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Euro 2024: What is a Group of Death?

Euro 2024: What is a Group of Death?
© Reuters
Sports Mole takes a look what constitutes a Group of Death in football terms and ranks the five biggest Groups of Death from the last five European Championships.

In football terms, a Group of Death refers to a group of teams in a competition that are similarly matched in terms of quality, and so it is hard to predict who will qualify from them. The overall quality in the group is also usually high, making for some interesting match-ups.

Which is the Group of Death at Euro 2024?

Group B is largely considered the Group of Death at Euro 2024, as it contains traditional heavyweights Spain and Italy, as well as constant overachievers Croatia and surprise package Albania.

In terms of FIFA rankings, Spain (8th), Italy (9th) and Croatia (10th) all rank in the top ten and within just three places of each other, while Albania are rank outsiders (66th).

Group D containing France, Netherlands, Austria and Poland could also be considered a group of death, as they all boast players of high quality, and could all take points off of each other in any given game.

In terms of FIFA World Rankings, they are closely grouped with France (2nd), Netherlands (7th), Austria (25th) and Poland (28th) only having a mere 26 places between them.


Top 5: Famous Groups of Death at last five Euros

We have ranked the five biggest Groups of Death from the last five tournaments, with particular emphasis on the quality of teams involved and their pedigree in major competitions.

Emanuele Giaccherini scores his team's first goal during the Euro 2016 Group E game between Belgium and Italy on June 13, 2016

5. Euro 2016 - Group E: Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Sweden


Kicking off the power rankings is Euro 2016, which was won by outsiders Portugal, for their first-ever major tournament win.

Group E provided us with Belgium and their golden generation of players containing the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, Euro 2012 finalists Italy, a dogged Republic of Ireland team and a Sweden side led by the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Italy, Belgium and Republic of Ireland all ended up advancing to the knockout stages, such was the strength of the group. However, none of them could get past the quarter-finals.


4. Euro 2008 - Group C: Netherlands, Italy, Romania, France

Italy's Gennaro Gattuso in action with France's Thierry Henry and Karim Benzema on June 17, 2008 [IMAGO]© Imago

Euro 2008's Group C contained three traditional European powerhouses in Netherlands, France and Italy, the latter of whom had won the 2006 FIFA World Cup, alongside the underestimated Romania.

Netherlands and Italy qualified from the group, with France finishing bottom below Romania, but the former two could not make it past the quarter-finals. The tournament was won by Spain, for the first of three unmatched consecutive international triumphs.


3. Euro 2004 - Group D: Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Latvia

Netherlands' Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates scoring their first goal on June 15, 2004 [IMAGO]© Imago

Group D at Euro 2004 contained traditional powerhouses Germany and Netherlands, and also a Czech Republic side blessed with talents like Milan Baros and Ballon d'Or winner Pavel Nedved among others. The distant outsiders Latvia went out as expected, but even managed a 0-0 draw with Germany that further illustrated this group's sense of treachery.

Baros was top scorer in the tournament, as the Czechs qualified top of this group, with Netherlands edging out Germany for second place. Czech Republic and Netherlands both made it to the semi-finals, but both were knocked out. Famously, Greece ended up winning Euro 2004 in what is perhaps the biggest shock in Euros history.


2. Euro 2012 - Group C: Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia

Spain players celebrate David Silva's goal against Italy in the final of Euro 2012 on July 1, 2012© Reuters

Euro 2012 finalists Spain and Italy emerged from the same group, which ranks just behind top spot for us in the standings. It was Spain who went on to win their second consecutive Euros, demolishing Italy 4-0 in the final.

Incidentally, they are both in the same Euro 2024 group too alongside Croatia, who came third in their Euro 2012 group, with the Republic of Ireland ending up bottom.


1. Euro 2020 - Group F: Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Portugal in June 2021© Reuters

There may be a bit of recency bias involved, but we think that Euro 2020 produced the biggest Group of Death since 2004. It contained three traditional European heavyweights in Germany, Portugal and France, each of which had won a major trophy within the preceding seven years.

Although they were seen as the weak link here, Hungary were no pushovers either, taking two points but eventually finishing bottom. The three other teams advanced to the knockout stages, but strangely all got knocked out in the round of 16!


Final thoughts

Tournament football in such a short-term format is notoriously unpredictable, and there are always upsets around the corner. At Euro 2024, Albania chances of disrupting the status quo appear slim, but France and the Netherlands will be wary of the firepower that both Austria and Poland possess.


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