It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since the infamous Euro 2020 final between Italy and England. As extra-time expired and the match headed to penalties, Italy’s giant goalkeeper Gianluigi Donarumma rose to the occasion. His clutch penalty saves against England’s Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka broke the hearts of everyone who thought, “It’s coming home!” Italy hoisted its first European Championship since 1968 as Donarumma was recognized as the tournament’s best player.

Euro 2020 was as unpredictable as it was legendary. The entire tournament was filled with emotion, heartbreak and drama. Nobody could have predicted Denmark rallying behind Cristian Eriksen to make an unprecedented run to the semifinals or Switzerland’s last-minute comeback against France in the Round of 16. Euro 2024 promises to be more of the same. Nevertheless, let’s predict this unpredictable tournament.

The Disappointing Big Team

It was tempting to go with the defending champions Italy as they have improved greatly under the guidance of Luciano Spalleti. Instead, I’ll go for perennial underperformers Belgium. Belgium’s “golden generation” has failed to reach the expectations that were placed on them after their quarterfinal trip at the 2014 World Cup. Despite embarrassingly spilling out of the group stage at the 2022 World Cup, Belgium holds a lofty 3rd place in FIFA’s world rankings.

courtesy Steffen Prosdorf

Also, with winger Eden Hazard retired and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois injured, midfielder Kevin De Bruyne remains the only world-class player on the team. While there is new blood in attack with the likes of Loïs Openda and Jérémy Doku, Belgium’s formerly formidable defense is now a weakness. Courtois’s unavailability only highlights this glaring weak spot.

The Cinderella Story

In every major tournament, a small team makes a deep run in the knockout stage. At Euro 2016, Gareth Bale led Wales all the way to the semifinal. Similarly, Denmark was just one goal away from the final at Euro 2020. If history repeats itself, Euro 2024 should be no different.

With this in mind, Hungary could be the dark horse of this tournament. Their group is very manageable and they performed well at the 2022 – 2023 UEFA Nations League and Euro qualifiers. Hungary’s success can be credited to their sturdy defense and balanced attack. 

Led by creative midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, their squad is experienced but also in their prime. Szoboszlai’s former Leipzig teammates Peter Gulacsi and Willi Orban have uncanny chemistry at the back. Up front, anybody who watches Major League Soccer (MLS) will be familiar with Dániel Gazdag’s nose for goal. This team could beat anyone on any given day.

Young Player of the Tournament

Awarded to the best player 21 years or younger, this award hints that there are many potential candidates. England’s Jude Bellingham is the favorite, but I think his close friend and rival will snatch the award from him. 

Germany’s Jamal Musiala will have the home crowd behind him for the entire tournament. The young midfielder is an incredible dribbler and playmaker. With Julian Nagelsmann pitchside, Musiala shouldn’t have trouble playing his former Bayern Munich boss’s style of play. Musiala gained plenty of experience during the 2022 Qatar World Cup and is poised to break out at Euro 2024. With Germany poised to make a deep run, midfielder Florian Wirtz is also a strong contender.

The Team to Beat

After losing at Euro 2020 and at the 2022 World Cup via penalties, Les Bleus won’t leave anything to doubt at Euro 2024. Manager Didier Deschamps has been with the national team since 2012 and has led France to three major finals. He’s super familiar with his squad and he’s spoiled with talent.

Headlined by Kylian Mbappé, Les Bleus possess world-class players throughout the lineup. By sticking with the same set of players from previous tournaments, Deschamps can ensure his team is littered with plenty of experience and chemistry.

This team is hungry, too. After losing in the Euro 2016 final to Portugal, France rebounded by winning the 2018 Russia World Cup. This time, the 2022 World Cup Final loss to Argentina will be fresh in their minds. Mbappé especially, will be motivated to avenge his penalty miss against Switzerland at Euro 2020. He’ll lead France to their third European championship and earn Player of the Tournament honors along the way.