20.06.2024 21:30 h

England disappoint against Denmark, Spain set to battle Italy for last 16 place

England struggled to show their credentials to win Euro 2024 in a 1-1 draw with Denmark that left them with work to do to reach the last 16, while Spain and Italy will battle it out to reach the knockout stages later on Thursday.

Victory for England in Frankfurt would have booked their place in the next round as Group C winners after a 1-0 win over Serbia in their opening game.

However, an underwhelming performance by Gareth Southgate's men leaves more questions over their quest to becoming European champions for the first time.

"The challenge is to do something that has never been done before. So it couldn't be any bigger," said Southgate.

"Clearly we are disappointed with the level of the two performances."

In a rematch of the Euro 2020 semi-final won by England, it was Southgate's men who got off to a perfect start when Harry Kane slotted home after Kyle Walker caught Danish defender Victor Kristiansen napping.

Denmark, though, were well worthy of at least a point and got it thanks to a spectacular strike by Morten Hjulmand before half-time.

Phil Foden hit the post for England and Denmark's Andreas Christensen came close to a late winner in the second half.

But a share of the spoils leaves it all to play for in the final games of Group C on Tuesday.

Earlier, Luka Jovic snatched a point for Serbia in the 95th minute to hold Slovenia 1-1.

Zan Karnicnik headed Slovenia in front 21 minutes from time.

But Serbia kept their fate of reaching the last 16 in their own hands when AC Milan striker Jovic headed in a corner with virtually the last action of the game.

England top the group on four points, two clear of Denmark and Slovenia, and just need a draw when they face Slovenia in Cologne to qualify.

Gelsenkirchen plays host to one of the most-highly anticipated clashes of the group stage later as the winners of three of the last four Euros go head-to-head.

Spain's mix of precocious youth and experience shone in a dazzling 3-0 win over World Cup semi-finalists Croatia to get their campaign off to a flying start.

Italy had to fight back after conceding the fastest goal in the competition's history to beat Albania 2-1.

Victory for either side will guarantee progress to the knockout stages as group winners and avoid the possibility of facing England in the quarter-finals.

The countries have met in each of the last four Euros - Italy emerging victorious in the last two after Spain won on their route to glory at Euro 2008 and 2012.

"The players will understand when they get to my age that they'll want to have stories to tell," said Italy coach Luciano Spalletti.

"This is one of those matches that gives them the chance to create that story."

Spain's more direct style was notable in their victory over Croatia as La Roja won comfortably despite having less possession than their opponents for the first time in 136 competitive matches dating back 16 years.

"It's almost like we're looking in a mirror actually," said Spain coach Luis de la Fuente of the sides' similar styles.

"I think it will be a very high quality match."

France take on the Netherlands in one of the other marquee games of the group stage on Friday.

Kylian Mbappe's participation in that match in Leipzig remains uncertain after the France captain broke his nose in Les Bleus' opening 1-0 win over Austria.

However, Didier Deschamps is hopeful of having Real Madrid's new signing available after Mbappe trained in a mask inspired by the colours of the French flag on Thursday.

"Things are progressing in the right direction enough for us to try to have him available tomorrow," said Deschamps.