The top leagues in European football all came to an abrupt halt the week commencing March 20th, making way for the opening round of European Championship qualifiers. Euro 2024 will emanate from Germany next summer, and a number of top stars were in action, attempting to ensure that their nations are involved next summer. Football odds compared by OddsChecker currently make 2022 FIFA World Cup runners-up France the joint favourites for glory next summer, alongside the host nation.
Italy are of course the reigning champions. Three years ago, they defeated both Belgium and Spain en route to booking a date with England at Wembley in the final. And as we all remember, it was the Azzurri that picked up the crown courtesy of penalty shootout heroics from Gianluigi Donnarumma. That pair faced off once again, this time in the opening round of qualifiers for next summer’s tournament; however this time it was the Three Lions who came out on top. Goals from Declan Rice and a Harry Kane penalty, a goal which made the Spurs striker the leading scorer in the history of the English national team, were enough to secure a 2-1 victory in Naples.
Mike Maignan Makes Les Bleus Number One Shirt His Own
Apart from the aforementioned England and Italy, not many nations had a tougher start waiting for them in their qualifying groups than the French. Les Bleus reached their second consecutive World Cup final shortly before Christmas. Following a scintillating 3-3 draw; however they would eventually lose to Argentina on penalties, with Lionel Messi securing his legacy as the greatest footballer that’s ever lived in the process.
France’s hat trick hero that day in Lusail, Kylian Mbappé, has been made the new captain of the national team by manager Didier Deschamps. And the Paris Saint-Germain striker repaid his manager’s faith with an assist and two goals in a tricky-looking qualifier against the Netherlands in Paris. The hosts ended up running out 4-0 victors, but not before AC Milan shot-stopper Mike Maignan saved a late penalty from Memphis Depay to secure a clean sheet.
Following Hugo Lloris’ retirement from international football, Maignan is now the undisputed number one for France, and he has certainly made the number one jersey his own. The penalty save against the Dutch was impressive, but the former Lille man was the man of the match as France nicked a 1-0 victory against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin. He pulled off a number of impressive stops, none more so than his acrobatic save from Nathan Collins’ last-gasp header, which looked destined for the top corner.