaca. 

Croatia finished second in their qualification group, one point behind Turkey. The Vatreni have had mixed results, having lost to Spain in the Nations League on penalties but defeating the Netherlands. Their last preparation game was a 3-0 victory against North Macedonia. 

Zlatko Dalić has one last opportunity to assess his options as Croatia faces Portugal in their last game before the start of the tournament. They will need to arrive sharp, as their first opponent is Spain. Croatia can’t afford to make any mistakes against the Spaniards, as their qualification chances would quickly diminish.

Albania: The Determined Underdog

Group Qualification Odds: 3.8 (22bet)

Albania is the big outsider of the group. While Croatia, Italy and Spain all have their chances to make it to the knock-out rounds, Albania is the nation that is expected to struggle in the “Group of Death.” The Eagles topped their qualification group, only losing once against Poland. 

The Albanians are led by Brazilian legend Sylvinho, and despite their shortcomings, they are expected to put up a fight.

The squad might not feature stars, but it includes a few players with extensive experience in European football, such as Hysaj (Lazio), Balliu (Rayo Vallecano), Asllani (Inter Milan), and Armando Broja (Fulham). 

The team has not shown brilliant form since qualifying for the tournament, suffering defeats against Chile (3-0) and Sweden (2-0). One last preparation match against Azerbaijan will allow the Eagles to finalize their setups and strategies.

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