Group of Three Lions? Denmark, Serbia Challenge England’s Dominance

Group C has one clear favourite, but beyond that, the competition is wide open. England stands out as the dominant force, despite Southgate’s shocking squad omissions, announced yesterday. This, however, isn’t expected to alter the general expectations of the Three Lions – they remain favourites.

Denmark and Serbia are likely to compete for second place. If the Danes have the results, Serbia has the talents and the mentality. Denmark’s recent campaign has not convinced their fans, leaving room for Serbia to emerge as the dark horse of the group.

For Slovenia, this marks their first participation in a long time, and the expectations are low, with most predicting they will finish at the bottom of the group.

Slovenia: Underdogs with Limited Stars

Group Qualification Odds: 2.37 (22bet)

Slovenia last played in the Euros in 2000, when the author of this article was not yet born. Slovenia has no particular stars except one at the back and one at the front – Atlético goalkeeper Jan Oblak and RB Leipzig striker Benjamin Šeško. Besides these key players, Slovenia has little to boast about, making them the likely underdog in this challenging group.

Slovenia’s difficult journey will begin with a match against Denmark, while their final preparation match will be played against Bulgaria during the weekend.

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Denmark: Strong on Paper, Uncertain in Reality

Group Qualification Odds: 1.32 (22bet)

Denmark is a strong team on paper, but they also benefited from a relatively weak group in the qualification phase, allowing them to qualify smoothly.

They already faced Slovenia in that group, and the first game surprisingly ended in a draw. The Scandinavians have not faced any top teams in a long time, which could become a problem when they face better opposition, such as England.

Denmark was a great underdog story in the last edition of the EUROs, reaching the semi-finals. However, this success story is unlikely to repeat itself. The Danes have been sluggish in their recent games, and they only have one game left to prepare against their Scandinavian neighbours, Norway.

While Denmark is expected to qualify as the second team from the group, history has shown that they can still pull off surprises.

Serbia: Dark Horse with Potential

Group Qualification Odds: 1.57 (22bet)

Serbia is a team full of exciting players and not as weak as many might expect. Despite Aleksandar Pavlović deciding to play for Germany, the squad is packed with quality. Strahinja Pavlović is one of the exciting center-backs who bolsters the defence alongside Nemanja Gudelj.

Up front, players like Aleksandr Mitrović – who has continued scoring in the Saudi League – will be joined by Tadić and Vlahović. Serbia’s attacking pool is something commentators will rave about.

On paper, Serbia has the perfect profile to be a dark horse. However, head coach Dragan Stojković, known as Piksi, has been under fire for their weak performances in the 2022 World Cup and recent sluggish performances against Cyprus and Bulgaria.

The biggest question for Serbia is whether Piksi can find the right XI. He has been criticized for months for failing to live up to the expectations despite Serbia having its best generation of players in a long time. This tournament is also the last chance for many players to achieve something significant with Serbia, adding to the pressure.

Serbia’s key test will be their match against Denmark. While a defeat against England is expected, Denmark is within Serbia’s range – if Piksi plays his card right. Confidence might be at an all-time low, but this is often how underdog stories begin.

England: Favourites with High Potential

Group Winner Odds: 1.37 (22bet)

England is the major talking point as the favourite. On paper, England is not only the favourite of the group but among the favourites of the entire tournament. Although this generation is more talented than ever, they have also never underachieved like this squad.

Gareth Southgate’s decisions are often surprising, and yesterday, his squad list shook the world. Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford have all been dropped from the squad, while Harry Maguire won’t recover in time. Jarred Branthwaite, one of the season’s revelations and a candidate to replace Maguire, was inexplicably left out. To the general surprise, James Maddison didn’t make the list either.

The Three Lions have repeatedly been among the favourites in every tournament since 2018. Despite the status, Southgate’s team has not won a single trophy. They lost in the semi-finals against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup, they lost in the final against Italy in the 2020 Euros, and the 2022 World Cup saw them crash out in the quarter-finals against France.

England enters this tournament once again as the favourite (along with France), but it needs to finally act like the favourite. For too long, Southgate’s decisions have penalized the team, and it is unlikely that the fans will remain content with another mediocre performance in this tournament.

History has seen many disappointments and underperforming teams, but few have failed to the extent of England’s. This is likely to be Southgate’s last chance. Dropping several heavyweights (Maddison, Sterling and Grealish) must be justified – it could go in either direction.

Without a doubt, England will remain the favourite of the group due to their excess of talent – but it does raise questions about the later stages of the tournament, where these players could have provided an additional spark of creativity.

England’s last preparation test is not particularly challenging either, as the Three Lions will face Iceland. Their path since qualifying has not been inspiring, failing to win against Belgium (2-2) and drawing with Brazil (1-1). To the general surprise, England drew against North Macedonia (1-1) in the last match of the qualifiers, but the Three Lions topped their group nonetheless.

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