Euro 2024, Group B guide: Spain aim to tune out background noise of scandal-ridden FA

La Roja have the talent and form to challenge for a fourth title but their campaign could be overshadowed by the RFEF controversy

Manchester City and Spain midfielder Rodri will be aiming to carry over his form from club to country in this summer's Euro 2024 finals. Getty Images
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Spain

Manager: Luis de la Fuente

Captain: Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid)

One to watch: Lamine Yamal (Barcelona)

Squad: Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad), David Raya (Arsenal - on loan from Brentford)

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

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

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

Highest Euro finish: Winners 1964, 2008, 2012.

Fifa ranking: Eighth

Group B fixtures: June 15 Spain vs Croatia (Berlin, 8pm) June 20 Spain vs Italy (Gelsenkirchen, 11pm) June 23 Albania vs Spain (Dusseldorf, 11pm)

Overview

Spain will arrive in Germany for Euro 2024 looking to re-establish themselves as major title contenders while hoping to tune out the noise after months of controversy surrounding the country's scandal-ridden football federation (RFEF).

With a corruption probe underway and the fallout from the unsolicited kiss former RFEF chief Luis Rubiales gave player Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the women's World Cup last year, the government created a special committee to oversee the governing body until it holds new elections.

Months of controversy overshadowed Spain's 2023 Uefa Nations League title and an almost perfect Euro 2024 qualifying campaign that left the impression their young and talented core seem to be on rise under the calm leadership of Luis de la Fuente.

With Barcelona teenagers Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi breaking through, Manchester City midfielder Rodri in his prime and Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal and Atletico Madrid's Alvaro Morata still delivering, Spain have a good mix of youth and experience.

De la Fuente has the advantage of knowing many of the players who will make up the Euro 2024 squad well. He won the Euros with the Under-19s in 2015 and Under-21s in 2019, coaching many of those he guided to the Nations League title last year, having worked with players such as Pedri, Mikel Oyarzabal, Fabian Ruiz, Mikel Merino, Marco Asensio and Dani Olmo in the Under-15 team.

“We need a team that is cohesive, united, a homogeneous group that have a common goal and a clear objective. And I think we have consolidated a great group of people, a great human group,” said the 62-year-old coach. “Now let football do the talking and let the talented footballers, who I believe we can count on, be the real stars of this story, the stars on the pitch.”

Croatia

Manager: Zlatko Dalic

Captain: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

One to watch: Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City)

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

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

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

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

Highest Euro finish: Quarter-finals 1996 and 2008.

Fifa ranking: 10th

Group B fixtures: June 15 Spain vs Croatia (Berlin, 8pm) June 20 Spain vs Italy (Gelsenkirchen, 11pm) June 24 Albania vs Spain (Dusseldorf, 11pm)

Overview

Perennial overachievers Croatia have made a habit of bucking predictions but, while their World Cup record is the envy of many, they have never quite hit the same heights in the European Championship.

With a population of around 3.8 million, Croatia's achievement in reaching the 2018 World Cup final and following that with a run to the semis four years later is one of the great underdog stories in the sport's history.

Yet their record in Europe's continental contest lacks the same shine having never been past the quarter-finals and falling in the last 16 at the previous two editions.

They will hope to put that right at Euro 2024 in Germany, in what will surely be the last hurrah for captain Luka Modric.

The 38-year-old, Croatia's talisman and schemer-in-chief, has lifted every trophy going at club level with Real Madrid and would love to crown his incredible career with international honours.

The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner, who has won multiple La Liga and Champions League titles, has seen his playing time at Real limited this season but he remains the linchpin in a Croatia side that on paper lacks the star quality of some of their rivals.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic referred to Modric last year as “footballing perfection” and “superior [to others] in every possible way” but he has also proven a master at melding a team of lesser talents that is almost always greater than the sum of its parts.

Italy

Manager: Luciano Spalletti

Captain: Gigio Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain)

One to watch: Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan)

Squad: Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Meret (Napoli), Guglielmo Vicario (Tottenham Hotspur)

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

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

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

Highest Euro finish: Winners 1968, 2020.

Fifa ranking: Ninth

Group B fixtures: June 15 Italy vs Albania (Dortmund, 11pm) June 20 Spain vs Italy (Gelsenkirchen, 11pm) June 24 Croatia vs Italy (Leipzig, 11pm).

Overview

Nicolo Barella has been a vital member of Inter Milan's league-winning side this season and as the heart of Italy's midfield engine, his dynamism will be crucial for the nation's Euro 2024 hopes.

Barella, 27, is used to winning and was a member of the Italian side who lifted the Euro 2020 trophy. The experience and maturity gained since then will be a major factor in Germany as he comes into his prime.

Manager Luciano Spalletti will rely on Barella, a box-to-box player, not only to set up Italy's attacking play but also to help out in defence, winning back possession and creating counter-attacking moves.

Barella has the courage to take on players and the ability to go past them and with Italy lacking a proven goalscorer up front, his ability to create and score goals will be essential if Spalletti's side are to progress in the tournament.

This season, Barella improved as the season went on. The only game he missed in the whole campaign came through suspension and during that break in January he underwent a 10-day training programme and came back stronger than ever.

Defensively, Spalletti's plans have taken a hit, with Atalanta's Giorgio Scalvini and Francesco Acerbi of Inter both ruled out due to injury with Juventus' Federico Gatti. Scalvini had played eight times for Italy, while 36-year-old Acerbi has made 34 appearances for the Azzurri.

Albania

Manager: Sylvinho

Captain: Berat Gjimshiti (Atalanta)

One to watch: Jasir Asani (Gwangju FC)

Squad: Goalkeepers: Etrit Berisha (Empoli), Thomas Strakosha (Brentford), Elhan Kastrati (Cittadella), Simon Simoni (Eintracht Frankfurt)

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

Midfielders: Amir Abrashi (Grasshoppers), Kristjan Asllani (Inter Milan), Nedim Bajrami (Sassuolo), Medon Berisha (Lecce), Klaus Gjasula (Darmstadt 98), Qazim Laçi (Sparta Prague), Ernest Muçi (Beşiktaş), Ylber Ramadani (Lecce)

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

Highest Euro finish: Group stage 2016

Fifa ranking: 66th

Group B fixtures: June 15 Italy vs Albania (Dortmund, 11pm) June 19 Croatia vs Albania (Hamburg, 5pm) June 24 Albania vs Spain (Dusseldorf, 11pm).

Overview

Albania's participation at Euro 2024 is only their second appearance in a major tournament and, while they face a tough task to progress from a difficult group, a lack of expectation could prove valuable.

Albania will be buoyed up by their form in qualifying as group winners, ahead of the Czech Republic and Poland, after going seven games unbeaten following their opening loss to the Poles.

Since their historic debut in 2016, Albania missed out on qualifying for the last Euros along with two World Cups but, under new manager Sylvinho, they have turned a corner.

In 2022 they recorded just one win in 11 games. Sylvinho took over as Albania's manager at the beginning of 2023 and last year they won five of their nine matches, losing just once.

Sylvinho brought in fellow Brazilian Doriva and Argentine Pablo Zabaleta to work alongside him and together they set about finding players to suit their style of play.

Jasir Asani is one of those players, a left-footed right winger who plays his club football with Gwangju in South Korea, and has featured in every match since Sylvinho came in, and scored three goals in the qualifiers.

Updated: June 10, 2024, 7:01 AM