England faces Serbia in Euro 2024 group opener aiming to end 58 years of hurt

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — England is among the favorites to win the European Championship and end its long wait for a first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup. Gareth Southgate’s team begins its campaign against Serbia in Group C on Sunday. There are concerns about potential fan violence. Police have deemed the game “high risk,” and beer sales at the stadium will be low-alcohol only. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Sunday. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— Excluding penalty shootouts, England has lost only one of its last 18 games in the European Championship. The Three Lions, of course, suffered the heartbreak of losing to Italy on spot kicks in the final of the 2021 tournament at Wembley Stadium.

— England’s hopes could rest on Jude Bellingham, who has just completed a dream debut season at Real Madrid after winning the Spanish title and Champions League.

— Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is coming off an outstanding first season in Saudi Arabia with Al-Hilal, where he won a league and cup double, beating Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr to the title.

— This could be Southgate’s final tournament in charge of England, with his contract due to expire after the Euros. He led his team to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018 and the final of the Euros but admits failure to win a trophy this time would likely end his reign.

Team news

— The fitness of John Stones has been a focal point, not least because England had to leave defensive stalwart Harry Maguire out of the squad because of a calf injury. Stones missed training through illness earlier in the week but was back on Thursday. Southgate could play Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold as holding midfielder alongside Declan Rice.

— Serbia reported no injury concerns.

By the numbers

— Harry Kane, John Stones and Kyle Walker are playing in their fifth major tournament for England.

— Serbia scored 15 goals in qualifying for the Euros and five of them came from headers.

— Kane is England’s all-time leading scorer with 63 goals for his country — but he is still waiting for his first trophy at club or international level.

— If selected, Kane will set a record for England appearances at major tournaments on 23.

— Mitrovic scored 28 goals in all competitions for Al-Hilal, behind only Ronaldo (35) as the top scorer in the Saudi Pro League.

— Eleven members of Southgate’s squad, including Chelsea forward Cole Palmer, have been selected for a major tournament for the first time.

— 80,000 liters of beer will be available to fans in Gelsenkirchen, organizers have said.

What they’re saying

— “Winning a major tournament with England would be one of the pinnacles of anyone’s career so that is the aim. For me personally, the trophies haven’t quite happened yet but it just makes me more determined and hungry to go out there and do that.” — England captain Harry Kane.

— “Their last friendly showed us that no one is invincible. We watched the match against Iceland, and there is definitely something to learn from them because they have beaten England at Wembley in front of 80,000 people. Anything is possible.” — Serbia forward Dusan Vlahovic.

— “I’m a better manager than I was six months ago and a year ago, but time will tell if that’s going to translate into results. We’re here to win, which we know is a complicated journey, and the first objective is to qualify.” — England manager Gareth Southgate.

— “Some of the players here were not born when Serbia last participated in the European Championship. We have been waiting a long time for this. We managed to bring Serbia back to the top.” — Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic.


James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson


AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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