France v Netherlands, Sweden v Belgium: Euro 2024 qualifying – live | Euro 2024 qualifying

Key events

Pop quiz, hotshot

If you want something to pass the time before kick-off, see how many of the 1998 Ballon d’Or nominees you can name in 10 minutes. If you get them all, without cheating, let me know.

“Speedy wingers as captains,” begins Charles Antaki. “Theo Walcott was much loved, of course, at Arsenal, but the love didn’t extend to him being made captain for a routine league match on the anniversary of his tenth year at the club back in 2016. Opinions differ as to who made that decision, but you’d have thought that Wenger wouldn’t have been quite so sentimental – there was a rumour that senior players decided it at the last moment, and shoved the armband up his arm in the tunnel. It was against Chelsea, I think – anyway they lost.”

I’d totally forgotten about that. Mind you, when Andrew questioned Mbappe’s suitability as captain, I don’t think the issue was Mbappe’s style of play.

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Some more pre-match reading

I was surprised this phrase didn’t take off, at least in England, until the year 2000. I thought it was used semi-regularly during Euro 96, but I think I must have confused gold with sex.

It’s 26 years to the day since Portugal faced the Czech Republic at Euro ‘96, and Ruud Gullit introduced us to the term ‘Sexy Football.’

Great response from Des Lynam here too.

Smoothness all

— Stu’s Football Flashbacks (@stusfootyflash) June 23, 2022

France v Netherlands

“You may want to highlight that some of the ‘innovation’ in the Dutch team is due to the outbreak of some kind of viral illness (not COVID-19) in the team,” writes Willem van Schaik, “which has led to Cody Gakpo, Matthijs de Ligt, Sven Botman, Joey Veerman and Bart Verbruggen being sent home.”

I did think they were a bit young to have retired from international football.

“Evening from Sweden, Rob,” writes Julian Menz. “Having lived here for the best part of 20 years and followed Zlatan’s career in the ’Landslaget’, I can say that most Swedish fans aren’t too bothered about his ‘internal monologue’.

“He was/still is a great player, but has never really fitted in to the national team. (Get the ball to Zlatan is at odds with how the collective is supposed to function.) I’m flummoxed as to why he’s been recalled, when it’s pretty clear to all concerned that it’s an ego-massage from his point of view.

“I hope he stays on the bench, watching Isak and Kulusevski running rampant.”

There have been a few surprising selections this week. I thought, for example, that Roberto Martinez would get the Cristiano Ronaldo issue out the way now rather than kick it down the road. Obviously I’m not a golfer.

“Where does Mbappé fit in terms of least suitable captains in the history of football?” writes Andrew Hurley.

Now there’s a question. Sometimes people surprise you when they become captain, like Nasser Hussain when he took over the England cricket team in 1999. But yes, Mbappe doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a typical captain. I guess when you’re as good – and as inspirational – as he is, you get to create your own captaincy profile.

Yesterday’s men

How Euro 2024 qualifying works

  • Germany, the hosts, qualify automatically

  • The top two teams in each of the 10 groups will join them

  • Twelve teams will compete in the playoffs for the last three places

Full time: Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro

A big win for Montenegro, whose players are jumping around deliriously in the centre circle. In a tight group that includes Serbia and Hungary, they’ve made the perfect start.

Nikola Krstovic scored the only goal, his first for his country, and Stefan Savic made a brilliant goalline clearance in the last minute of normal time.

Sweden v Belgium team news

Zlatan Ibrahimovic starts on the bench, and we can all imagine what his internal monlogue makes of that.

🇸🇪 Här är herrlandslagets startelva i kvällens EM-kvalpremiär mot Belgien! 💯

⏰ Avspark i matchen 20.45 på Friends Arena, TV6 och Viaplay 💥

— Svensk Fotboll (@svenskfotboll) March 24, 2023


France v Netherlands team news

Both teams are starting afresh after good but ultimately unfulfilling World Cup campaigns ended with a penalty shootout defeat to Argentina.

There are a few newish faces on both sides. The retirement from international football of Hugo Lloris and Raphael Varane means an opportunity for Mike Maignan and Ibrahima Konate, while Randal Kolo Muani is preferred to Olivier Giroud up front.

This is the first game of Ronald Koeman’s second spell as Netherlands manager, and it looks like he has switched back to the classic Dutch 4-3-3. The new faces including Xavi Simons (19), Kenneth Taylor (20) and Lutsharel Geertruida (22), a very promising trio who have four caps between them.

GOAL! Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro (Krstovic 70) Nikola Krstovic has just put Montenegro ahead in Razgrad, sweeping home with glee after unselfish play from Stevan Jovetic.


The first mile of a marathon doesn’t usually catch the eye, but the Euro 2024 fixture computer wants to change all that. The qualifying campaign started last night with Italy v England, a repeat of the final in 2021, and there’s another heavyweight clash tonight: Gibraltar will be hoping to get one over Greece, who have been the second best G-team in Uefa for far too long; things are gonna change, I can feel it France v the Netherlands.

It’s tempting to assume these two will qualify anyway, and that tonight’s game doesn’t exactly reek of jeopardy. But a) Evan Ferguson might have other ideas and b) the Netherlands know all too well that, even in the age of Infantino-sized tournaments, qualification is not a given.

We’ll be focussing mainly on events in Paris, where Kylian Mbappe, aged 24, will captain France for the first time. Sweden v Belgium is intriguing too, and not only because Zlatan Ibrahimovic, back in the Sweden squad at the age of 41, is four years older than Belgium’s new manager Dominico Tedesco. If Ibrahimovic plays tonight he’ll become the oldest man to appear in a European Championship game.

Zlatan willing, we’ll be keeping an eye on all tonight’s matches. Here they are, 7.45pm GMT kick-offs unless stated:

Group B

  • France v Netherlands

  • Gibraltar v Greece

Also in this group: Republic of Ireland

Group E

  • Czech Republic v Poland

  • Moldova v Faroe Islands

Also in this group: Albania

Group F

  • Austria v Azerbaijan

  • Sweden v Belgium

Also in this group: Estonia

Group G

Also in this group: Hungary

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