UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying: Friday/Saturday preview
Friday, 24 March 2023
The return of Ronald Koeman to the Netherlands is one of several new managerial storylines as the opening set of EURO 2024 qualifying fixtures continues.
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UEFA.com previews the opening round of qualifying fixtures for the EURO 2024 finals in Germany.
Matchday 1 fixtures and results
Thursday 23 March
Group C: Italy 1-2 England, North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Group H: Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia, Denmark 3-1 Finland, San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
Group J: Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland, Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein, Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Friday 24 March
Group B: France vs Netherlands, Gibraltar vs Greece
Group E: Czechia vs Poland, Moldova vs Faroe Islands
Group F: Austria vs Azerbaijan, Sweden vs Belgium
Group G: Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro, Serbia vs Lithuania
Saturday 25 March
Group A: Scotland vs Cyprus (15:00), Spain vs Norway
Group D: Armenia vs Türkiye (18:00), Croatia vs Wales
Group I: Belarus vs Switzerland (18:00), Andorra vs Romania, Israel vs Kosovo (18:00)
All kick-off times 20:45 CET unless stated
What are the big games?
Koeman's stiff test on Netherlands return
In his previous spell in charge from 2018 to 2020, Ronald Koeman led the Netherlands to runners-up in the 2018/19 UEFA Nations League and a place at EURO 2020 – the Oranje's first major finals since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The former Barcelona coach could hardly have asked for a more difficult start on his return to the dugout – an away meeting with a France side determined to banish memories of December's agonising World Cup final defeat by Argentina.
Goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay settled the most recent encounter in the 2018/19 Nations League, the 2-0 win in Rotterdam ending France's five-game winning run against the 1988 European champions. However, with 19 goals in his past 17 games for Les Bleus – including three in the World Cup final – Kylian Mbappé will be eager to ensure Didier Deschamps' side return to winning ways at the first opportunity.
Did you know? Netherlands defender Daley Blind is set to win his 100th cap in Paris.
Can Croatia keep the momentum going?
In charge since 2017, Zlatko Dalić recently agreed new terms with Croatia, extending his term until the 2026 World Cup. Runners-up at the 2018 edition in Russia, and bronze medalists at the 2022 event in Qatar, the Vatreni have become perhaps the greatest overachievers in world football, their achievements in international football astonishing for a nation of barely four million.
Their new campaign starts at home against Wales (no slouches themselves when it comes to qualifying for recent final tournaments), but with Luka Modrić still looking sharp at 37, hopes will be high. "I have great passion and ambition to continue working with Croatia, and I believe that there are still many great challenges ahead," Dalić said. "In June, we will try to win the Nations League, and next summer, we want to be part of a spectacular EURO in Germany."
Did you know? Croatia have missed out on only one EURO since independence: UEFA EURO 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Under new management
Two of the Group E favourites meet in Prague as Czechia and Poland aim to assume early control of their section. Beaten by finalists France in the FIFA World Cup round of 16, the White Eagles have turned to former Portugal boss Fernando Santos to succeed Czesław Michniewicz, who was relieved of his duties at the end of 2022. The 68-year-old led his home country to glory at EURO 2016 before winning the UEFA Nations League on home soil three years later.
In Group F, Domenico Tedesco takes charge of Belgium for the first time since being confirmed as Roberto Martínez's replacement. Tedesco, who was born in Italy but holds German citizenship, takes his team to Solna to face a Sweden side who have lost five of their six competitive meetings with the Red Devils. With Austria – who host Azerbaijan – certain to provide stiff competition at the group summit, both teams will be eager to get their respective campaigns off to a positive start.
Did you know? One of Tedesco's classmates at the German FA coaching school he graduated from was Julian Nagelsmann.
What else to look out for
- After missing out on a place at the World Cup, Türkiye begin their qualifying campaign with a trip to Armenia. Stefan Kuntz's team were beaten by Portugal in the play-off semi-finals last spring but having since achieved promotion from Nations League C, they are determined to challenge for top spot in Group D.
- Luis de la Fuente took over the reins following Spain's shock World Cup exit at the hands of Morocco and his first outing comes against a talented Norway side. However, the visitors' chances have been dealt a significant blow thanks to an injury to Erling Haaland. Can Ståle Solbakken's men overcome that setback?