Homeboys Germany and reborn Hungary headline Group A at the Euros

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Berlin, June 10: Tournament hosts Germany face Hungary, Switzerland and Scotland, a set of talented if unpredictable rivals, in Group A as they bid for a record-breaking fourth Euros crown. After a decade of underperforming, Germany come into the tournament on the rise.

Improving under coach Julian Nagelsmann, the Germans may now be in the frame for a deep run in the tournament, particularly after dispatching France and the Netherlands in impressive style in March.

Getting through the group will be no forgone conclusion however, particularly with Hungary firing under manager Marco Rossi.

In spite of a 1-0 defeat by Ireland in their pre-tournament warm-up on June 5, the Hungarians have been in outstanding form, unbeaten until that setback since September 2022, a run of 12 games.

Switzerland and Scotland are the outsiders but either could have a shot of spoiling the hosts' party with a run to the knockouts.

Germany resurgent, Hungary lurking 

Germany have won three European championships as well as four World Cups, most recently in 2014, but their reputation as a tournament team has taken a battering over the past decade.

After losing in the semi-finals to France in 2016, Germany were knocked out at the group stages of the World Cup in 2018 -- their earliest exit in 80 years.

The Germans repeated the trick four years later in Qatar, having been eliminated at the Euros last 16 in 2021 by eventual finalists England. Then manager Hansi Flick was fired late in 2023 after a 4-1 loss to Japan in Wolfsburg, the first coach sacked in Germany history.

His replacement, Nagelsmann, won just one of his first four matches before shaking up the squad in March.

The 36-year-old made 11 changes, dropping established stars like Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Mats Hummels and Niklas Suele for in-form players from league champions Bayer Leverkusen and surprise packets Stuttgart. The change paid dividends, with Nagelsmann's energetic and hungry side beating France and the Netherlands.

After reaching the semi-finals in 1972, Hungary's football nose-dived and they failed to qualify for the Euros unntil 2016 but this is their third successive tournament and Rossi's side have high hopes of pushing beyond the group stage.

Leipzig captain Willi Orban and goalkeeper Peter Gulasci will reunite with former teammate Dominik Szoboszlai, who moved to Liverpool last year.

Freiburg's creative forward Roland Sallai rounds out a team heavy with Bundesliga experience, which may be crucial when Hungary meet the hosts in Stuttgart, a rematch of the 1954 World Cup final surprisingly won by the underdog West Germans.

Golden Swiss and 'Tartan Army' 

Neighbouring Switzerland head into Euro 2024 as the most successful team in the country's history, a continuation of the side which won the U17 World Cup in 2009.

Switzerland reached the quarter-finals in the last Euros, their best result at the competition, and are the only side to eliminate France before the final at a major tournament since 2014.

In his first season at Bayer Leverkusen, Swiss captain Granit Xhaka was the heart and soul of a team which won the league and cup double, going 51 games unbeaten on the way to the Europa League final -- their only loss of the season.

Goalkeeper Yann Sommer had a great season with Serie A champions Inter Milan, while forward Xherdan Shaqiri -- who plays with Chicago Fire in the MLS -- remains the main creative outlet for the Swiss.

Xhaka, Sommer and Shaqiri are all on the wrong side of 30 while Manchester City's Manuel Akanji is 28, meaning Switzerland will need to make hay at Euro 2024 before their golden generation loses its shine.

Scotland will open the tournament against hosts Germany on June 14 and, despite losing striker Lyndon Dykes, boast plenty of Premier League talent, including captain Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and John McGinn.

Regardless of their on-field performance, Scotland will be among the best supported of the 24 teams. (AFP)

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