One surprisingly excluded player from each Euro 2024 group

After a long wait (not really, but it certainly felt like it!) Euro season has officially begun, and with it comes lots, and lots, and a few more, matches – seriously, there’s about three a day! 

And with that, there’s perhaps even more discussion among fans, pundits, journalists, media, and pretty much everyone in Europe. 

It’s around now that each of those will share there own player of the tournament, one-to-watch, dark horses, flops, winners, etc.

However, there’s often not much appreciation for those players that have narrowly missed out on making their nations’ squad, specifically those who have been excluded unsurprisingly, or perhaps undeservedly so. 

Whether it be experienced internationals, upcoming stars off the back of excellent seasons, or even those who are slightly out-of-form, but still would have been valuable contributors to their respective nations, those excluded players deserve at least a mention before a myriad of other names receive the limelight over the coming summer.

So without further ado, here is one player (and some honorable mentions) from each group that has surprisingly been excluded from their nations’ Euro 2024 squad this summer, discussing why they have been left out, why they shouldn’t have been, and what their nation will miss from their absence. 

Note: to highlight those that were specifically ‘excluded’ from the squad, injured players are not considered, despite them still being very unfortunate to miss out, of course. 

Group A: Germany, Scotland, Hungary, Switzerland
Excluded Player: Angelo Stiller (Germany and Stuttgart)

Reasoning and Honorable Mentions:

Germany’s bunch of non-selected players isn’t short of highly-esteemed international figures. No Mats Hummels, Niklas Süle, Emre Can, or Julian Brandt means Nico Schlotterbeck is the only Borussia Dortmund player to make it, Serge Gnabry hasn’t recovered from injury in time, and Leon Goretzka’s form wasn’t deemed good enough for a coach under whom he made 56 appearances at Bayern Munich. 

With all of those players aged 28 or above, the youthful direction Julian Nagelsmann is taking Die Mannschaft in is clear, which makes the exclusion of Angelo Stiller (even from the preliminary squad) even more puzzling. 

About Stiller:

The 23-year-old has had an outstanding debut season for high-flying Stuttgart. Predominantly playing on the left of a double-pivot in midfield, Stiller is uber-comfortable on the ball and can run a game with his sensational left-foot – shown as he ranked in the top 15% of Bundesliga midfielders for, touches, completed passes, progressive passes, passes into the final third, through balls and shot-creating actions, as per Fbref

Add this influence in play to his superb delivery from set-pieces, and capability as an auxiliary centre-back, and the former Bayern youth player would have been a valuable asset for tournament hosts.  

Group B: Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania
Excluded player: Manuel Locatelli (Italy and Juventus)

Reasoning and Honorable Mentions:

There have been many somewhat surprising exclusions in Luis de la Fuente’s Spain squad. Aston Villa’s Pau Torres and Tottenham’s Pedro Porro didn’t even make the preliminary roster, whilst Girona player-of-the-season contender Aleix García was unfortunately cut from that 30-man team amid competition from established midfielders Rodri and Martin Zubimendi. The omission of Barcelona wonder kid Pau Cubarsí was even more surprising, with the 17-year-old’s precocious composure and ball-progression instead set to shine at the Olympics. 

Though, none of these men have previously featured prominently for their national team, unlike Manuel Locatelli.

About Locatelli:

From both the bench and starting 11, the 26-year-old made a significant impact in Roberto Mancini’s Euro 2021 winning side, and, whilst his subsequent move to Juventus has not quite lived up to expectations, he’s still been a mainstay for The Bianconeri since. 

For Italy, his ability to dictate play with a wide-range of passing from deep make him a perfect deputy to Jorginho, whilst his performances in the previous Euros evidence his proficiency in a box-to-box role too – particularly with his unlikely brace against Switzerland. 

This skillset has been utilised by new Italy head Coach Luciano Spalletti too, with Locatelli featuring in over half of his games in charge – making his absence from the Azzurri’s Euro 2024 squad even more surprising. 

Group C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, England
Excluded Player: Jarrad Branthwaite (England and Everton)

Reasoning and Honorable Mentions:

Before discussing England, a particularly honorable mention must be given to former England youth international Matt O’Riley, who, due to his Danish mother, made his senior Denmark debut in for Denmark in November 2023. However, despite racking up an astounding 18 goals and 16 assists in all competitions for Celtic last season, the London-born midfielder somehow failed to make Kasper Hjulmand’s Euro squad. 

As for O’Riley’s birth country: the breadth of attacking talents at Gareth Southgate’s disposal meant high-profile exclusions – such as Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, and Marcus Rashford – were inevitable.

The same cannot be said in defence however, where Jarrad Branthwaite’s exclusion is especially curious given the both injury of England’s main left-sided centre-back Harry Maguire, and their only left-footed defender Luke Shaw being a doubt for the opening fixtures. 

About Branthwaite:

The 6’5” centre-back was highly impressive in Sean Dyche’s Everton, displaying his comfort in defending 1v1’s, proactively engaging with attackers, whilst also boasting excellent aerial ability. These traits that would have been highly valuable to a Three Lions’ back-line that has been the subject of many questions posed to Southgate in the build-up to what is likely to be his last tournament in charge. 

Group D: Poland, Netherlands, Austria, France
Excluded Player: Joshua Zirkzee (Netherlands and Bologna)

Reasoning and Honorable Mentions:

As with every international tournament, France’s abundance of talent inevitably leaves out a number of high-profile names. This time around, Premier league attackers such as Michael Olise, Christopher Nkunku and Moussa Diaby have not made the cut, neither have talented defenders Jean-Claire Todibo, Mohamed Simikan, or Chelsea pair and Axel Disasi and Benoît Badiashille. And that’s only naming a few. 

As for The Netherlands, the selection of Al-Etitfaq’s Georginio Wijnaldum (33) over Feyenoord’s midfield controller Mats Wieffer (24) has been questioned, especially due to the injuries of Frenkie de Jong, and Teun Koopmeiners.

About Zirkzee:

However, it’s Bologna no.9 Joshua Zirkzee who can be most dismayed. The 24-year-played a pivotal role as Thiago Motta’s trail-blazing side achieved Champions League qualification, finishing as top goal contributor with 11 goals and 4 assists in 32 league starts – more than other Dutch center-forwards Wout Weghorst and Memphis Depay.

Alongside more goal scoring prowess, Zirkzee would also offer a multi-faceted skillset different to that of powerhouse Brian Brobbey, as he boasts an ability to drop deep and link play, gracefully take on his man himself, but also finish well with either foot in the box.

Group E: Belgium, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine
Excluded Player: Thibaut Courtois (Belgium and Real Madrid)

Simply put, there’s no exclusion from Group E, or possibly any Euro 2024 side, more significant and controversial then that of Thibaut Courtois’. 

Having ruptured his left Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in August 2023, and then torn his right meniscus during recovery in March, the The Real Madrid Goalkeeper’s only appearances last season came from May onward, including a triumphant Champions League final against Dortmund. 

Despite this return, Courtois already publicly announced in March he would not be playing in Germany this summer, and so, Belgium head coach Domenico Todesco has left him out, stating: “he is not ready for the Euros”.

So, if his absence is down to injury, why is he on this list?

Well, there’s more too it than it seems. The two have had somewhat of an ongoing battle since last June, when Courtois acrimoniously walked out of the Belgian camp after Tedesco didn’t deliver on his promise to make the ‘keeper captain in Kevin De Bruyne’s absence – instead choosing Romelu Lukaku.

Tedesco pubclially criticized this reaction, whilst Courtois’ recent response to a press conference on ‘X’ essentially accuses Tedesco of lying in his claim that he tried “everything” to convince the keeper to play in the Euro’s following his announcement in March. 

Consequently, whether it be down to injury, conflict, or both, The Red Devils will be without the champions league winner this summer.

That leaves them reliant on one of Matz Sels, Koen Casteels, and Thomas Kaminski – all of whom attained a worst save percentage over the past year than 90% of goalkeepers in Europe’s top five leagues. For reference, in his most recent campaign (La Liga 2022/23), Courtois’ save percentage was better than 85% of keepers, according to Fbref.

Group F: Türkiye, Georgia, Portugal, Czechia
Excluded Player: Pedro Gonçalves (Portugal and Sporting CP)

Reasoning and Honorable Mentions:

There are not that many names unexpectedly missing from nations in Group F.

Çağlar Söyüncü, Ozan Kabak, and Bournemouth’s Enes Ünal are all missing for Türkiye through injury. That means former Leicester and Roma winger Cengiz Ünder is perhaps the biggest household name to be excluded, with the 26-year-old attaining more caps than all-but two players in Vincenzo Montella’s squad.

Though, it’s Portugal’s Pedro Gonçalves (25) who is perhaps the best player to miss out.

About Gonçalves:

An attacking midfielder, Gonçalves couldn’t have done much more in the prior season to impress Roberto Martinez, having contributed over 20 goals (11 goals and 12 assists) for the third time in his four seasons at Sporting CP as he claimed his second Liga Portugal title under Rúben Amorim. 

Nonetheless, with Competition from world-class talents such as Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, or even PSG’s Vitinha in a less attacking role, Gonçalves’ absence is more unfortunate than surprising.

So there it is, one player (and a few more) from each group that was surprisingly excluded from their nations’ Euro 2024 squad.

Hopefully now you’ll be on the look out to see if England miss a left-footed centre-back, Netherlands miss an inform number nine, or if Belgium are having a calamitous time trying to keep out goals.

If not, at least you’ll be adequately prepared to answer the question “hey, where’s ____? Why’s he not been called up?”

Travis Levison | Get Football

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