Euro 2024 Preview: Group B - Will Italy successfully defend Euros crown?


Euro 2024 kicks off later this week. Having run through Group A already, we preview Group B, with all four teams falling under the microscope as we pick out the key player, young player to watch and make our tournament prediction for Albania, Croatia, Italy and Spain.  




How they reached Euro 2024 


Albania finished top of their qualifying group to book a place at the European Championship for just the second time in their history. Former Arsenal left-back Sylvinho has won plenty of admirers for the way he has set up his Albania side with the Red and Blacks remaining resolute in their qualification campaign as they conceded just four times in eight games. 


Key Player - Armando Broja 


It's been a season to forget for Armando Broja, who scored just once in the Premier League last season. A January move to Fulham should have kickstarted his campaign but the 22-year-old was unable to build consistency for Marco Silva's side. Injuries haven't helped Broja but he gave fans a reminder of his goalscoring capability with a well-taken strike against Liechtenstein in a pre-Euros friendly. 


Young Player to Watch - Mario Mitaj 


The versatile 20-year-old made just 12 league starts for Lokomotiv Moscow last season but he's a handy outlet when used at left-back. 1.7 dribbles per 90 ranked 12th in the Russian Premier League last season, while 1.8 interceptions was second. Also capable of operating in midfield, Mario Mitaj is able to utilise his impressive reading of the game to quickly turn defence into attack, and this'll be key for an Albania side that is expected to sit back and seek to hurt opponents on the counter. 


Tournament Prediction - Group stages 




How they reached Euro 2024 


Croatia secured their spot at Euro 2024 as runners' up to Turkiye in Group D, though they did cut it fine. While they managed to finish four points clear of Wales in third, back-to-back defeats in October last year saw them come close to missing out on a European Championship spot entirely. 


Key Player - Luka Modric 


Now 38 years of age, Luka Modric is ageing like a fine wine. Nevertheless, Croatia's captain is one of the first names on the teamsheet and for good reason. In full flow, Modric is one of the most elegant footballers on the planet as he approaches what may be his final international tournament. Despite their relative qualification struggles, Croatia have a knack for showing up in competition football and with the Real Madrid star routinely defying Father Time, he'll be the brain of the Vatreni once more. 


Young Player to Watch - Josko Gvardiol


Not necessarily an unknown heading into the tournament but it's hard to believe that Josko Gvardiol is still just 22 years of age. The defender capped a solid debut campaign with Manchester City with a Premier League winners' medal and at either centre-back or left-back, opposition forwards will struggle up against the imperious Gvardiol. 


Tournament Prediction - Round of 16 




How they reached Euro 2024 


Italy came close to missing out on the chance to defend their Euros crown. The 2020 winners progressed along with England from Group C but ended their qualification campaign level on points with Ukraine. The Azzurri's better head-to-head record is what saw them finish second to secure a spot in Germany. 


Euro 2024 Preview: Group B - Will Italy successfully defend Euros crown?


Key Player - Alessandro Bastoni 


One of the best defenders on the planet. Alessandro Bastoni was a key cog in an Inter backline that conceded just 22 league goals on their way to another Scudetto with the 25-year-old's WhoScored rating of 7.06 enough to make the Serie A team of the season. With Italy boss Luciano Spalletti believed to be considering a three-man backline at the Euros, Bastoni's experience and link up with Federico Dimarco down the left is crucial if Italy are to navigate a tough group. 


Young Player to Watch - Riccardo Calafiori 


Riccardo Calafiori saw an impressive breakout season rewarded with a spot in the Italy squad for the Euros, though the Bologna man may not have made the cut had Giorgio Scalvini been fit. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old was superb as Bologna claimed a top-four finish with his best trait proving his fine reading of the game. Despite starting just 26 league matches, Calafiori ranked sixth for interceptions (50) in Serie A last season. 


Tournament Prediction - Quarter-finals 




How they reached Euro 2024 


The only blip on the record book for Spain in Euro 2024 qualifying came in a 2-0 loss at Scotland last March. They quickly bounced back from the loss as they eventually secured their place in Germany having won seven of eight matches, netting 25 times in the process. 


Key Player - Rodri 


Arguably the best central midfielder in the world, Rodri's title-winning experience for Manchester City will be vital for La Roja at Euro 2024. The 27-year-old ranked top for accurate passes (3359) in Europe's top five leagues last season, while he won possession in the midfield third more times (132) than any other Premier League player. Factor in his goal output and opponents need to work hard to minimise Rodri's influence. 


Euro 2024 Preview: Group B - Will Italy successfully defend Euros crown?



Young Player to Watch - Nico Williams 


After playing his part in Athletic Club's Copa Del Rey success, Nico Williams will look to really explode onto the international scene this summer. The 21-year-old has a host of Premier League admirers and for good reason. Williams finished the 2023/24 La Liga campaign second for assists (11) and dribbles (86) to further boost his reputation. 


Tournament Prediction - Quarter-finals


Group prediction


1. Spain

2. Italy

3. Croatia

4. Albania

Euro 2024 Preview: Group B - Will Italy successfully defend Euros crown?