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An early look at Euro 2024: Favourites and dark horses

The UEFA European Championships will take place in Germany next summer and a number of teams have already secured their places at the tournament.

Germany will of course feature as the host and a number of leading nations such as Spain, France and Portugal have confirmed their participation.

Reigning champions Italy will likely have to earn the right to defend their title via the playoffs ahead of the competition.

Other potential tournament favourites like England and the Netherlands have all but secured their qualification. The German event is set to be incredibly competitive with none of the stronger nations likely to miss out.

The qualification period has also given European football fans some insight into which teams could be set to surprise next year.

The most important question is of course who are the outright favourites at this point. But of course, they could be upset by a number of potential dark horses.

The Euro 2024 favourites

The early favourites for next summer's headline event are unsurprisingly the FIFA World Cup runners-up France.

Les Bleus of course secured the strongest finish of any European nation at the Qatar tournament. A number of the best betting sites offer the French as comfortable favourites to win Euro 2024, bet365 for example offers them at 4/1.

France's talent pool is simply endless and their squad for the Germany event is incredibly tough to predict. But regardless of what squad Didier Deschamps constructs, the French unit should be well-equipped to defeat anyone in its path.

Antoine Griezmann has been one of the world's leading players in recent times and will likely be the pioneer of any potential France success. His former club teammate Ousmane Dembele should also make a significant contribution if he can remain fit.

Les Bleus have remarkable depth in the central areas of defence and midfield - the likes of Raphael Varane and Adrien Rabiot can be supplemented by an extensive range of regular starters at top European clubs.

France's greatest opposition to winning their first major honour in six years is predicted to be England. They are offered at 9/2 in the odds, with hosts Germany trailing at 7/1.

Realistically the winner will either be the French or the English - no other team can compete with their respective levels of quality in depth.

Trent Alexander-Arnold - who is one of the Premier League's leading creators - supporting Harry Kane could be an unstoppable combination for the Three Lions. In general, they have a long-term core that has repeatedly reached the latter stages of major tournaments in recent times.

France are ultimately big favourites but England are seen as the most realistic winners if they are to fall short.

Potential dark horses

It is unlikely that any significant outsider could genuinely win Euro 2024, although miracles have happened before. Greece won the European Championships of 2004 despite being massive underdogs, even up to the final against Portugal.

But which teams this time around could potentially make significant runs, and perhaps send some major nations home on the way?

Scotland could be a strong shout to be a formidable dark horse at the competition next year. Their form throughout the qualification period has been simply immense. The Scots secured their place in Germany with two games to spare in Group A.

They achieved landmark wins at home to Spain and away to Norway. Those triumphs could perhaps provide the inspiration to perform similar surprises at the competition proper.

Austria is another team that does not carry the reputation of a top nation but they qualified for Euro 2024 with ease.

A majority of the Austrian team have spent time at RB Leipzig or Red Bull Salzburg, which has allowed them to adapt to Ralf Rangnick's style and philosophy seamlessly. The Austrian formerly managed the German team and had a strong influence over the Red Bull football group as a whole.

The national team now plays with a high level of intensity - they counter-press aggressively and look to create opportunities from the opposition's mistakes. They are also tremendous in offensive and defensive transition as the team is filled from back to front with genuine athletes.

Led by experienced players like David Alaba, Konrad Laimer and Marcel Sabitzer, Austria could go far in the tournament held in their neighbouring nation in 2024. Hard work and tenacity will be vital to make up for the differences in quality against the top sides, and they have just that.

Euro 2024 is set to offer a huge opportunity for Germany's biggest rivals in France and England to win a major tournament on their territory. But lower-ranked nations Scotland and Austria look well suited to spring a surprise and perhaps make lengthy runs.

There are endless headlines that could emerge following the proceedings next summer, but it promises to be a remarkably competitive spectacle regardless of who is crowned the winner.