Euro 2024, Group C guide: Attacking riches for England but defensive woes

Likes of Foden, Bellingham and Kane provide manager Southgate with offensive firepower but injury and form issues limit options at the back

Jude Bellingham, centre, celebrates with Phil Foden after scoring for England against Scotland in the friendly match at Hampden Park on September 12, 2023. Getty Images
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Slovenia

Manager: Matjaz Kek

Captain: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

One to watch: Benjamin Sesko (RB Leipzig)

Squad: Goalkeepers: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Vid Belec (APOEL), Igor Vekic (Vejle), Matevz Vidovsek (Olimpija Ljubljana).

Defenders: Petar Stojanovic (Sampdoria), Jaka Bijol (Udinese), Miha Blazic (Lech Poznan), Jure Balkovec (Alanyaspor), Zan Karnicnik (Celje), David Brekalo (Orlando City), Erik Janza (Gornik Zabrze), Vanja Drkusic (Sochi), Zan Zaletel (Viborg).

Midfielders: Timi Max Elsnik (Olimpija Ljubljana), Jasmin Kurtic (Sudtirol), Benjamin Verbic (Panathinaikos), Miha Zajc (Fenerbahce), Sandi Lovric (Udinese), Adam Gnezda Cerin (Panathinaikos), Jon Gorenc Stankovic (Sturm Graz), Tomi Horvat (Sturm Graz), Adrian Zeljkovic (Spartak Trnava), Nino Zugelj (Bodo/Glimt).

Forwards: Josip Ilicic (Maribor), Andraz Sporar (Panathinaikos), Benjamin Sesko (RB Leipzig), Luka Zahovic (Pognon Szczecin), Zan Celar (Lugano), Jan Mlakar (Pisa), Zan Vipotnik (Bordeaux).

Highest Euro finish: Group stage 2000.

Fifa ranking: 57

Group C fixtures: June 16 Slovenia vs Denmark (Stuttgart, 8pm) June 20 Slovenia vs Serbia (Munich, 5pm) June 25 England vs Slovenia (Cologne, 11pm)

Overview

Plenty of eyes will be on young striker Benjamin Sesko, one of the hottest prospects in Europe, when Slovenia make their first European Championship appearance in 24 years in Germany.

The 20-year-old – who at 1.96 metres tall has drawn comparisons to Manchester City's Erling Haaland – has been linked with major clubs across Europe in recent months, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and AC Milan. Reports have the Gunners as front-runners to sign him.

Slovenia manager Matjaz Kek is not surprised by the interest in the RB Leipzig forward, saying the talented youngster will be a bargain for whoever signs him.

“He is physically strong, technically gifted and mature. There aren't many strikers like this in the world. I think he has steadily improved, becoming more concrete in his decisions. Another quality he has is pace,” the 62-year-old Kek told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Part of the comparison to Haaland is that both played for Red Bull Salzberg before dipping a toe in the Bundesliga, Haaland at Borussia Dortmund and Sesko at Leipzig.

Sesko, who played his way into the German side's starting XI in the second half of his debut season, has scored 14 goals in 31 league matches for Leipzig, who enjoyed a decent campaign, clinching a Champions League berth.

Slovenia qualified for the finals after finishing second in Group H behind Denmark only on head-to-head record, with Sesko contributing five goals, and ahead of Finland, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland and San Marino.

Denmark

Manager: Kasper Hjulmand

Captain: Simon Kjaer (AC Milan)

One to watch: Rasmus Hojlund (Manchester United)

Squad: Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Anderlecht), Frederik Ronnow (Union Berlin), Mads Hermansen (Leicester City).

Defenders: Andreas Christensen (Barcelona), Simon Kjaer (AC Milan), Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace), Jannik Vestergaard (Leicester City), Victor Nelsson (Galatasaray), Alexander Bah (Benfica), Joakim Maehle (Wolfsburg), Rasmus Kristensen (Roma), Victor Kristiansen (Bologna).

Midfielders: Christian Eriksen (Manchester United), Thomas Delaney (Anderlecht), Morten Hjulmand (Sporting Lisbon), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Tottenham), Christian Norgaard (Brentford), Mathias Jensen (Brentford), Mikkel Damsgaard (Brentford).

Forwards: Jacob Bruun Larsen (Burnley), Andreas Skov Olsen (Club Brugge), Anders Dreyer (Anderlecht), Kasper Dolberg (Anderlecht), Rasmus Hojlund (Manchester United), Jonas Wind (Wolfsburg), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig).

Highest Euro finish: Winners 1992

Fifa ranking: 21

Group C fixtures: June 16 Slovenia vs Denmark (Stuttgart, 8pm) June 20 Denmark vs England (Frankfurt, 8pm) June 25 Denmark vs Serbia (Munich, 11pm)

Overview

After a tough first season in a misfiring Manchester United team, Denmark will be hoping Rasmus Hojlund has got the taste for lifting trophies after winning the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium last month.

It took Hojlund until December 26, and 1,026 minutes of action, to register his first Premier League strike, which gave the 21-year-old a much-need boost that would see him finish the season with 10 goals – and 16 across all competitions as he finished as United's top scorer.

Despite being limited to just 16 minutes off the bench for the final, which saw United surprise double-chasing rivals Manchester City 2-1, Red Devils manager Erik ten Hag has insisted Hojlund just needs time and patience to develop and become a huge success at the club.

The striker notched seven goals in 12 appearances to fire his country to this summer's finals, including a hat-trick on his full debut against Finland, and told Danish magazine Tipsbladet that being selected for the Euros would be “insanely cool” ahead of coach Kasper Hjulmand naming his final squad.

"I was close to making it last time [to the World Cup in Qatar], but stumbled right at the finish line. I’m really looking forward to it,” said the attacker, who moved to England from Serie A side Atalanta last summer in a deal worth around £72 million.

“I am very patriotic, and it’s something very special to take the field with other Danes and play against other nations. It will always be special to me.

“I have never been the type to set a goal for myself, but of course, I will be happy if we advance from the group stage, and I can help the team along the way by scoring some goals.”

Serbia

Manager: Dragan Stojkovic

Captain: Dusan Tadic (Fenerbache)

One to watch: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Al Hilal)

Squad: Goalkeepers: Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (Torino), Djordje Petrovic (Chelsea), Predrag Rajkovic (Mallorca).

Defenders: Strahinja Pavlovic (Red Bull Salzburg), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Srdan Babic (Spartak Moscow), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Uros Spajic (Red Star Belgrade), Nemanja Stojic (TSC Backa Topola).

Midfielders: Sasa Lukic (Fulham), Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla), Nemanja Maksimovic (Getafe), Ivan Ilic (Torino), Srdan Mijailovic (Red Star Belgrade), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Al Hilal), Dusan Tadic (Fenerbahce), Lazar Samardzic (Udinese), Vejko Birmancevic (Sparta Prague), Filip Kostic (Juventus), Andrija Zivkovic (PAOK), Filip Mladenovic (Panathinaikos), Mijat Gacinovic (AEK Athens).

Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Al Hilal), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Luka Jovic (AC Milan), Petar Ratkov (Red Bull Salzburg).

Highest Euro finish: First time qualified as an independent nation. Finished runners-up when part of Yugoslavia 1960, 1968.

Fifa ranking: 33

Group C fixtures: June 16 Serbia vs England (Gelsenkirchen, 11pm) June 20 Slovenia vs Serbia (Munich, 5pm) June 25 Denmark vs Serbia (Munich, 11pm)

Overview

Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic heads into the Euro finals in fine fettle after a memorable first season with Saudi Pro League outfit Al Hilal that saw him notch 28 goals in 28 matches as his team lifted the title having finished the league season unbeaten and won the double.

The former Newcastle United and Fulham striker was only denied the league's top goalscorer's award by the relentless Cristiano Ronaldo, although Mitrovic would still have the last laugh when the veteran Portuguese's Al Nassr side lost to Hilal on penalties in the season-ending King's Cup final.

Apart from Mitrovic, who notched five goals from seven games in the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, Serbia's attacking options in Germany will be strong. Striker Dusan Vlahovic scored 16 Serie A goals for Juventus this season while veteran captain Dusan Tadic will play a pivotal role as an attacking midfielder tucked behind.

The other end of the pitch is more of a concern for coach Dragan Stojkovic. His team only managed to keep clean sheets in two Euro 2024 qualifying matches in a campaign that saw Serbia qualify second behind table-topping Hungary in a Group G that also included Montenegro, Lithuania, and Bulgaria.

The manager believes the team's final two group-stage games in Germany will decide their fate after taking on England – one of the tournament favourites in their opener.

“Game by game we will go to make a result as best as possible … the games against Slovenia and Denmark will be really, really important for us,” he said. “We need to be ready to fight against all three teams. But these two games, Slovenia and Denmark, will be decisive.”

England

Manager: Gareth Southgate

Captain: Harry Kane (Bayern Munich)

One to watch: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid)

Squad: Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Dean Henderson (Crystal Palace), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Defenders: Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United), Declan Rice (Arsenal), Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace).

Forwards: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).

Highest Euro finish: Runners-up 2020.

Fifa ranking: Fourth

Group C fixtures: June 16 Serbia vs England (Gelsenkirchen, 11pm) June 20 Denmark vs England (Frankfurt, 8pm)) June 25 England vs Slovenia (Cologne, 11pm)

Overview

Contrasting issues in terms of defensive and attacking options for manager Gareth Southgate who heads to Germany aiming to go one better than finishing as runners-up at Euro 2020.

Such are his offensive options that previous squad regulars in recent tournaments Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford have been ruthlessly cast aside – the former having not been picked since the Qatar World Cup while the latter has paid the price for poor form with Manchester United.

In Bukayo Saka (20 goals and 14 assists for Arsenal), Phil Foden (27 and 12 for Manchester City), Jude Bellingham (23 and 11 for Real Madrid) and Harry Kane (44 and 12 for Bayern Munich), Southgate has four players at the top of their games.

And the form of other attacking players such as Cole Palmer at Chelsea, Newcastle United's Anthony Gordon, and Jarrod Bowen at West Ham United means Southgate has an embarrassment of riches to choose from after a qualifying campaign that saw England finish unbeaten at the top of Group C.

The same cannot about the other of the pitch, though. Trusted centre-back pairing of John Stones and Harry Maguire have both endured injury-hit campaigns for their respective clubs, Manchester City and Manchester United, with the latter eventually ruled out having not recovered sufficiently from a calf problem sustained in April.

At left-back, Luke Shaw would be first choice but has not played for England this season, while Ben Chillwell has not made even the provisional squad. Shaw will be given the chance to prove his fitness, while right-back Kieran Trippier has once again been deputising on the left. Only Kyle Walker on the right appears a shoo-in to start for their opener Gelsenkirchen.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 4:25 AM