Group C: England looking for fast start against Serbs but great Danes can bite

June 14 – On Sunday, England will kick off their Euro 2024 campaign against Serbia with defensive worries and the need to convince the critics that they can claim a first major trophy since 1966.

At last, in Gelsenkirchen, all the talk of team selection, defeat to Iceland and other conjecture will come to an end with England’s European championship curtain raiser against the Serbians. Manager Gareth Southgate is under pressure to deliver after England’s heartbreak at the last European championship and capitalise on some of the fabulous talent at his disposal.

The English were again handed a favourable draw with Denmark and Slovenia as the other opponents in Group C.

With Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden, the Three Lions have one of the most potent attacks at the tournament, but the top-heavy structure of the team might also be their undoing.

England’s defence is fragile and ahead of the Serbia match, John Stones’s fitness is in doubt and full-back Luke Shaw could also miss out. Harry Maguire is not in the final squad because of injury.

It means that England will field a makeshift defence. Further upfield, Southgate needs to decide who will play alongside Arsenal’s Declan Rice, who will have the key task of shielding the defence against Serbia’s formidable attack.

The Serbians can count on on the potent trio of Alexsander Mitrovic, Dusan Tadic and Dusan Vlahovic to torment the English.

Roberto Mancini’s Italy side spoiled the party for England in 2022when they defeated the hosts from the penalty spot. Southgate was criticised for his safety-first approach.

Last week’s friendly defeat to Iceland came as further embarrassment, but the England manager said his team would be ready for Euro 2024.

In Group C’s other match, Denmark play Slovenia in Stuttgart in a must-win match before their encounter with England.

The Danish will be favourites but they are no longer the force of Euro 2020 when after Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest they rallied to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, bestowing upon manager Kasper Hjulmand a certain aura.

That hallow is gone after a dramatic World Cup in Qatar and a mediocre 2023. Recent results have lifted the mood somewhat. Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund is not entirely fit.

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