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England faces Serbia in Euro 2024 group opener aiming to end 58 years of hurt

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England faces Serbia in Euro 2024 group opener aiming to end 58 years of hurt
Sport

Sport

England faces Serbia in Euro 2024 group opener aiming to end 58 years of hurt

2024-06-16 05:27 Last Updated At:05:30

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — England is among the favorites to win the European Championship and end its long wait for a first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup. Gareth Southgate's team begins its campaign against Serbia in Group C on Sunday. There are concerns about potential fan violence. Police have deemed the game “high risk," and beer sales at the stadium will be low-alcohol only. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Sunday. Here’s what to know about the match:

— Excluding penalty shootouts, England has lost only one of its last 18 games in the European Championship. The Three Lions, of course, suffered the heartbreak of losing to Italy on spot kicks in the final of the 2021 tournament at Wembley Stadium.

— England’s hopes could rest on Jude Bellingham, who has just completed a dream debut season at Real Madrid after winning the Spanish title and Champions League.

— Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic is coming off an outstanding first season in Saudi Arabia with Al-Hilal, where he won a league and cup double, beating Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr to the title.

— This could be Southgate's final tournament in charge of England, with his contract due to expire after the Euros. He led his team to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018 and the final of the Euros but admits failure to win a trophy this time would likely end his reign.

— The fitness of John Stones has been a focal point, not least because England had to leave defensive stalwart Harry Maguire out of the squad because of a calf injury. Stones missed training through illness earlier in the week but was back on Thursday. Southgate could play Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold as holding midfielder alongside Declan Rice.

— Serbia reported no injury concerns.

— Harry Kane, John Stones and Kyle Walker are playing in their fifth major tournament for England.

— Serbia scored 15 goals in qualifying for the Euros and five of them came from headers.

— Kane is England's all-time leading scorer with 63 goals for his country — but he is still waiting for his first trophy at club or international level.

— If selected, Kane will set a record for England appearances at major tournaments on 23.

— Mitrovic scored 28 goals in all competitions for Al-Hilal, behind only Ronaldo (35) as the top scorer in the Saudi Pro League.

— Eleven members of Southgate's squad, including Chelsea forward Cole Palmer, have been selected for a major tournament for the first time.

— 80,000 liters of beer will be available to fans in Gelsenkirchen, organizers have said.

— “Winning a major tournament with England would be one of the pinnacles of anyone’s career so that is the aim. For me personally, the trophies haven’t quite happened yet but it just makes me more determined and hungry to go out there and do that." — England captain Harry Kane.

— “Their last friendly showed us that no one is invincible. We watched the match against Iceland, and there is definitely something to learn from them because they have beaten England at Wembley in front of 80,000 people. Anything is possible." — Serbia forward Dusan Vlahovic.

— "I’m a better manager than I was six months ago and a year ago, but time will tell if that’s going to translate into results. We’re here to win, which we know is a complicated journey, and the first objective is to qualify.” — England manager Gareth Southgate.

— “Some of the players here were not born when Serbia last participated in the European Championship. We have been waiting a long time for this. We managed to bring Serbia back to the top.” — Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic.

James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

England's Kieran Trippier, left, and Harry Kane arrive for a training session of the national team in Blankenhain, Germany, Thursday, June 13, 2024 ahead of their Group C soccer match against Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

England's Kieran Trippier, left, and Harry Kane arrive for a training session of the national team in Blankenhain, Germany, Thursday, June 13, 2024 ahead of their Group C soccer match against Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

England's Jude Bellingham, right, and Harry Kane practice during a training session in Blankenhain, Germany, Wednesday, June 12, 2024 ahead of their Group C soccer match against Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

England's Jude Bellingham, right, and Harry Kane practice during a training session in Blankenhain, Germany, Wednesday, June 12, 2024 ahead of their Group C soccer match against Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

FILE - Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic reacts after the Euro 2024 group G qualifying soccer match between Serbia and Bulgaria at the Dubocica stadium in Leskovac, Serbia, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Serbia and Slovenia will be hoping for their own fairytales after qualifying for the Euros for the first time in more than two decades.(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

FILE - Serbia's Aleksandar Mitrovic reacts after the Euro 2024 group G qualifying soccer match between Serbia and Bulgaria at the Dubocica stadium in Leskovac, Serbia, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Serbia and Slovenia will be hoping for their own fairytales after qualifying for the Euros for the first time in more than two decades.(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic, File)

England's Harry Kane practices during a training session in Blankenhain, Germany, Thursday, June 13, 2024 ahead of their Group C soccer match against Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

England's Harry Kane practices during a training session in Blankenhain, Germany, Thursday, June 13, 2024 ahead of their Group C soccer match against Serbia at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump's campaign chiefs designed the convention opening this week to feature a softer and more optimistic message, focusing on themes that would help a divisive leader expand his appeal among moderate voters and people of color.

Then came a shooting that rattled the foundation of American politics.

Suddenly, the Democrats’ turmoil after the debate, the GOP’s potential governing agenda and even Trump’s criminal convictions became secondary to concerns about political violence and the country's stability. The presumptive Republican nominee and his allies will face the nation during their four-day convention in Milwaukee unquestionably united and ready to “fight,” as the bloodied Trump cried out Saturday while Secret Service agents at his Pennsylvania rally rushed him to safety.

Anger and anxiety are coursing through the party, even as many top Republicans call for calm and a lowering of tensions.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, known for his sunny and optimistic vision of Republican politics, suggested online the attempted assassination had been “aided and abetted by the radical Left and corporate media incessantly calling Trump a threat to democracy, fascists, or worse.”

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, another likely convention speaker, offered a more somber tone during a Sunday appearance on NBC.

“We’ve got to turn the temperature down in this country,” Johnson said. “We need leaders of all parties, on both sides, to call that out and make sure that happens so that we can go forward and maintain our free society that we all are blessed to have.”

On Monday, hours before the first convention session, some well-timed good news for Trump got the day off to a positive start for him and his party. The federal judge presiding over Trump's classified documents case dismissed the prosecution because of concerns over the appointment of the prosecutor who brought the case, handing the former president a major court victory.

Trump posted on his Truth Social platform to call for the dismissal of his other legal cases.

“As we move forward in Uniting our Nation after the horrific events on Saturday, this dismissal of the Lawless Indictment in Florida should be just the first step, followed quickly by the dismissal of ALL the Witch Hunts,” he wrote, listing several cases.

In an interview Sunday, Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley said the convention’s programming wouldn't be changed after the shooting. The agenda, he said, will feature more than 100 speakers overwhelmingly focused on kitchen table issues and Trump’s plans to lift everyday working Americans.

“We have to be able to lay out a vision for where we want to take this country," he said.

Whatley said the central message would have little to do with President Joe Biden’s political struggles, Trump’s grievances about the 2020 election or the ex-president’s promises to exact retribution against political enemies.

“We are going to have the convention that we have been planning for the last 18 months," he said. "We are a combination of relieved and grateful that the president is going to be here and is going to accept the nomination.”

Beyond voting to formally give Trump the nomination, elected delegates from across the nation will update the GOP’s policy platform for the first time since 2016. The scaled-down platform proposal — just 16 pages with limited specifics on key issues, including abortion — reflects a desire by the Trump campaign to avoid giving Democrats more material on a key campaign issue.

The platform approved by a committee last week doesn't include an explicit call for a national abortion ban, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended a federally guaranteed right to abortion.

Many anti-abortion advocates strongly opposed the Trump campaign's rewriting of the platform. But after the shooting, at least one major religious conservative said he wouldn't press to reverse the committee's decision.

“More divisiveness would not be healthy,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Perhaps most importantly, Trump will use the convention to unveil his choice for vice president, which could come as soon as Monday. Some Republicans believe the pick will take on more importance than it would have otherwise given the new threats to Trump’s life.

His top three contenders are North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Ohio Sen. JD Vance and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, all expected to speak this week.

Despite a contentious primary season, any lingering tensions appear to have been set aside.

Former rivals Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, are expected to speak at the convention on Trump’s behalf.

Veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz said the shooting ensured the GOP is united and motivated behind Trump, a dynamic he said will be on display all week in Wisconsin.

“Every single Trump supporter will now be a Trump voter,” Luntz said. “The average Trump voter is so angry at what just happened. They were angry before this, and now they’re furious.”

There will be reminders of Trump’s record in a speaking program that includes a handful of Republicans charged with crimes related to other political violence — the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who's in jail on contempt of Congress charges, is expected to speak at the convention just hours after his release. He was found guilty in September after refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Capitol attack.

Nevada GOP Chair Michael McDonald, who was indicted of criminal charges related to his involvement in the scheme to present fake electors who would overturn Biden's victory over Trump, plans to present the former president with the party nomination at the convention. A judge dismissed the case against McDonald last month over a venue dispute.

Trump has repeatedly cast the people involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including his many supporters who stormed the Capitol, as political prisoners.

For now, Democrats have scaled back their plans to offer a competing message during the Republican convention.

The Biden campaign over the weekend pulled down its campaign ads. Vice President Kamala Harris postponed a Tuesday appearance in Florida set to focus on Trump’s opposition to abortion rights. And the pro-Democratic group American Bridge is delaying the scheduled Monday release of faux trading cards designed to highlight controversial policy positions of Trump and other leading Republicans.

Biden’s campaign said that, after an interview he does with NBC airs Monday, it and the Democratic National Committee “will continue drawing the contrast” with Trump over the course of the GOP convention — even though it remains unclear when ads would resume.

Publicly and privately, Democrats feared that they were losing a critical opportunity to undermine Trump’s political ambitions at one of the biggest moments of the 2024 election.

“I’m very concerned that the net effect of the Republican convention will be neutralizing the core democracy critique of Trump — a felon who fomented a violent insurrection, tried to block the peaceful transfer of power, and said the Constitution may need to be terminated,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Sunday. “There is a race to define the democracy critique of Trump as legitimate, and we all need to make clear now that protecting democracy is the exact opposite of political violence.”

The convention, coming less than four months before Election Day, will take place in heavily Democratic Milwaukee, the largest city in a pivotal swing state Trump lost by less than 1 percentage point four years ago.

Even before the assassination attempt, major protests were expected, although movement will be severely restricted as part of enhanced security precautions established by the Secret Service.

Still, the risk of violent confrontation exists.

Security officials previously announced that people just outside the Secret Service perimeter would be allowed to carry guns openly or concealed as permitted by state law. Wisconsin statutes outlaw only machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and silencers.

Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Christine Fernando in Chicago and Ali Swenson in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

A worker carries a chair during perperations for the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

A worker carries a chair during perperations for the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Law enforcement officers stand in an aisle at the 2024 Republican National Convention inside the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Law enforcement officers stand in an aisle at the 2024 Republican National Convention inside the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

An exterior general view at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

An exterior general view at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. is seen during the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. is seen during the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

A color guard comprised of veterans rehearses ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A color guard comprised of veterans rehearses ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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