Euro 2024 takeaways: Fans and fearless teams are stars as tournament waits on stellar players

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — It took 36 games in 13 days across 10 cities in Germany to play the group stage of the European Championship in men’s soccer.

Eight teams have gone home and the original lineup of 24 is down to the 16 who will start the knockout rounds Saturday.

There were huge surprises on the field and big disappointments, deliriously happy fans and seriously disgruntled ones. Here is a look at what’s played out so far.


Fans are arguably the biggest stars of Euro 2024, reminding viewers of the joyful shared experience a soccer tournament can be.

Germany was perhaps the perfect stage — an affordable and easily accessible host in the heart of Europe – for fans to reconnect. Even with a beer. The last Euros was played under strict pandemic protocols in 2021 and European fans just did not travel in large numbers to the past two World Cups played in Russia and Qatar.

So, an orange mass of 50,000 Dutch fans bounced through the streets of Leipzig and Berlin.

Similar numbers of Scots in Cologne got gushing praise from the city’s mayor, even after a bagpipes-playing residency on the steps of its signature cathedral.

Electrifying support from Georgia and Romania fans through epic rain storms at their games helped lift teams toward overachieving.

Fans marches from city center to stadium that are common in European soccer are now a thing at Euro 2024.

“It is becoming more and more a key element in the tournament,” said Football Supporters Europe executive director Ronan Evain. “German authorities have decided for a long time now to encourage them.”


Plastic cups thrown by fans at England coach Gareth Southgate after another insipid game. Belgium captain Kevin De Bruyne ushering teammates away in a collective post-game snub to fans booing them.

France coach Didier Deschamps suggesting people can change the TV channel if they do not like watching his richly talented team that is not yet much fun.

Meanwhile, fans of Austria and Romania — surprise winners of their groups ahead of, respectively, France and Belgium — are having a great time.


Superstars have not hit top form yet. Injuries have not helped and others seem jaded in national teams after standout seasons at clubs where they enjoy stronger connections with teammates.

Cristiano Ronaldo, now 39, has seemed frustrated and not just by the parade of selfie-seeking fans evading security staff to get close to him.

Jude Bellingham faded after an impressive first 45 minutes. Harry Kane pushed back against unprecedented criticism. Kylian Mbappé, now the man in the mask, is managing the risk of playing with a broken nose.

All that can be forgotten when Euro 2024 restarts Saturday.


A parable of Euro 2024 is the linked and contrasting fortunes of Georgia and Scotland. Neither had ever advanced to the knockout stage of a Euros or World Cup, but this was Georgia’s debut and Scotland’s 12th try.

Scotland and Georgia were in the same qualifying group last year. The Scots took four points from their two games against each other to advance as runner-up to Spain.

Scotland beat Spain 2-0 in Glasgow. Georgia was routed 7-1 in its home game against Spain, and later advanced to Euro 2024 through the playoffs path for low-ranked teams.

So how did they approach Euro 2024? Scotland played with caution verging on fear, picking five defenders even in can-win games against Switzerland and Hungary. And exited winless as perhaps the tournament’s worst team to watch.

Georgia was fearless, riding the star quality of Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and was in probably the most thrilling game so far: a 3-1 loss to Turkey. Georgia then drew 1-1 with the Czech Republic, after leading, and stunningly beat Portugal 2-0.

The lowest-ranked team at Euro 2024 is a joy for neutrals to watch and got the deserved reward of a round of 16 game. Against Spain.


Since referees used video review at the 2018 World Cup there was a surge in the number of penalties awarded. From 13 at the 2014 World Cup, to 29, then 23 at the 2022 World Cup.

At the last Euros there were more penalties awarded in the 36-game group stage – 14 – than in the group stages of the previous three tournaments combined.

At Euro 2024, just eight penalties were awarded in the group stage — six scored, two failures by Croatia — that seems to follow the downtick at the last World Cup.

Defenders have learned not to step on an attacker’s foot, not to wrestle or pull jerseys so much when marking at set pieces, and avoid extending their arms. Euro 2024 referees also seem to let defenders be strong in the challenge.

Yellow cards for diving in each of Portugal’s first two games, provoking a one-game ban, for winger Rafael Leão perhaps also sent a message to attackers.


Euro 2024 was planned with a starring role for trains to carry fans — and even teams to some games — who had good memories of free or cheap transport at the well-organized 2006 World Cup.

The service level of Deutsche Bahn, a tournament sponsor, has clearly dropped since then but it has been essential.

“The trains didn’t improve but people got used to them,” FSE’s Evain told the Associated Press.

Even if trains often were late, they are scheduled to run late into the night — getting fans to their hotel or apartment rental in a cheaper city rather than depend on price-gouged rooms near the stadiums.

“This is shaping the tournament,” Evain said.

Providing anything like a similar service will be a challenge for Euro 2028 organizers in the UK and Ireland.


AP Euro 2024:

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