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A closer look at England's Euro 2024 group-stage opponents

Following the Euro 2024 group-stage draw, Sports Mole takes a closer look at England's opponents Denmark, Serbia and Slovenia.

Regarded as one of the favourites to end their major tournament hoodoo at Euro 2024 - at least in the men's game - England learned their group-stage fate alongside 20 other confirmed representatives on Saturday evening.

The Three Lions enjoyed the luxury of Pot 1 in the group-stage draw on account of their near-impeccable qualification exploits, and Gareth Southgate's men were handed a relatively kind draw for the opening portion of next year's tournament in Germany.

Serbia will provide England with the first test of their credentials on June 16, four days before the Three Lions' trickiest test against Denmark in Frankfurt, and the Three Lions will close out their campaign with a showdown versus Slovenia in Cologne.

Here, Sports Mole takes a closer look at England's three Group C opponents, including their method of qualification, the best Euros result and previous results against the Three Lions.


Denmark

Denmark's Thomas Delaney celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on November 17, 2023© Reuters

Method of qualification: Group H winners
Best Euros result: Champions (1992)
Current FIFA ranking 19

Thirty-two years on from stunning the footballing landscape to lift the European Championship crown aloft, Denmark have set the bar incredibly high for future generations, having also finished Euro 2020 as one of the best four nations on the continent and were only denied another showpiece appearance by none other than England themselves.

The Three Lions required extra time to scrape a 2-1 win over Kasper Hjulmand's charges, who subsequently held their own in League A of the Nations League to maintain their top-tier status, but the less said about their 2022 World Cup exploits the better.

An intense two-horse race for top spot in Euro 2024 qualifying Group H between Denmark and Slovenia materialised, where the Scandinavians won five on the spin from September to November, including a 2-1 beating of the Slovenians on the final matchday to assure themselves of a first-placed finish in the section.

Despite going down 2-1 to Northern Ireland on the final matchday, the Danes were safely through as group winners on account of their superior head-to-head tally versus Slovenia, and seven of their 19 goals in qualifying were scored by Manchester United protege Rasmus Hojlund.

While the 20-year-old's Premier League account remains locked, he joins Alvaro Morata and Erling Haaland atop the 2023-24 Champions League scoring charts with five strikes, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Mathias Jensen and Jesper Lindstrom all bring differing qualities to the engine room.

Prior to the Euro 2020 final four, Denmark and England's only previous group meeting came at Euro 1992, which ended in a goalless draw before the world's 19th-ranked team stormed to glory - a promising open for Hjulmand's crop as they seek to banish their World Cup demons.


Serbia

Serbia's Strahinja Pavlovic celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on October 14, 2023© Reuters

Method of qualification: Group G runners-up
Best Euros result: Runners-up (1960, 1968, as Yugoslavia)
Current FIFA ranking 34

Despite achieving a handful of group-stage finishes at the World Cup Finals since their split from Montenegro in 2006, Serbia had never before qualified for the European Championships as an independent nation; a dry spell which ceased thanks to their runners-up finish in Group G.

Coincidentally pitting their wits against Montenegro in the preliminary phase, as well as Lithuania, Bulgaria and Hungary, the world's 34th-ranked nation finished four points worse off than the latter nation to make their first Euros since 2000, when they got as far as the quarter-finals as Serbia & Montenegro before being thumped 6-1 by the Netherlands.

Before the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Serbia achieved a pair of runners-up finishes at the 1960 and 1968 competitions, but as is the case with Denmark, their World Cup 2022 campaign was best consigned to the back pages of history as they crashed out with just a single point to their name.

Inconsistency threatened to derail Serbia's bid for Euro 2024 qualification, but aided by the efforts of five-goal striker Aleksandar Mitrovic - who also topped the Group G scoring charts - Dragan Stojkovic's side netted in all eight matches and will face England for the first time as an independent nation next summer.

Since swapping Fulham for Al-Hilal, Mitrovic has made his presence felt in Saudi Arabia with 13 goals in as many Saudi Pro League games, only trailing Cristiano Ronaldo by two in the race for the Golden Boot, while midfield maestro Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was also seduced by the riches of the Middle East over the summer.

Juventus teammates Dusan Vlahovic and Filip Kostic will also have a few points to prove in Germany, where Eagles captain Dusan Tadic will become Serbia's most capped player of all time if he makes two appearances; the 35-year-old Fenerbahce man sits one adrift of Branislav Ivanovic on 104 outings for his nation.


Slovenia

Slovenia's Erik Janza celebrates scoring their first goal on November 17, 2023© Reuters

Method of qualification: Group H runners-up
Best Euros result: Group stage (2000)
Current FIFA ranking 54

Similarly to Serbia, Slovenia will also end a 24-year absence from the continent's top table at Euro 2024, having introduced themselves at their inaugural Finals in 2000 before crashing out in the group stage without a single win to their name.

The world's 54th-ranked nation - who are also without a World Cup appearance since 2010 - subsequently tried and failed on five occasions to compete with Europe's best in the summer sunshine, but keeping faith in the veteran Matjaz Kek has paid dividends.

Denmark, Finland and Kazakhstan would provide Slovenia with stiff competition for qualification, but Kek's side matched the former's total of 22 points and even bettered their goal difference with +11 compared to the Scandinavians' +9, but they would be forced to settle for silver due to the head-to-head tie-breakers.

Five of Slovenia's final six Group H matches would end in victory, during which time Kek's men netted 15 goals - four for RB Leipzig protege Benjamin Sesko - while conceding just five at the other end of the field, where Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak continues to cut an intimidating figure in between the sticks.

With six goals to show from his first 18 games in a Leipzig jersey, 20-year-old Sesko has apparently earned glances from Arsenal and Manchester United ahead of the January market and will almost certainly look to put himself in the shop window next summer, where Slovenia and England will meet for the seventh time in all competitions.

The Three Lions have unsurprisingly reigned supreme in the previous six contests with five wins and a draw to their name, including a vital 1-0 victory at the 2010 World Cup thanks to a Jermain Defoe strike, although it took Harry Kane until the fourth minute of second-half injury time to sink the Slovenians in a World Cup 2018 qualifier six years ago.

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England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal with Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden on November 17, 2023
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