Hosts Germany open with record win vs. Scotland

Euro 2024 is underway! Our daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what-to-watch-for information and best reads.

Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Germany all the way up to the final on July 14.

MUNICH — Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz inspired Euro 2024 hosts Germany to the biggest-ever opening game win at a European Championship as Julian Nagelsmann’s team inflicted a 5-1 defeat on Scotland.

Musiala and Wirtz, both 21, have been billed as leading Germany’s new generation and they scored the opening goals to set the team on course for a victory that was even more comfortable than the eventual scoreline suggests. Scotland’s task at avoiding a heavy defeat was made much more difficult following the sending off of defender Ryan Porteous at 42 minutes following a studs-up challenge on Ílkay Gündogan that, after a VAR review, resulted in a Germany penalty and a red card for the Watford player.

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Germany had gone into the tournament behind France, England and Portugal as favourites to emerge as winners following a turbulent period under Nagelsmann and his sacked predecessor Hansi Flick. Group stage exits at the previous two World Cups, and a round-of-16 elimination against England at Euro 2020, had left Germany fearing a difficult tournament as they attempt to become European champions for the first time since 1996. But the tension and apprehension among the home supporters evaporated within the first 10 minutes, as Bayer Leverkusen youngster Wirtz netted the opening goal following neat buildup play between Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan and Joshua Kimmich.

Bayern Munich forward Musiala then doubled Germany’s lead in the 19th minute after linking with Kai Havertz and while the points already looked safe at 2-0, Germany made sure when Havertz scored from the penalty spot following the Porteous foul on Gundogan.

Down to 10 men and with two group games against Switzerland and Hungary to come, Scotland coach Steve Clarke went for damage limitation in the second half by replacing forward Ché Adams with defender Grant Hanley. The change helped stem the tide, even if Scotland continued to be dominated by the hosts. Niclas Füllkrug finally netted a fourth for Germany in the 68th minute and the Borussia Dortmund forward thought he had made it 5-0 moments later, only for VAR to rule it out for offside.

An Antonio Rüdiger own goal in the 87th minute gave the sizable contingent of Scotland fans something to cheer — and they did so in exaggerated fashion — before Emre Can capped a brutal defeat, scoring Germany’s fifth in the final minute of stoppage time. — Mark Ogden

MUNICH — The France squad trained in front of 4,000 fans on Thursday at Paderborn SC’s stadium in the west of the country, 15 minutes from where they are staying in Bad Lippspringe.

There was clearly only one player they came to see: Kylian Mbappé. However, the Real Madrid forward didn’t train as he had some back and knee pains. Nothing for coach Didier Deschamps to worry about, but enough for him to stay inside with the physios for treatment before coming out to watch the last half-hour of the training session. When he appeared on the touchline, the stadium went wild.

According to the French football federation, 100,000 ticket requests were made for this open session, and the 4,000 that were available were gone in four minutes. Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé got a few cheers but the France captain, who had a huge smile on his face all afternoon, was undoubtedly the star attraction. He stayed behind to take photos and sign autographs to the delight of dozens of young fans who chanted his name. — Julien Laurens

BLANKENHAIN, Germany — England’s pursuit of marginal gains in their quest for a first men’s trophy in 58 years has led them to follow a path taken by Kim Kardashian, Prince Harry and Jennifer Aniston. No, seriously.

The Three Lions have been spotted wearing Oura Rings, a wellness tracker endorsed by a number of celebrities, during their opening training sessions at the Weimarer Land Spa & Golf Resort.

Costing $299 to $549 for the ring, plus a $5.99 monthly subscription fee, the gadget helps monitor sleep, body temperature and heart rate variability. Manager Gareth Southgate has also been pictured wearing one on his index finger.

The company — which counts the U.S. Army among its clients — claims on its website that users experience 87% improved overall health. England will be believers if it helps a squad entering Euro 2024 with various issues finally bring football home. — James Olley

MUNICH — Scotland ended a 23-year wait to play at a major tournament by appearing at the COVID-19-delayed Euro 2020 in 2021, but with two games in Scotland and one played in front of just 22,500 fans at Wembley in a restricted-capacity fixture due to restrictions at the time, the Tartan Army were unable to travel abroad in their usual big numbers.

It’s fair to say they made up for lost time in Germany, with UEFA expecting over 100,000 Scots to travel for the group stage. But that number appears to be a significant underestimate. Train stations and airports have been turned dark blue by the huge influx of kilt-wearing Scotland fans, and Munich’s bars, cafes, restaurants and even the Englischer Garten in the city were overtaken.

Scotland have never progressed beyond the group stage of a World Cup or Euros, so if they manage it this time, it could signal the biggest mass movement of Scots since the Braveheart days. — Ogden

DORTMUND — Italy’s buildup to the Euros has been dominated by talk of a PlayStation ban. Coach Luciano Spalletti has been critical of the players staying up late into the night playing Call of Duty, and has previously told the squad to leave their video games at home.

But on the eve of the tournament, Spalletti looked visibly frustrated by suggestions he had issued a blanket ban on the team gaming while at the Euros. He said such suggestions were “not fair and not true” and even revealed that he had been enjoying playing on the team’s two PlayStations at their training base in Iserlohn.

Captain Gianluigi Donnarumma, meanwhile, laughed at the reports and is instead focused on leading his team into the Euros. One challenge facing Donnarumma will be organising the team’s communication with the referee at the Euros. A UEFA decree says only the captain will be allowed to talk to the referee around key match decisions or VAR clarifications.

“[UEFA managing director for refereeing Roberto] Rosetti and his team have informed players and coaches that referees will open a line of dialogue with team captains during matches to offer information and explain key decisions, including what is discussed with Video Assistant Referees (VARs),” a statement from UEFA reads. “Only the captain, or a designated outfield player if the captain is a goalkeeper, should speak with the referee during these clarifications. Other players must respect the referee, keep their distance and not surround match officials, with instances of aggression and dissent to be dealt with firmly.”

Donnarumma will discuss with fellow senior players on Saturday who will be the nominated player to talk with the referee if a decision happens at the opposite end of the field to Italy’s goal. — Tom Hamilton

COLOGNE — Switzerland’s Euros campaign is off to a bad start after complaints that their training base isn’t up to scratch.

Coach Murat Yakin and his squad are training at the home of lower-league German club Stuttgarter Kickers on the outskirts of Stuttgart and have had to contact UEFA about the state of the pitch.

The surface at Waldau Stadium was relaid in preparation for Switzerland’s arrival, but coaching staff and players have complained that it’s substandard.

UEFA has offered Switzerland alternative venues, including Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart’s training complex, but staff are conscious that they don’t want players travelling too much before and after training.

The Swiss football association has told UEFA it intends to keep using Waldau Stadium so that the team can prepare for its first match on Saturday. — Rob Dawson

Kylian Mbappé is now a Real Madrid player, and the Spanish club’s all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo holds the record for most goals in European Championship history (14), but no player has ever won the Golden Boot at a Euros finals while playing their club football for Los Blancos.

Portugal captain Ronaldo finished in a tie for most goals at Euro 2012 as a Real Madrid player, but Fernando Torres won the award on a tiebreaker. — ESPN Stats & Information

Odds (via ESPNBET): Hungary +400, Draw +280, Switzerland -160

COLOGNE — Hungary and Switzerland meet in Cologne on Saturday to kick off campaigns being viewed very differently in their respective countries.

Switzerland’s qualifying campaign wasn’t particularly impressive, with the team scraping through in second place despite winning only four of 10 games against Romania, Israel, Belarus, Kosovo and Andorra. It means hopes for Germany aren’t particularly high, even though main man Granit Xhaka has had a fantastic domestic season. The former Arsenal midfielder helped Bayer Leverkusen win their first-ever Bundesliga title and also the German Cup without losing a single match.

Hungary, meanwhile, have done enough to be a popular pick as a tournament dark horse. They went unbeaten through qualifying under popular coach Marco Rossi and there is hope that they will be able to get out of Group A and do damage in the knockout rounds. Recent victories over Germany and England in the UEFA Nations League have provided a warning for the rest of Europe about what they can do. — Dawson

Odds: Spain +525, Draw +310, Croatia -205

BERLIN — Spain and Croatia meet at the Olympiastadion and both teams will have designs on returning for the final on July 14. Both nations have pedigree in big tournaments and, while neither is among the outright favourites this year, both believe they can go all the way.

To do that, though, it will be imperative to get off to a fast start in a group which also includes holders Italy and Albania. The midfield battle could be key, with Croatia, who finished third at the World Cup in Qatar, likely to field the experienced trio of Luka Modrić, Marcelo Brozović and Mateo Kovačić. They will be tested against Rodri, Pedri and one of Fabián Ruiz or Mikel Merino.

Perhaps the most intriguing element of this fixture, though, will be how Spain’s young wingers do. Lamine Yamal, who at 16 will become the youngest player to ever play at the men’s Euros if he features, and Nico Williams offer the three-time European champions a directness and cutting edge they have lacked in recent finals — Sam Marsden

Odds: Italy +5500, Draw +1400, Albania -8000

DORTMUND — Having missed the past two World Cups, it takes a bit of reminding that sandwiched in between those failures was Italy’s triumph at the last Euros. The buildup to this tournament hasn’t been straightforward, with Roberto Mancini quitting suddenly last year to take the Saudi Arabia job, but Luciano Spalletti has inherited a team with experience and exciting youth.

The main injury concerns for Italy are around Davide Frattesi, Nicolò Barella and Nicolo Fagioli, fresh from his seven-month suspension for betting on football, but Spalletti is optimistic he’ll have a full squad to pick from. Elsewhere, Gianluca Scamacca is likely to start up front, having come into the Euros with nine goals for Atalanta since the start of April, while it remains to be seen if Spalletti goes with three or four at the back.

Judging by Italy’s news conferences on Friday, they are quietly confident of making a deep run in Germany, where they won the World Cup in 2006. But they won’t have it easy against Albania, who are managed by Sylvinho and his assistant coaches Pablo Zabaleta and Doriva. Italy captain Gianluigi Donnarumma has called his team’s opening game a potential “banana skin,” and there are concerns over the pace many of their opponents possess.

Albania have a strong Italy-based contingent in the squad — including Inter Milan’s Kristjan Asllani — and will fancy their chances of getting something from this match. The form guide will say differently — Albania having lost all four of their matches against the Azzurri — but they have a strong spine with Lecce’s Ylber Ramadani, Asllani and Sassuolo’s Nedim Bajrami in midfield, Atalanta’s Berat Djimsiti at the back and Chelsea’s Armando Broja up front. — Hamilton

Euro 2024 is upon us, but it might not be the fiercest football competition as far as stakes, drama and intensity go this summer. Away from the pitches of Germany, where 24 national teams will battle to become European champions, the clash between the tournament’s sticker albums is raging.

UEFA’s official sticker album, produced by Topps, has two-time Champions League-winning manager José Mourinho appearing in its marketing campaign. But it doesn’t have some of Europe’s best national teams in their official kits, is missing some of the world’s biggest stars, includes some teams that didn’t qualify for the tournament and features players who were never close to being selected. Panini, the previous rights holder, put out an album anyway. Its version features five of the tournament’s top teams, with all of the star players in their official kits.

“Panini has put out their own booklet, but you’re not going to collect two books, are you?” said England fan Chris Abbott, who is collecting the official Topps stickers with his young son. Without investing their time and money on both albums, the pair will never be able to collect every player. How did it come to this?

– Hajducky: How Topps-Panini battle ruined Euro 2024 stickers for everyone

A severe case of Euros fever has hit one town in the Netherlands as the Dutch team prepare to kick off their campaign against Poland on Sunday. A small team of local volunteers in the city of Den Haag (The Hague) has turned one central street into a full-blown Oranje carnival.

Marktweg is usually a nondescript suburban street, but the thoroughfare has been transformed using miles of orange tarpaulin, bunting and banners and gallons of paint. The overhaul took around two months to complete but it was a thorough job; all the buildings and houses along the street are completely covered in orange.

“It’s a lot of work,” local resident Macho Vink told The Associated Press. “We have been busy with it for about eight weeks. Preparations started in January and February with meetings. So yes, we invested a lot of time.”

The idea initially began before Euro 1988, when a painted football was hung in a tree as a symbol of good luck.

“It started as a joke — hang a ball sprayed with text in a tree and someone came up with an idea to decorate the street,” said Danny van Dijk, leader of the volunteers.

Netherlands won the tournament as hosts, which remains the men’s team’s only major trophy, and since then the decorations have gotten bigger and better with each passing tournament. — Chris Wright

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