Soccer Sports

The stage is set for the 2024 Euro Championship

Multiple teams will make their bid at winning this summer’s main football event.

The European Championship playoff round took place on March 26 to decide which final teams in the tournament would be. Now that the groups are set, it is time to deliberate who will be crowned European Champions in 2024.

This year’s tournament will include a mix of soccer powerhouses along with teams that may go under the radar. Six groups of four teams each will battle in the first round—the group stage—to decide who advances to the knockout rounds. The top two teams from each group, along with the best third place teams in the tournament, will punch their ticket to the next round.

In Group A, the host country, Germany, is likely a favourite to advance through to the knockout round. Young talent in attacking midfielder Kai Havertz, as well as established goalkeeper Manuel Nauer give the hosts a big advantage against opposing countries. Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland will battle tough to be the runner-up and clinch their spot in the next round.

Another notable group in the tournament is Group D. France, who came in second place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is likely to win the group. The runner-up spot is likely to be a tough battle between Netherlands, Austria and Poland. 

England is also a favourite in Group C with Slovenia, Denmark and Serbia. The same thing goes for Belgium in Group E with Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine. Group F is likely to be topped by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal squad, as they will compete against Turkey, Czechia and Georgia.

Finally, the stacked Group B—ranked third in Europe is Spain. The Spanish powerhouse comes into the tournament with one of the most balanced squads in the world made up of striker Álvaro Morata, midfielder Dani Olmo and goalkeeper Unai Simón. Though they are favourites to win the tournament, advancing to the knockout stage will not be a breeze for Spain. First, they will have to get through Croatia. Led by the veteran striker Luka Modrić, Croatia came in third place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 

They did, however, finish the Euro Qualifying stage by losing to Wales, whose team failed to qualify for the tournament. Despite the talent of both Spain and Croatia, the competition does not stop there. Italy, winner of the 2020 European Championship, comes into the tournament as the 18th nation in Europe. Yet, Italy has the experience as one of the top nations in the world. Striker Federico Chiesa and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma have the potential to carry Italy to the knockout stage even against the toughest opponents. Albania, the final nation in the group, will be up against large competition and will have to go on a magical run to make it out of the group stage.

The European Championship is a world-renowned tournament for a reason. Once again in 2024, it will be a best-on-best frenzy to see which nation will be crowned champions of the football capital of the world.


Liverpool’s historical rollercoaster of emotions: from heartbreak to comebacks

*Yes, football in this article refers to soccer*

It seems as though there’s a perpetual state of heartbreak in this world. Every time something good happens, a hundred other bad things do too.

And now with the current COVID-19 outbreak, things seem to be apocalyptic; the entire world is on pause. This virus knows no borders and isn’t picky with whom it infects, from vulnerable people to healthy athletes, everyone is at risk—so above all, stay inside, stay safe, for yourselves and those around you.

There are things people hold on to during these times, and football is one of them for me. I’m a Liverpool FC (LFC) fan, and the frustrating part of this fantastic team is that it has no shortage of would-be heart-attacks. LFC is a team with an immense history, from Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly to Jurgen Klopp.

And right before the official world outbreak of the virus, the Reds got knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much as I did in that moment. The reigning champions, knocked out because of one silly, silly mistake. Why did it hurt so much? Let me tell you a story.

There was a young lad, scouser through and through, who breathed and bled football. From a young age in the city of Liverpool, there was no other road for Steven Gerrard than that of Anfield. Even before I became an LFC fan, I would hear Gerrard’s name from football fans around me almost as if it was a prayer. No matter what team you support, there’s no denying Gerrard’s talent. He belonged to the game, and he belonged to that city.

Liverpool is a football place. The passion for the game flows through the entire maritime town. On April 15, 1989, the city was left in shock after a tragedy in the Hillsborough stadium killed 96 fans due to a lack of police control. The disaster shook the city to its very core. Things just weren’t the same after that. Liverpool was hurting, and at the same time, money grew more and more important in football.

Gerrard was football before the money, before the capitalization of the game. He was the sweat on the brow of a fan waiting in line to enter Anfield, the smile from a kid on his dad’s shoulder, the angry shouts from women in the stands. He was passionate and determined and he gave Liverpool a miracle—I mean that literally.

After beating Chelsea in the semi-finals of the 2005 Champions League, LFC took to the road to Istanbul. Thirty thousand LFC fans made their way there to watch. Two minutes after the starting-whistle, AC Milan scored. Somehow, because that’s how football works, by the time the half-time whistle blew, LFC were down 3-0.

Walk on, through the wind

Walk on, through the rain, 

Though your dreams be tossed and blown,” 

The travelling Reds sang their hearts out to the beat of LFC’s hymn, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” They sang and lifted their arms and put up their flags, loud and clear.

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone.” 

The players came back out onto the pitch. If something was to happen, there was one man to do it. Six minutes into the second half, Gerrard loops the ball into the top right-hand corner. Goal. Barely two minutes later, Vladimir Smicer scores, and it’s now 3-2. About four minutes after that, a penalty for LFC. Xabi Alonso takes it, AC Milan goalie Dida saves it, the ball rebounds, Alonso is there, and GOAL.

It’s 3-3 and there was no way that title was going to escape LFC’s hands after a historical comeback like that one. And it didn’t, that night LFC were crowned Champions of Europe for the fifth time in the club’s history after winning the penalty shoot-out. It had been 21 years since the last time LFC had won that title. The Miracle of Istanbul to this day is regarded as one of the greatest finals in the history of the tournament.

LFC wasn’t one of the richer teams. Even Gerrard at some point almost left. Then-Chelsea-manager Jose Mourinho went after him consistently. But Gerrard stayed. Scouser through and through. There was one thing left to do: bring LFC back to its glory days in England, and win the Premier League. It wasn’t easy. But the 2013-14 Premier League season brought the Reds and the Kopites (the supporters) hope. April 13, 2014, Liverpool beat top-of-the-league Manchester City, setting the momentum for that much-desired League trophy.

“This does not slip,” Gerrard shouted at his teammates after that game. The next week against Norwich City, LFC won again. And then came the game against Chelsea. Mourinho slowed the pace of the game, the genius of him revolved around how important he knew this game was to LFC. He played a mental game that day, placed a bet and won. Gerrard slipped, leading to Chelsea’s first goal.

The title was gone.

Five years later, we have a new manager. This German guy who smiles too brightly always wears caps and has single-handedly put a smile on my face every time I’ve felt a little down. Jurgen Klopp. After Gerrard retired, the future seemed bleak for LFC supporters and holding on to hope, the kind that “You’ll Never Walk Alone” sings about, was a test of faith. But supporters held on, loyalty was valued. The team began shaping itself into the beast it is now, claiming England and Europe by storm. Yes, LFC didn’t have the budget other teams did. But here’s what we did have: passion, determination, hard work, and Klopp.

In 2019, LFC was pitted against Barcelona for the semi-final of the Champions League. The first leg was at Camp Nou, and even though the boys played one of their best games, Barcelona won 3-0. But in a month, they were coming to Anfield. Hungry, passionate, and deserving, the Kopites made noise like never before. The team needed to score four goals and keep a clean sheet to win.

Without Mohammad Salah and Roberto Firmino—two key starting players ruled out from the game due to injuries.  And yet… it’s Liverpool FC after all. I was in Barcelona when I watched that game, terrified, excited, somehow with a lot of belief.

A series of unbelievable events took place that night at Anfield.

Seven minutes in, Divock Origi scored. LFC lead at half-time. Georginio Wijnaldum was subbed in and scored two magnificent goals within two minutes. The defence was rock-solid, every one of the players buzzing and feeding off the famous Anfield atmosphere. Then, it’s a corner for LFC. Trent Alexander-Arnold was set to take it, but walked away to give it to Xherdan Shaqiri, but in a blink, he was back at the corner, spotted Origi, shot, and Origi tapped it in. That was the fourth goal. That year, LFC took the Champions League trophy home, 14 years later, another historical comeback under their belt.

This season, LFC wanted the Premier League. The team won 27 games, drawing one, and losing one. Two more wins and the title was ours. Two more wins, and 30 years later, we get that title.

But, as Klopp said, “there are more important things than football.” The virus hit, and everything stopped—as it should. Hearing of this after being knocked out of the Champions League even though the team did everything right completely shattered me.

After everything this team and fanbase have been through… a slip? A virus? And I can’t even be angry because it’s no one’s fault. This is just what happens. But, Liverpool FC is known for comebacks. So walk on with your heads held high, Kopites.

And for the world, stay home, stay healthy. Be sad, but be safe. As the beautiful song goes, “at the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark.”


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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