Preview: Pafos FC vs. Elfsborg

With a mountain to climb following a disastrous first leg, Pafos FC will welcome Elfsborg to Alphamega Stadium for the second leg of their Europa League first-round qualifier on Thursday night.

The Cypriots are looking to overturn a three-goal deficit created last week, meaning that the Yellow Ones are overwhelming favourites to advance into the next round.

Match preview

Playing their first competitive fixture of the 2024-25 campaign, Pafos looked well off the pace at Boras Arena last Thursday night, when hosts Elfsborg recorded a comfortable three-goal victory to put one foot in the second round of qualifying for the Europa League league phase.

The visitors found themselves a goal down inside the opening 10 minutes due to a strike from Besfort Zeneli, before efforts after the half-time whistle by Niklas Hult and Per Frick sentenced the Cypriots to a heavy defeat that puts their progression in serious doubt.

Last week’s clash in Boras was Pafos’s first-ever fixture on the continental stage, with Juan Carlos Carcedo’s troops requiring a three-goal victory at Alphamega Stadium in the second leg to just take the contest to extra time and potentially penalty kicks this time around.

The Cypriots were not shy in front of goal at the conclusion of the 2023-24 term, with Pafos beating Omonia Nicosia 3-0 in the Cypriot Cup final to earn a coveted spot in the qualifying stages of the Europa League.

Although Elfsborg will be mightily pleased with their first-leg showing at home last week, the Swedish outfit could have been even further out of the sight in the two-legged affair, but Arber Zeneli’s missed penalty means that Pafos still have a glimmer of hope heading into Thursday’s deciding clash.

The Yellow Ones returned to Allsvenskan action on Sunday afternoon and produced an exceptional display on the road, putting five goals past fourth-placed Hacken, with centre-back Terry Yegbe netting an unlikely brace for the visitors in Goteborg.

Winning three straight matches since returning from the month-long summer break, Elfsborg are in great shape to advance into the second round of qualifying on Thursday night, when the Swedish powerhouses will be striving for back-to-back victories on the continental stage.

Despite the Yellow Ones still being well in the hunt for a top-three spot in the Allsvenskan this season, their stuttering away form has been a cause for considerable concern, with Thursday’s visitors to Cyprus collecting just two points from eight away league matches, losing on six occasions.

Team News

After receiving his marching orders for two yellow cards during the first leg, Matias Melluso will be suspended for Pafos as they aim to stage a remarkable comeback.

As a result, the hosts will require a new face at right-back, with the versatile Onni Valakari potentially set to operate in the backline.

There could be some attacking changes for Pafos after they fired a blank in Sweden, but talismanic figures Jairo and Muamer Tankovic should retain their spots.

Following their substitutions prior to the 60-minute mark on Sunday, the likes of Camil Jebara and Michael Baidoo should keep their places in the forward line for Elfsborg.

Arber Zeneli bagged a brace off the bench and could be rewarded with a start, whilst youngsters such as Jalal Abdulai could be given some game time with the Swedes possessing a handsome lead in the tie.

Pafos FC possible starting lineup:
Ivusic; Valakari, Kvida, Goldar, Correia; Pelagio, Name; Felipe, Dragomir, Tankovic; Jairo

Elfsborg possible starting lineup:
Pettersson; Holmen, Henriksson, Yegbe; Kaib, B Zeneli, Ouma, Hult; A Zeneli, Jebara, Baidoo

Preview: Atlanta United vs. New York City FC

Atlanta United can end a lengthy losing run on Wednesday when they host New York City FC in MLS action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

On Saturday, the Five Stripes suffered their fourth successive defeat across all competitions, 1-0 to CF Montreal, while the Boys in Blue played to a 0-0 draw with the Chicago Fire.

Match preview

Another match that was there for the taking did not go the way of Atlanta United last weekend, a recurring theme for them throughout the 2024 domestic campaign.

Nine of their 11 MLS defeats this season have been by a single goal, putting them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference table, two points below the playoff line.

Coming off a regular season in which they were the second-highest scoring side in the Eastern Conference (66 goals) in 2023, they have not been nearly as potent this year, ranking in the bottom five for goals scored in the East (33).

Home field has not been as much of an advantage for them in 2024 when compared to the previous campaign, with the Five Stripes winning just four times domestically at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year, six fewer than a season ago.

There are only six more fixtures for them at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the regular season, where Rob Valentino’s men are on a two-match unbeaten run, winning their previous domestic home contest against Toronto (2-1).

They have not won a regular-season encounter against New York City since 2019, when a pair of goals from former striker Josef Martinez gave them a narrow 2-1 triumph.

For a side loaded with pace and clever playmakers, few chances were created for the Pigeons over the weekend in the Windy City.

Nick Cushing’s men only registered one effort on target against the Fire and are now winless in four consecutive MLS affairs away from home.

Over that stretch, the Pigeons have failed to find the back of the net on three occasions, while they have been held off the scoresheet seven times in 2024, six of which were away from home.

All of their away victories in MLS this year have occurred when they have drawn first blood, while they have just a single point as the visitors this year when conceding the opening goal.

While they failed to gain any ground in the race for home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs last weekend, they remain just a point behind the New York Red Bulls for fourth in the East after their rivals from New Jersey played to a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids.

NYCFC are unbeaten in their previous nine meetings against the Five Stripes across all competitions, playing to a 2-2 draw in this exact fixture last year.

Team News

Edwin Mosquera sat out for Atlanta last weekend because of a sore shoulder, while Jamal Thiare was back on the field despite previously injuring his knee, coming on for Daniel Rios in the second half.

Stian Gregersen will be back on the sidelines through suspension for this match after receiving a pair of cautions in the defeat to Montreal.

Caleb Wiley, who will join Chelsea soon, is currently away on international duty after being selected for the United States Olympic squad.

The Pigeons were without Kevin O’Toole and Tayvon Gray last weekend because of knocks, Maxi Moralez was sidelined with a leg injury, Andres Perea is dealing with a groin issue and Malachi Jones missed that match due to a broken tibia.

New York will be without holding midfielder James Sands for this fixture after the American received another caution on Saturday, while Birk Risa came on as a substitute in that game after previously missing time with an injury.

Matt Freese only had to make one stop against the Fire to collect his second clean sheet in his last three matches between the sticks.

Atlanta United possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Abram, Williams, Cobb; Lennon, Slisz, McCarty, Hernandez; Lobzhanidze, Rios, Silva

New York City FC possible starting lineup:
Freese; Ilenic, Martins, Risa, McFarlane; Parks, Haak; Wolf, Rodriguez, Ojeda; Martinez

Preview: FC Pyunik vs. Dinamo Minsk

FC Pyunik and Dinamo Minsk will resume their battle in the first qualifying round of the 2024-25 Champions League when they meet for the second leg at Republican Stadium on Tuesday.

The tie still hangs in the balance after these sides played out a goalless first leg and the winner of this match will move on to face either Ludogorets or Dinamo Batumi in the next round.

Match preview

With a capacity of around 15,000 seats, the Republican Stadium is expected to see a full house in midweek after Pyunik announced that it would be providing fans with free entry for this match.

However, most of those who are going to attend this match, and watched the first leg, will be hoping that this week’s encounter will provide a little more action than they saw last week.

In neutral Hungary, Pyunik recorded just six shots at goal and were starved of possession for large spells. They were forced to play much of the game on the counterattack and managed to win only a single corner, while they were not caught offside a single time across the 90, illustrating their lack of attacking threat.

Nevertheless, the result extended the Armenian champions’ unbeaten record in all competitions to 10 matches and was the first time the side failed to find the back of the net since a 1-0 domestic cup defeat to Ararat-Armenia at the start of April.

That defeat also happened to be the only one that Eghishe Melikyan’s side have conceded on home soil in their last 15 games, while the remaining 14 saw the side claim 10 victories and four draws.

Meanwhile, last week’s stalemate means that Dinamo Minsk have it all to do on Tuesday evening, and will have the task of breaking down the hosts’ defence, which has not conceded a goal in over 400 minutes of football.

The Bisons, despite firing a total of 15 shots at goal in the first leg, only managed five on target, none of which looked likely to get past Henri Avagyan in the opposition goal.

That result brought an end to Vadim Skripchenko’s side’s seven-match winning streak across all competitions, though they are still unbeaten in 11 and have not lost an away game since early May.

Regardless of the outcome here, it has been an incredible last 18 months for Minsk, who won the Belarusian Premier League for the first time since 2004-05 last season. If they do manage to win this match, it will give them a huge boost to take back to the domestic league competition which recommences at the start of August.

Team News

New signing Agdon started in attack in the first leg but was taken off in the second half for another new arrival in Joao Paredes, and we could see the latter given the start this week.

Centre-forward Luka Juricic is still the only known injury absentee for the hosts and he is expected to remain sidelined for a while longer as continues his recovery from knee surgery.

Trofim Melnichenko was deployed in attack in place of the injured Pavel Sedko last week, but he had a fairly quiet evening and was eventually substituted in the second half.

Steven Alfred came off the bench to make his debut for the club after his arrival from Maccabi Herzliya last week and could receive the nod to lead the line from the start in this one.

FC Pyunik possible starting lineup:
Avagyan; De Souza, Vakulenko, Bratkov, Juninho; Cociuc, Otubanjo, Udo; Davidyan, Paredes, Carabello

Dinamo Minsk possible starting lineup:
Lapoukhov; Pigas, Palitsevich, Hawrylovich, Oliveira; Shkolik, Selyava, Demchenko; Podstrelov, Melnichenko, Zherdev

Preview: Hammarby vs. IFK Goteborg

Aiming to move closer to the European places in the Swedish Allsvenskan table, fifth-placed Hammarby host relegation-battling IFK Goteborg at the Tele2 Arena on Monday.

The hosts are six points adrift of third-placed Djurgardens IF, while the visitors will be looking to increase their current one-point lead over the drop zone.

Match preview

An inconsistent start to the campaign from Hammarby saw them win four of their opening nine league matches and lose the remaining five, but three successive victories before the five-week break saw them climb from ninth on matchday nine to fourth on matchday 12.

Kim Hellberg’s men were unable to come out victorious in either of their friendly matches during the break, losing 3-1 to IF Brommapojkarna and drawing 2-2 with IFK Varnamo, and they carried that form into their return to the Allsvenskan as they drew 0-0 with GAIS.

Hammarby now sit fifth in the league heading into this one and trailing Djurgarden, who sit in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualification spot in third, by six points.

The hosts have played just 13 fixtures in the Allsvenskan and could move into fourth with a victory here, while also being able to move within one point of second place if they win both games in hand over Mjallby AIF.

Hellberg’s team have been at their best when playing at the Tele2 Arena this campaign, amassing 15 of their 22 total points when playing at home thanks to five wins in six games.

Their opponents Goteborg, look destined for yet another season of fighting to extend their stay in the top flight after they narrowly avoided the bottom three by a point last year.

Stefan Billborn’s men are 13th in the league coming into this game and again find themselves just a point above 14th-placed Kalmar FF after managing only 14 points from the opening 13 games.

A 2-0 loss to Varnamo in the last outing has extended their winless run away from home to five matches across all competitions, including a 2-0 loss to Lillestrom in a friendly.

Not since a 1-0 win in 2015 have Gorteborg won at the Tele2 Arena in 90 minutes in a competitive match, with the only victory in that time coming in a 3-1 win in extra-time of the Svenska Cupen.

Team News

The hosts are set to remain without the services of both Frederik Winther, who is out for the rest of the season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in April, and Mads Fenger, who is expected to return in the coming weeks.

Nahir Besara has been in fine form for his club this campaign, providing five assists and scoring five goals in his 13 league games, and is likely to start once again here.

As for the visitors, they are currently going through a slight injury crisis with up to five players set to be unavailable for this one.

Abundance Salaou, Hussein Carneil, Mattias Johansson, Pontus Dahlberg and Suleiman Abdullahi are all out with various injuries.

Hammarby possible starting lineup:
Dovin; Skoglund, Eriksson, Vagic, Pinas; Hammar, Tekie; Schellhas, Besara, Toure; Gul

IFK Goteborg possible starting lineup:
Bishesari; Santos, Svensson, Hausner, Wendt; Ohlsson, Thordarson; Mucolli, Pettersson, Abraham; Norlin

Preview: Canada vs. Uruguay

Canada square off against Uruguay in the 2024 Copa America third-place playoff at the Bank of America Stadium in North Carolina on Sunday.

While the Reds suffered semi-final heartache against Argentina, La Celeste were beaten in their last-four tie by Colombia.

Match preview

Canada’s hopes of becoming just the second CONCACAF team after Mexico to reach the Copa America final came to an end at the semi-final stage on Tuesday as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to defending champions Argentina.

After edging past Venezuela on penalties in the quarter-finals, the Reds were condemned to the same two-goal defeat they suffered against La Albiceleste in their opening group-stage fixture just under three weeks ago, with goals either side of half time from Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi bringing the curtain down on Canada’s memorable tournament debut.

Despite coming up short, head coach Jesse Marsch believes his players can hold their heads high, as their campaign went “way better than any of us could have scripted”, notably progressing further than CONCACAF pair Mexico and host nation USA, as well as five-time world champions Brazil.

Marsch is “optimistic about what the future can look like” for Canada, who will endeavour to build on what has been a successful Copa America tournament ahead of co-hosting the 2026 World Cup, with the priority there to at least advance from the group stage.

Ranked 48th in the World by FIFA, Canada are now focused on securing third place at the Copa America, but they must come out on top against a Uruguay outfit against whom they suffered a 2-0 friendly defeat in their only previous meeting in September 2022.

After blitzing through the group-stage with a perfect record – scoring nine goals and conceding only one – before showing their defensive nous en route to defeating Brazil on penalties in the quarter-finals, Uruguay were beaten 1-0 by a resilient Colombia outfit who were down to 10 men for the entire second half of a fiery semi-final clash on Wednesday.

Jefferson Lerma headed Colombia into a 39th-minute lead before Crystal Palace teammate Daniel Munoz was sent off in first-half stoppage time. However, Uruguay were unable to take advantage of the extra man after the break and registered only two of their 11 shots on target, failing to score for the second successive game after drawing 0-0 with Brazil in the previous round.

The contest was then marred by unsavoury scenes at full time, with Darwin Nunez seen climbing into the stands and brawling with supporters. Uruguayan players have since claimed to be protecting their friends and families in amongst the heated altercation, while COMNEBOL have released a statement ‘strongly condemning’ the ‘acts of violence’ and a full-scale investigation has been launched.

Uruguay were hoping to go all the way and win an unprecedented 16th Copa America title this summer as well as set up a final showdown with fellow 15-time champions Argentina, but Marcelo Bielsa’s side must instead prepare themselves for their 15th third-placed playoff.

La Celeste, ranked 14th in the world by FIFA, will be confident of success on Sunday as they have won nine of their previous 15 third-placed playoffs, although they have suffered defeat in three of their last four, including a 2007 loss to CONCACAF outfit Mexico.

Team News

Canada’s only injury absence is Inter Milan winger Tajon Buchanan who recently underwent surgery after breaking his tibia in training.

Jacob Shaffelburg is therefore set to continue on the left flank, although Marsch may consider moving Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies up from left-back, with versatile Richie Laryea potentially taking his place.

Cyle Larin (29) and Jonathan David (27) are Canada’s top-two all-time record goalscorers and are expected to continue their partnership in attack, while midfield duo Jonathan Osorio and Samuel Piette will be looking to force their way into the first XI ahead of Ismael Kone and Stephen Eustaquio.

As for Uruguay, Barcelona centre-back Ronald Araujo is ruled out with a muscle injury, while Rodrigo Bentancur has emerged as a doubt after coming off in tears with a leg injury in the first half against Colombia.

Guillermo Varela and Nicolas de la Cruz are both suspended and will miss Sunday’s contest, while Darwin Nunez could also be facing a ban, according to multiple reports, following his involvement in the mass brawl with supporters after the defeat to Colombia.

Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer Luis Suarez (68 goals) could be handed a start up front if Nunez is indeed banned, while Nahitan Nandez is available to return at right-back after serving a suspension in the semi-finals.

Canada possible starting lineup:
Crepeau; Johnston, Bombito, Miller, Davies; Laryea, Osorio, Eustaquio, Shaffelburg; David, Larin

Uruguay possible starting lineup:
Rochet; Nandez, Gimenez, Olivera, Vina; Valverde, Ugarte; Pellistri, De Arrascaeta, M. Araujo; Nunez

Preview: Elfsborg vs. Pafos FC

Both hoping to take their first steps towards continental glory, Elfsborg and Pafos FC will meet at Boras Arena for the first leg of their Europa League first-round qualifying clash on Thursday night.

The Yellow Ones are in the midst of their domestic season and come into this match following a handsome victory on the weekend, whilst Pafos are returning to action after a historic 2023-24 campaign.

Match preview

Following back-to-back defeats prior to the summer break at the hands of Malmo and IFK Goteborg, Elfsborg returned to winning ways in the Swedish Allsvenskan on Saturday afternoon, when they eased past the challenge of Brommapojkarna, who are slowly sliding towards the relegation places.

Both finding the net for the fifth time in the league term, the Yellow Ones’ leading marksmen Simon Hedlund and striker Michael Baidoo fired the hosts at Boras Arena into a two-goal advantage, before substitute Eggert Aron Gudmundsson arrived off the bench to bag his first of the season.

Elfsborg earned the right to a long shot of Europa League glory this year due to their commendable second-placed finish in the Allsvenskan during 2023, with that placement being the club’s highest in the top tier since they lifted their sixth Swedish crown in 2012.

The Yellow Ones’ most recent continental adventure was short-lived back in 2022, when the Allsvenskan outfit were pitted up against fellow Scandinavians Molde in the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League, with the Norwegian giants securing a 6-2 success over two legs.

Overall, Elfsborg have played 126 matches in European competition, including 10 in the Champions League, but Oscar Hiljemark’s troops are not considered to be favourites to make the revamped league phase, regardless of their continental pedigree.

Celebrating their 10th birthday this year, Pafos should be in the mood for festivities following their first-ever major honour during the 2023-24 term, when the Paphos-based club lifted the Cypriot Cup following a resounding three-goal win over Omonia Nicosia in the final.

As a result, the side who finished fifth in the top flight of Cyprus last season will now compete in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League for the first time, looking to match the recent achievements of compatriots AEK Larnaca and APOEL Nicosia in reaching the proper phases of European competitions.

Despite their inexperience at this level, Pafos have plenty of attacking talent who will be confident of causing Elfsborg serious issues in the first leg, including Brazilian veteran Jairo, with the 32-year-old netting 34 goals across the last two seasons in the Cypriot first division.

Pafos navigated three friendlies fixtures in the build-up to Thursday night unbeaten, with the Cypriots playing out a goalless draw with Greek giants Panathinaikos last week, with that type of defensive solidity set to be key at Boras Arena against the Yellow Ones.

Team News

After being replaced at half time during the league win on the weekend, Sebastian Holmen could drop out of the Elfsborg XI for Thursday’s Europa League clash.

The Yellow Ones have a host of players who are knocking on the door to be promoted from the bench, including midfielder Noah Soderberg and winger Camil Jebara.

Although Jairo is the main man for Pafos in attack, Swedish forward Muamer Tankovic is also a serious threat after netting 16 goals across all competitions last season.

The Cypriots will miss the commanding presence of Adrian Rus in their backline, with 28-year-old returning to parent club Pisa after forming part of Romania’s squad at Euro 2024 in Germany.

Elfsborg possible starting lineup:
Pettersson; Kaib, Henriksson, Yegbe; Hedlund, Ouma, B Zeneli, Hult; Qasem, A Zeneli, Baidoo

Pafos FC possible starting lineup:
Ivusic; Goldar, Kvida, Melluso, Name; Twumasi, Valakari, Dragomir; Jairo, Felipe, Tankovic

Preview: Netherlands vs. England

After nervously edging through the first two knockout rounds, England now aim to reach successive European Championship finals, as they meet the Netherlands in Wednesday’s second Euro 2024 semi-final.

A high-stakes showdown in Dortmund determines which team progresses to Sunday’s decider, where new favourites Spain will await.

Match preview

Through to a third major tournament semi-final in four attempts – but only by the skin of their teeth – England have become a regular fixture at the sharp end of both Euros and World Cups without claiming the prize, so only silverware will do for Gareth Southgate’s squad this summer.

The Three Lions reached a fourth European Championship semi-final overall by seeing off Switzerland in last week’s quarter-finals, despite trailing to a late Breel Embolo goal heading towards the final whistle in Dusseldorf.

Bukayo Saka sensationally equalised to force extra time, and spot kicks were ultimately required to decide the outcome of a finely-balanced battle. England went on to clinically dispatch all five of their penalties and Jordan Pickford saved from Manuel Akanji, so for the second round running, Southgate’s side squeezed through.

Having previously limped through the group phase, then required Jude Bellingham’s stunning strike to spark a fightback against Slovakia, it has been a far from convincing journey to this point – but results are all that matter in knockout football.

Southgate’s 101st game in charge will see England try to become just the sixth team to make consecutive European Championship finals, and a familiar foe stands between them and a place in Sunday’s showpiece in Berlin.

The Three Lions now face a fourth major-tournament meeting with the Netherlands: the Oranje won 3-1 en route to glory at Euro ’88, thanks to a Marco van Basten hat-trick, then a forgettable goalless draw at the 1990 World Cup was followed by a famous 4-1 England win in 1996.

However, having won just one of the nations’ last nine meetings in all competitions, precedent is not on the side of an English team packed with attacking talent but yet to find rhythm or inspire confidence among their fans.

The most recent of those nine encounters also came in a semi-final, with the Netherlands winning 3-1 after extra time in the UEFA Nations League – both Southgate and Ronald Koeman were in the dugouts on that occasion too.

Last weekend, the latter guided his country to a first Euro semi since 2004 by beating a spirited Turkey side at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, and – like England – the Dutch required a comeback to seal their place in the final four.

A goal down and apparently heading for the exit, an unlikely saviour stepped forth, as Stefan de Vrij pulled his team level on 70 minutes, before the lurking threat of tournament specialist Cody Gakpo forced an own goal from Mert Muldur soon after.

Seeking their second European title, after lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy in Germany 36 summers ago, Koeman’s men are making their way through the so-called ‘weaker’ half of the draw, having only emerged from Group D in third place.

Following victory over Poland, a draw with France, and an eventful defeat to Austria, the Oranje were handed a relatively kind last-16 tie against Romania, in which they ultimately ran out 3-0 winners.

However, a squad led by captain Virgil van Dijk will attempt to win just a second European Championship semi-final tie for the Netherlands; and with a dismal record of four losses from the previous five, the burden of history weighs heavily on their shoulders.

Team News

As the only specialist left-back in Gareth Southgate’s squad, the return of Luke Shaw has been eagerly awaited: the Manchester United defender missed England’s first four matches while completing his return from a hamstring injury, but after appearing briefly against Switzerland he has now declared himself ready to start.

That remains unlikely, though, as Kieran Trippier and Bukayo Saka are again expected to occupy either flank.

Having impressed earlier in the tournament, Marc Guehi must now battle it out with Ezri Konsa for a place in central defence upon his return from suspension, though it remains to be seen whether it will be within a three or four-man rearguard – or a hybrid of both.

Harry Kane was taken off during extra time last weekend, but having since confirmed he was only suffering from cramp, the Three Lions’ record goalscorer will be fit to build on a fine record in the European Championship’s knockout phase: no player has ever scored more times in the elimination rounds (five, level with Antoine Griezmann).

Kane was on the scoresheet in the semi-final of Euro 2020 against Denmark, and only two players have ever scored at this stage of consecutive European Championships – Viktor Ponedelnik and Valentin Ivanov, both for the USSR in 1960 and 1964.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, have a major selection call to make in the final third, as the half-time introduction of Wout Weghorst against Turkey turned their quarter-final tie on its head.

Ronald Koeman – who has just announced that he will stay in post until 2026 – has left the door open to the Burnley striker partnering Memphis Depay from the start; however, another impact role from the bench is more probable. Either one or both of Depay and Cody Gakpo have been directly involved in 63.5% of the Oranje’s goal attempts so far this summer, and six of their nine goals.

Due to the contributions of Depay (17 shots, 10 chances created) and Gakpo (13 shots, 11 chances created), the Netherlands are the only team with more than one player in double figures for both shots and chances made at Euro 2024.

Koeman is likely to stick with most of his starting XI, though right-winger Steven Bergwijn has been withdrawn at half time in both knockout rounds and finds his place under threat from Donyell Malen, who plays his club football in Dortmund.

Virgil van Dijk skippers the side from central defence, two days after celebrating his 33rd birthday, while mercurial playmaker Xavi Simons plays a link-up role with the Dutch attack; Jerdy Schouten and Tijjani Reijnders will cover plenty of ground in midfield.

Netherlands possible starting lineup:
Verbruggen; Dumfries, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Ake; Schouten, Reijnders; Malen, Simons, Gakpo; Depay

England possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Walker, Stones, Guehi; Saka, Mainoo, Rice, Trippier; Bellingham, Foden; Kane

Preview: Spain vs. France

Just one step away from Berlin, continental heavyweights Spain and France will meet in the Euro 2024 semi-finals on Tuesday.

Boasting a flawless record so far, La Roja made it to Munich by eliminating their hosts in the previous round; meanwhile, Les Bleus reached the final four via a tense penalty shootout win over Portugal.

Match preview

Bringing together perhaps the tournament’s two strongest sides, the first quarter-final of Euro 2024 promised much and ultimately delivered, as Spain struck during extra time to claim a 2-1 win in Stuttgart.

After Dani Olmo – who had been introduced for the injured Pedri – put La Roja in front, Germany equalised through Florian Wirtz; but just as a finely-balanced game appeared set for spot kicks, Mikel Merino powered in a header to secure his side’s place in the semis.

A formidable force under Luis de la Fuente, Spain are the only team to have won all five matches thus far, and no nation in European Championship history has won six times in a single finals, or even posted six wins in a row.

Much credit has been handed to the former Under-21 boss, who instigated a tactical change upon taking over from Luis Enrique and is now reaping the rewards: his Spain side have recorded lower possession than their opponents twice this summer (48% vs Germany, 47% vs Croatia), which is more times than across 44 major-tournament matches between the 2006 and 2022 World Cups.

A more diverse approach, featuring quick passing and pace out wide, has proved mightily successful, as since the start of 2023, La Roja have the best win percentage of any European nation, winning 15 of their 19 games under De la Fuente.

Victory in the most recent UEFA Nations League bred faith in the direction of travel, and they are on their best winning run since the glory days of June 2010.

Spain have progressed from four of five European Championship semi-finals to date – though they lost on penalties to eventual winners Italy at this stage three years ago – and will now fight for the right to meet either England or the Netherlands on Sunday.

That would be the Iberian nation’s fifth continental final, and the first since their brief but brilliant reign of dominance was wrapped up with victory at Euro 2012.

Meanwhile, France are aiming to reach a fourth European Championship decider, but only the second played away from French soil.

Didier Deschamps presided over the most recent one – 2016’s defeat to Portugal in Paris – and the double World Cup winner is intent on going one better this time around.

Since being beaten in the last World Cup final, his talented team have started to stutter, and their progress to the semi-finals has been far less fluent than that of Spain, who swept past Croatia, Italy, Albania and Georgia before toppling the tournament hosts.

Having lost out to Austria for top spot in Group D, France were uninspired in their last-16 win over Belgium before edging past Portugal in the quarter-finals.

Goalkeeper Mike Maignan was called upon to make a couple of crucial saves to take the tie into extra time, and it ultimately came down to penalties in Hamburg, where Theo Hernandez hammered home the decisive kick from 12 yards.

Concern over the form and fitness of captain Kylian Mbappe were raised again, as Real Madrid’s newest ‘galactico’ was forced off ahead of the shootout, but Les Bleus once more found a way to get the job done.

With a masked Mbappe misfiring, there have only been four goals scored in their five Euro 2024 matches so far – three for and just one against – and all by way of either penalties or own goals.

The only team on record to have more than 50 non-penalty shots at a European finals and fail to find the net with any, France may not be as aesthetically pleasing as their Spanish counterparts – who they beat 2-1 in their most recent meeting, the 2021 Nations League final – but very few would bet against them.

Team News

Spain’s relatively settled XI – several changes for a Group B dead-rubber against Albania aside – will feature at least three fresh faces on Tuesday evening.

Influential right-back Dani Carvajal and France-born defender Robin Le Normand must both serve suspensions, while Pedri was forced off in the early stages of Friday’s quarter-final, departing the field in tears – the Barcelona midfielder suffered a medial collateral ligament knee sprain and will not play again this summer.

Veteran pair Nacho and Jesus Navas could therefore step into La Roja’s back four, while Dani Olmo’s stellar substitute display against Germany should see the Bundesliga-based star replace Pedri.

Midfield mainstay Rodri has both attempted and completed the most passes of any player set to take part in Euro 2024’s first semi; Aurelien Tchouameni of France ranks second in that regard.

Up front, captain Alvaro Morata will again be supported by Nico Williams and 16-year-old Lamine Yamal, the latter of whom has created 14 chances for his teammates at these finals – the most by any Spanish player at a major tournament since Xavi‘s total of 25 at Euro 2012, and also by any teenager to date.

With the slate wiped clean at this stage, France have no disciplinary issues to worry about, but Kylian Mbappe’s nose injury remains a source of concern for Didier Deschamps, as his team have lacked spark in the final third.

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker has scored only one goal from 20 shots at Euro 2024 thus far; indeed, his overall strike rate at European Championships stands at a meagre 3%. That is in stark contrast to his record at the World Cup, where a tally of 12 goals from 39 shots represents a 31% conversion rate.

By contrast, ‘Magic’ Mike Maignan can boast a save ratio of 94% to this point – the best of any goalkeeper that has played more than one match in Germany and also since Iker Casillas during Spain’s overall triumph in 2012. The AC Milan stopper has kept four clean sheets so far.

Meanwhile, Marcus Thuram and Ferland Mendy should overcome minor injuries, and Adrien Rabiot is back from a one-match ban, but it remains to be seen whether the latter can displace Mbappe’s new Real Madrid teammate Eduardo Camavinga, who deputised in the French engine room against Portugal.

Certain to start in midfield, N’Golo Kante has played the most games in European Championship history without ever finishing on the losing side – winning eight and drawing five – so can be considered Les Bleus’ lucky charm.

Spain possible starting lineup:
Simon: Navas, Nacho, Laporte, Cucurella; Olmo, Rodri, Ruiz: Yamal, Morata, Williams

France possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Kounde, Saliba, Upamecano, Hernandez; Kante, Tchouameni, Rabiot; Griezmann; Kolo Muani, Mbappe

Preview: Kristiansund vs. Fredrikstad

Kristiansund are set to host Fredrikstad at Aker Stadion in Norway’s Eliteserien on Monday, and the result could significantly impact the relegation battle, the chase for European football, and the title race.

The home side are ninth in the table with 14 points and are one above 14th-placed Tromso, who occupy the division’s relegation playoff spot, while the visitors are fourth with 22 points and are eight from first-placed Bodo/Glimt with a game in hand.

Match preview

Although the hosts could be relegated at the end of the season given they are only four points clear of 15th-placed Sarpsborg 08, who are second last and in the automatic relegation zone, this is their first season back in the top flight.

As such, the fact they have a realistic chance of survival will no doubt please manager Amund Skiri.

Skiri has coached Kristiansund since August 2023, and this term his side have scored 18 goals and conceded 21, the sixth-best offensive and 11th best defensive records in the league respectively.

Kristiansund’s overall form has been poor considering they have won just once in their last nine league matches and have conceded 16 goals in this period.

As for their home form, they did win 3-1 last time out at Aker Stadion against Sarpsborg 08 on June 2, but this is only their second Eliteserien victory at home in their six games so far.

To Kristiansund’s credit, they have also only lost once in the league at home, which was against reigning champions and current leaders Bodo/Glimt on May 12.

Meanwhile, opponents Fredrikstad have been excellent away from home and have in fact collected 14 out of a possible 21 points on the road, which is the division’s second-best record behind Bodo/Glimt.

However, it should be noted that they did draw their last away league game 1-1 against Rosenborg on June 2 after having lost their prior away game 3-0 to Tromso on May 29.

To add to this, they have failed to win any of their last three matches in the top flight, though they did win the previous five.

Having said that, manager Mikkjal Thomassen will be delighted with his Fredrikstad side considering this is their first season in the top flight since 2012.

Additionally, he will be thrilled with the fact his team currently occupy the division’s final Europa Conference League playoff spot, and that they have two games in hand on second-placed Brann and one game in hand on first-placed Bodo/Glimt, who have 28 and 30 points respectively.

With that being said, Fredrikstad are only ahead of fifth-placed Viking FK due to goal difference.

This season, Fredrikstad have scored 20 goals and conceded 11 times, the league’s fifth best and second best records.

Team News

The hosts will be without centre-back Max Normann Williamsen for the remainder of the season after he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in late April.

Kristiansund will also have to contend with the absence of fellow centre-back Marius Berntsen Olsen due to an ankle injury, but he could return sometime later this month.

As for opponents Fredrikstad, midfielders Filip Stensland and Jeppe Kjaer are both expected to be out until mid-July.

Forward Joannes Bjartalid and Mai Traore are also injured, and much like their midfield counterparts, they are also not expected back until mid-July.

Centre-back Sigurd Kvile has not appeared since June 2, and he is a doubt for Monday’s game.

Kristiansund possible starting lineup:
Lansing; Sjatil, Jarl, Hopmark, Rakneberg; Sivertsen, Isaksen, Bruseth, Alte, Gueye; Mikaelsson

Fredrikstad possible starting lineup:
Fischer; Skaret, Aukland, Woledzi; Metcalfe, Magnusson, Segberg, Rafn; Bjorlo, Sorlokk, Olsen

Preview: Spain vs. Germany

Two European juggernauts seeking to win an unprecedented fourth European Championship title do battle at the MHPArena in Stuttgart on Friday evening, as Spain lock horns with Euro 2024 hosts Germany in the quarter-finals.

The victors of this eagerly-anticipated contest will face the winners of the last-eight tie between Portugal and France in the semi-finals.

Match preview

After winning all three group games at a European Championship for the first time since 2008, Spain remain the only nation at Euro 2024 who boast a perfect record from four matches after coming from behind to beat Georgia 4-1 in the last 16 on Sunday.

Spain were stunned in the 18th minute when Robin Le Normand inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net to put Georgia ahead – the first goal that La Roja have conceded at Euro 2024. However, Rodri restored parity on the stroke of half time, before Spain went on to outclass a courageous Georgia outfit in the second half.

Fabian Ruiz, Nico Williams and Dani Olmo were all on the scoresheet to complete the turnaround in prolific fashion and extend Spain’s unbeaten run at the European Championship to 10 matches (excluding penalty shootouts).

Luis de la Fuente’s youthful and energetic side have dazzled their way into the quarter-finals, reaching this stage for the fourth time in their last five Euros appearances, and even Germany’s Joshua Kimmich has admitted that “Spain have been the most impressive side so far” at this summer’s tournament.

Ranked eighth in the world by FIFA, Spain head into Friday’s blockbuster battle having not lost any of their last six competitive meetings (W3 D3) with Germany dating back to 1998, most recently playing out a 1-1 group-stage draw at the 2022 World Cup.

La Roja are sure to reminisce about their 1-0 triumph over Germany in the Euro 2008 final, courtesy of a first-half strike from Fernando Torres, as well as their thumping 6-0 UEFA Nations League victory in November 2020 in which Fernando’s namesake – Ferran Torres – stole the headlines with a memorable hat-trick.

However, Spain have remarkably never beaten the host nation in the knockout rounds of a Euros or World Cup, failing to win any of their last nine such matches dating all the way back to 1934.

Hosts Germany remain on course to win their first European Championship title since 1996 after they battled past a competitive Denmark outfit to win 2-0 in the round of 16 last Saturday.

On a night of high drama, interrupted by a first-half thunderstorm including a fierce series of lightning strikes, and later marred by VAR controversy, Germany prevailed courtesy of second-half goals from Kai Havertz and Jamal Musiala – the latter is now one of four players at the top of the Euro 2024 scoring charts with three goals.

After a “wild game” in Dortmund, Julian Nagelsmann claimed that his Germany players are “beginning to realise how good they really are” having now progressed to the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2016 – Friday’s clash with be Germany’s 19th quarter-final across the World Cup (14) and Euros (five), the most of any European nation at these two major tournaments.

Germany rank in the top three for the most goals scored (10), most attacks (265), most attempts on goal (71), highest average possession (62%) and goals conceded (two) heading into the last eight of Euro 2024, and with a vibrant home crowd behind them, Die Mannschaft have become a force to be reckoned with.

Languishing as low as 16th in the FIFA World Rankings amid their recent woes in the pre-Nagelsmann era, Germany have won only two of their last 11 meetings with Spain in all competitions – their last was a slender 1-0 friendly victory in November 2014 thanks to an 89th-minute winner from Toni Kroos.

Germany have reason to be optimistic of success on Friday, though, as they are unbeaten in their last eight games against La Roja on home soil (W5 D3), while no host nation has ever been eliminated from the quarter-final stage of a European Championship.

Team News

Spain boss De la Fuente is expected to name an unchanged starting lineup on Friday, with 16-year-old sensation Lamine Yamal and Athletic Bilbao star Nico Williams set to join captain Alvaro Morata in a three-man attack.

Both Olmo and Mikel Merino will be pushing to start ahead of Pedri in centre-midfield, but the latter is still expected to continue in the first XI alongside Rodri and Fabian Ruiz.

Nacho Fernandez has recovered from a minor foot injury to make himself available for selection, but the Al-Qadsiah man is unlikely to displace either of Le Normand or Aymeric Laporte in central defence, while Dani Carvajal and Marc Cucurella should continue as full-backs.

As for Germany, Nagelsmann could once again tinker with his starting lineup and will ponder whether to recall centre-back Jonathan Tah – who served a suspension in the last 16 – at the expense of Nico Schlotterbeck.

Left-back Maximilian Mittelstadt was dropped against Denmark, but he will be looking to force his way back into the first XI ahead of David Raum, while Florian Wirtz could return on the left side of attack at the expense of Leroy Sane, allowing Musiala to move over to the right.

Niclas Fullkrug scored an equaliser in the aforementioned 1-1 draw with Spain at the 2022 World Cup, but he is not expected to displace Kai Havertz as the central striker, while a midfield triumvirate of Kroos, Robert Andrich and Ilkay Gundogan is set to remain intact.

Spain possible starting lineup:
Simon; Carvajal, Le Normand, Laporte, Cucurella; Pedri, Rodri, Ruiz; Yamal, Morata, Williams

Germany possible starting lineup:
Neuer; Kimmich, Tah, Rudiger, Raum; Kroos, Andrich; Musiala, Gundogan, Wirtz; Havertz