Ranking every team in the group stage at the UEFA Euro 2024. Who comes out on top?

The UEFA Euro 2024 group stage is over and we start the second round today. Opinions have been formed, conclusions drawn, rash predictions (revised from your pre-tournament rash predictions) have been made, players/teams/managers have been written off as chumps and losers or hailed as the next geniuses of the game.

But who has been the best team at the tournament so far? There is a natural way of determining who’s been good and who’s been bad: specifically, who’s qualified and who hasn’t.

However, that’s a little dull, isn’t it? It doesn’t take in the nuances of entertainment and subjectivity; just because you progress to the latter stages of a tournament doesn’t mean people want to watch you play football.

So here’s a definitive ranking of the 24 teams who have done battle at Euro 2024. This has been judged in two ways: firstly, pure vibes, subjective opinions, and how each team has made us feel.

Secondly, by slightly more objective criteria: we have awarded each team an excitement score. Our score is comprised of a selection of metrics that should align with what people deem exciting play. Goals, of course, and wins, but also expected goals (sorry, England) and productive activity in the final third.

We’ve also leant into the energy of Euro 2024 and rewarded teams who have adopted the trend for long-range goals, and those who came from behind to win points in a largely (sorry, England) exciting group stage.

24: Czech Republic

Basically non-entities. What will you remember of them at Euro 2024? Think about it for a few seconds and come back to us. Nothing? Seems about right. In fact, the only thing that will really stick in the mind is them trying to kick lumps out of Turkey in their final game. No good.

Excitement rating: 10.5

23: Poland

Pretty poor. They will quite rightly say Robert Lewandowski missing their first two games with injury significantly hampered their progress, and they were also given an extremely tough draw alongside France, the Netherlands and Austria. But can you honestly remember a single thing that Poland did in their three games, beyond Lewandowski’s retaken penalty against France?

Excitement rating: 16.1

22: Serbia

The lowest scorers in the tournament; there isn’t really any excuse for only scoring once in three games, particularly when you have attacking talent like Dusan VlahovicDusan Tadic and Aleksandar Mitrovic in your team. They are however proof that even the weakest teams at the tournament have all had their moments: the one goal they scored was a 95th-minute equaliser by Luka Jovic against Slovenia… but other than that, they might as well not have bothered.

Excitement rating: 16.3

21: Scotland

If this was based on the team and the team alone, they might well be dead last. But the force of the noise from the stands in Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart for their three games made Scotland a more than worthwhile addition to the tournament.

Away from the stadia, patience may have worn thin with the sheer ubiquity and numbers of their fans for anyone in the cities in question (especially in Cologne, where the aromas in the air suggested that adequate toilet facilities had not been provided), but Euro 2024 would have been poorer without them.

The less said about the actual team, who only managed one shot on target against Hungary in a game they absolutely positively had to win, the better.

Excitement rating: 10.6

20: Albania

A slightly weird tournament for Albania. It was genuinely quite touching to see how proud Sylvinho was about how they performed, despite not actually winning any of their three games. But they were a pretty odd team in that they only seemed to compete at the beginning and the end of games: whether that was a deliberate strategy, to try and start strongly, keep their opponents at bay with the jab for the next 70 minutes before one more big push at the end, isn’t clear.

They had their big moment, in Nedim Bajrami’s 23-second goal against Italy, and they vigorously competed at times in their other games. If only they could have done so for longer.

Excitement rating: 13.8

19: Ukraine

A bit of a disappointment in the end. There was a sense before the tournament that they not only had the emotional story but also some genuinely good players.

However, they only really showed their talent in the second half of their game against Slovakia. For the rest of the time, despite the end of the Belgium game being quite entertaining, they didn’t offer a huge amount. On the pitch at least, you can’t really say their absence will be keenly felt.

Excitement rating: 20.0

18: Hungary

They get extra marks for scoring the latest goal at the tournament so far: their winner against Scotland by Kevin Csoboth coming in the 100th minute of the game.

They also caused a stirring in the hearts of everyone who loves a big man, when the big man’s big man Martin Adam was introduced for the first time against Switzerland.

Excitement rating: 7.6

17: Croatia

At some point, their ‘bodge through tournaments on penalties despite not really winning any games’ strategy was going to come unstuck, and it did so with a bit of a whimper here.

Perhaps it’s as simple as them not having the right calibre of players anymore, having lost another couple of their 2018 World Cup finalists since 2022. They had a tough group but it wasn’t the failure against Italy and Spain that tripped them up, it was the failure to beat Albania. It’s therefore difficult to have much sympathy for them beyond the sadness that this may well be Luka Modric’s final international tournament.

Interestingly though, according to our big number-crunching machine, the statistics actually measure them as one of the tournament’s more entertaining sides. Perception is a wonderful thing.

Excitement rating: 29.1

16: Slovakia

That win over Belgium feels like quite a long time ago, doesn’t it? It’s always harsh to be too mean about a smaller nation that qualifies for the knockout phase of a tournament but, beyond that surprise victory in the opener, they haven’t done a great deal to stick in the memory.

If you’re looking for real positives, then Stanislav Lobotka was absolutely terrific at the base of their midfield. But if you’re highlighting a defensive midfielder as a team’s best player, the chances are they haven’t provided too many moments of fantasy football.

Excitement rating: 16.3

5: France

Look, if any team is going to ‘do an Ivory Coast’ and get rid of their manager despite qualifying from the group stages, can it be France, please?

This is just from a neutral’s point of view: French fans who have seen this movie before, who have seen France stink the place out in the early stages only to reach the final/win the whole thing might well be satisfied that everything is going to plan. But a team with Kylian MbappeAntoine GriezmannMarcus ThuramRandal Kolo MuaniBradley BarcolaKingsley Coman and Eduardo Camavinga being so dull causes deep pain and offends footballing sensibilities. It should not be possible to be boring with those players, but somehow Didier Deschamps has managed it.

They are so low down, simply because they could be so much more.

Excitement rating: 26.7

14: Netherlands

We haven’t had a proper Dutch implosion for a good while, but it feels like there might be one brewing here. Virgil van Dijk seems to be creaking, the midfield has been a void of nothingness, Ronald Koeman seemingly has no idea how to use Jeremie Frimpong — one of Europe’s most exciting players last season — and they refuse to see the light and admit to themselves that Wout Weghorst is the man they need.

Perhaps Koeman has decided that big Wout is better served for them as a sort of trebuchet off the bench, a large-scale piece of military hardware only to be used in emergencies. But he’s such an unashamed big man that there’s a certain nostalgic value in seeing him lumber around the place.

We want Wout, Ronald. WOUT!

Excitement rating: 29.8

13: England

You might be surprised to see England so high up this list and, in all honesty, it’s difficult to argue with anyone who would say they should be bottom. But they did win their group while only conceding a single goal, and barely even conceded any chances.

And for those who would say a tight, miserly defence isn’t exciting… well, it’s difficult to argue with that too… but… yeah… why are they this high again? Erm… they did win the group…

Excitement rating: 20.7

Denmark

Frankly, everyone in Group C — except Slovenia who have a population roughly the size of Houston — should be thoroughly embarrassed with their performances. Six games, seven goals, one win between them.

Denmark can at least say they scored probably the best goal of those seven, with Morten Hjulmand’s rasping low drive into the corner of England’s net. Plus, they did qualify in an extremely entertaining way, by achieving one fewer booking than Slovenia — the crucial caution, as it turns out, being awarded to a member of the Slovenian coaching staff.

And there was Christian Eriksen’s emotional goal in the first game, three years after his collapse in Copenhagen.

Excitement rating: 7.6

11: Italy

The more times you watch Italy and are disappointed by them, the more baffling their victory in 2021 becomes. They didn’t qualify for the last two World Cups and were seconds away from a pretty nervous couple of days waiting to see if they qualified as a third-placed team here.

As it was, Mattia Zaccagni’s 98th-minute equaliser against Croatia allowed them to squeak through in second, but without ever being convincing.

Excitement rating: 23.4

10: Belgium

Can you award a team entertainment points by being on the rough end of probably the biggest single-game upset of the tournament?

Maybe not, but you can probably give them some credit for not letting that completely derail them. The golden generation is on its way out but, with admittedly fading versions of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, along with new(ish) blood like Jeremy DokuAmadou Onana and Johan Bakayoko, there might be some life in the Belgians yet.

That didn’t stop them from being booed by their own fans after drawing with Ukraine, mind.

Excitement rating: 24.3

9: Romania

Genuinely really good fun, from Nicolae Stanciu’s banger in the first game against Ukraine to them actually competing with Slovakia in their final game, despite the fact that a draw was a mutually convenient result that was good enough for both to qualify.

Of course, the game did end in a draw, but anyone who watched it will tell you that this was no ‘Disgrace of Frankfurt‘, and their coach Edward Iordanescu’s outrage at any suggestion of a carve-up provided further entertainment.

The chief fear before the tournament was that their big players had barely played for their club teams last season: but rather than them showing up undercooked, it actually just looks like they were well-rested.

Excitement rating: 22.3

8: Slovenia

One of the unfortunate things about the prevailing narratives in football is that it’s quite easy to lose sight of the joy when the despair is the bigger story.

So while England were blankly staring at their fans and trying to dodge reusable plastic beer cups, Slovenia were wildly celebrating, having reached the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time.

Did they contribute much from a neutral perspective? Not really, beyond the remarkable Josip Ilicic story. Does that matter? Absolutely not.

We sometimes think of international tournaments as a circus for our enjoyment, but for the ‘smaller’ nations at least, it’s about pure human emotion and joy. And really, what is more enjoyable than that?

Excitement rating: 12.3

7: Germany

Everyone feels just a little bit better about an international tournament when the hosts bulldoze their opponents in the opening game. It doesn’t matter hugely that the next game was a bit more cautious and the one after that they only just got away with a draw: the mood is set, and people feel good about things.

Jamal Musiala has been as thrilling as you’d like and expect him to beNiclas Fullkrug is entertaining in a totally different way and Toni Kroos has just done exactly what he has for the last decade and more, as he moves towards a narratively satisfying end to his career.

Excitement rating: 29.1

6: Turkey

Agents of chaos. If you’ve ever been to a game in Turkey, or indeed a Turkey game, you’ll know that the quality of football might not always be great, but you’ll probably have fun.

And so it was at this tournament, helped of course by them essentially playing in front of a home crowd, such is their support in a country where there are around 2.8million people of Turkish descent.

They were flat against Portugal in the second game but their first against Georgia was a stone-cold classic and the last against the Czechs wasn’t a family picnic either.

Excitement rating: 26.0

5: Georgia

Huge fun. Terrific fun. Enormously fun.

There is a temptation, even with an international tournament like this, to become jaded about seeing the same old teams parade past your eyeballs every couple of years. It’s therefore inherently more interesting when someone new pops up, and with Georgia being the only country making their European Championship debut, they have a natural advantage there.

But you don’t necessarily expect the newbies to be so incredibly entertaining: they were entertaining in defeat to Turkey, entertaining in drawing with Czech Republic and boy oh boy were they entertaining in beating Portugal.

I’ll take all of that you’ve got.

Excitement rating: 21.7

4: Portugal

In some ways, it’s a shame when a team goes through as group winners after two games because they will inevitably make lots of changes for the third and thus it’s quite difficult to draw strong conclusions about them.

Portugal were pretty good against the Czech Republic, very strong against Turkey and then made seven changes against Georgia, with some tactical experimentation thrown in too. Inevitably, they were very disjointed, but with their first-choice team they look like real contenders.

And if the football doesn’t divert you, maybe Cristiano Ronaldo flapping his arms every time his team-mates don’t pass to him will do the job.

Excitement rating: 38.4

3: Switzerland

Maybe it’s going a bit over the top to heap excessive praise on a team that only won one game and didn’t beat Scotland, but in terms of exceeding pre-tournament expectations, Switzerland have probably been the most pleasant surprise here.

Head coach Murat Yakin was under some pressure before the tournament but he’s made a series of bold tactical and selection decisions that have paid off handsomely. They came within minutes of beating Germany, which would have capped their group stage off beautifully.

Excitement rating: 16.5

2: Austria

Just deeply, deeply impressive.

They lost to an own goal against France, then hammered Poland and beat the Dutch in a madcap game (admittedly, in which they had some luck, including benefitting from an own goal themselves) to qualify top of a group most expected them to finish third in.

They’re fairly direct and rely on Ralf Rangnick’s trademark pressing style, which makes them great fun to watch, but as you can see by their Excitement Rating, doesn’t necessarily translate into numbers: they’ve had fewer shots than England, but have managed to turn more than a quarter of them (27.3 per cent) into goals.

They’re also in the ‘easy’ half of the draw: it’s not out of the question that they could win it.

1: Spain

At a tournament in which plenty of teams have played badly but got rewards they perhaps didn’t deserve, Spain’s results haven’t properly reflected their performances. They made short work of Croatia, could have won by a much bigger margin than 1-0 against Italy, then made 10 changes and cruised through their final game against Albania.

Apart from anything else, they probably deserve the top spot here for being the only team to win all three of their games. Tournaments are not won in the group stages; the seasoned observers among you will know that it’s often the teams that have ground their way through the first round that eventually go all the way.

But as we stand here, at the end of the first round, Spain are the best team in town.

Excitement rating: 34.4

Click HERE to learn more about this promotion! (18+)

Leave a reply