Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay

Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay
Photo used for illustrative purposes showing Delhi Capitals' Rasikh Salam plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on May 7, 2024 (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2024
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Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay

Artificial Intelligence in cricket’s landscape is here to stay
  • AI is transforming the way that matches are approached, played, and, increasingly, how teams are managed

The revelation that the England’s women’s cricket team used artificial intelligence in its selection process has attracted attention in the English press. It should not have done so. During the announcement of the England women’s squads to play Pakistan in May, the head coach, Jon Lewis, said that during the Ashes series in 2023, AI proved to be very helpful in several selections. As an example, a decision was made in relation to two players who were in very good form. They were equally selectable, but AI guided a borderline decision which proved to be crucial.

Purists will, no doubt, wring their hands at the thought of selectors abrogating responsibility to a machine outcome. If they fear that teams are being selected entirely by a machine rather than humans, they are likely to have to wait a little longer. Selectors and coaches remain people oriented, needing to understand a player’s individual state and motivation at any given time. Data about performance is used to supplement that knowledge. This has always been the case. Averages, though not perfect, have long been used to guide selection and many a captain and coach has kept a “black book” to record the strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of opponents.

However, enhanced computing power and programs, coupled with the recording of longer runs of historic data, have combined to create an explosion of analytical capability over the last 15 years. AI’s simulation of human intelligence, based on quick processing of large data sets, generates learning on which intelligent decisions can be made. Such outcomes can provide an objective view of what could happen in certain situations between a batter and a bowler, based upon what happened in previous encounters. This leads to so-called “matchups,” in which one or the other is targeted by someone they do not perform so well against. There is nothing new in this approach, but data analysis allows much more precise assessments to be made.

There are now armies of data analysts in cricket and T20 franchise tournaments have been at the root of their proliferation. This has been especially prevalent in India, driven by the Indian Premier League, the fervent interest in the game amongst the Indian population and the country’s ever burgeoning IT capabilities.

The use of AI outcomes is transforming the way that matches are approached, played, and, increasingly, how teams are managed. It is argued that better informed decisions will enhance human capabilities, particularly in situations where split-second decisions determine the outcome of a game. It is not easy to comprehend how AI is going to help a captain make a split-second decision on the last ball or two of a match. Surely, it is then down to human instinct and calculation.

In terms of selection, AI is already being used, especially in terms of attempting to generate matchups. One area in which it could present clarity is in assessing pitch conditions, a variable which can confound captains and match planners. Those who may resent AI’s growing influence must realize that it is already ubiquitous in the game.

An early manifestation was Hawk-Eye, back in 2001. This multi-camera setup tracks the flight of a ball and predicts what will happen to it next. It has been used in cricket for more than 20 years and is an integral part of the Decision Review System, now a fixture of cricket’s international landscape. Under this, a batter or fielding side can request that a decision of the on-field umpire can be reviewed by an off-field umpire using off-field technology. None of this would be possible to achieve without prior analysis of multiple previous examples of ball tracking.

There are less obvious applications of AI, at least to the spectator. Wearable technology is one. In cricket and other sports, wearables are used to monitor health and fitness. AI algorithms analyze the data to provide intelligence on a player’s health, injury potential and an appropriate training regime. In recruitment, much more detailed and extensive data is available for analysis than ever before about a player’s performance and suitability for a team.

One aspect of AI which fans will recognize is that of ever-increasing efforts to engage them more. Algorithms generate personalized content, manage ticket pricing and generate chatbots to provide real-time, personalized responses to queries, all aiming to enhance the overall fan experience. A part of this revolves around score and result prediction. These have become increasingly prevalent and accurate, of particular relevance to the betting community. They base calculations on how players and teams have performed against opposition previously and train the model accordingly.

If this is sounding too unlike some people’s previous understanding, association and understanding of cricket, in which uncertainty and unpredictability loomed large, then best gear up for the future. There, we can expect a leveraging of the most advanced technologies to T20 cricket. In-play algorithms will analyze in-game strategies, predict outcomes and suggest strategic adjustments. The age of the commentator is under threat.

Customized training programs for players will be augmented by their emotional and psychological state. They will train in virtual environments which simulate match conditions, including crowd noise. Wearables will incorporate sensors which provide real-time data on player health, performance and potential injury areas, with personal treatment plans and diets designed to ensure faster recovery. Clothing will adapt to weather conditions so as to maintain optimal temperatures (spectators might do the same!). Smart helmets will monitor impacts and send back data. Sensors on helmets and other equipment will provide more detailed data.

Already, every movement of every player is monitored on the field. Off-field monitoring is likely to increase. The players are well paid, so most are likely to accept. There has been concern in the 2024 IPL about the domination of bat over ball. One unnamed player suggested that a bowling machine should replace bowlers. However tongue in cheek the comment, the IPL seems headed toward a robotic future. The rest of the world needs to wake to this prospect.


Ancer leads with 64, DeChambeau 3 back, Fireballs lead team race at LIV Golf Nashville

Ancer leads with 64, DeChambeau 3 back, Fireballs lead team race at LIV Golf Nashville
Updated 22 June 2024
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Ancer leads with 64, DeChambeau 3 back, Fireballs lead team race at LIV Golf Nashville

Ancer leads with 64, DeChambeau 3 back, Fireballs lead team race at LIV Golf Nashville
  • With Ancer leading the way, Fireballs GC lead the team competition by four shots over DeChambeau’s Crushers GC, with Torque GC another shot back in third
  • The crowd support helped keep DeChambeau going, and he acknowledged them at every opportunity — including at the par-3 15th party hole when he made birdie, then cupped his ear to hear the fans cheer

COLLEGE GROVE: In his first round since winning the US Open, a worn-out Bryson DeChambeau continued to thrive off the energy of his growing fan base, shooting a 4-under 67 on Friday at LIV Golf Nashville.

Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Abraham Ancer continued to ride the form that’s already led to one LIV Golf victory this season, as he grabbed the first-round lead at The Grove with a bogey-free 7-under 64.
 

With Ancer leading the way, Fireballs GC lead the team competition by four shots over DeChambeau’s Crushers GC, with Torque GC another shot back in third. The Fireballs, captained by Sergio Garcia, are seeking their first team title this season after trying for second in each of the previous two tournaments.
 
Ancer opened his round with a birdie, and then took the lead on his final nine with four birdies in a five-hole stretch. He finished by getting up-and-down on his last hole to keep his scorecard clean.
 

“Extremely happy the way I fought today,” said Ancer, the winner at LIV Golf Hong Kong earlier this year in a playoff. “Even the last hole, I put myself in a tough spot and then made a longish putt for par, which was really nice. You don’t want to finish on a bogey.”

One shot back is Legion XIII’s Tyrrell Hatton, the only player this season to finish inside the top 24 in points in each of the first eight tournaments. Hatton leaned heavily on his putter during a round in which he needed just 24 putts. 

“The big thing that I was most pleased with today was just the putter,” Hatton said. “Feel like I holed out really well from inside 10 feet.”

In solo third is John Catlin, a reserve player who is filling in for injured Crushers veteran Charles Howell III for the second consecutive LIV Golf tournament. Catlin’s 5-under 66 was highlighted by a stretch of four birdies in five holes around his turn.

No reserve player has finished inside the top 5 of a LIV Golf tournament, but Catlin, a 13-time winner in his professional career and currently second in the International Series standings, is confident he can continue to make noise this week.

“I feel like if I can go out and play my game, I’m capable of anything,” he said.

DeChambeau is in a four-way tie for fourth with Torque’s Sebastián Muñoz, Fireballs’ Eugenio Chacarra and Majesticks GC’s Sam Horsfield.
 
The last few days have been a whirlwind for the Crushers captain after winning his second US Open with a clutch up-and-down on the 72nd hole at Pinehurst. A media tour in New York followed the next day before he traveled to Nashville for this week’s tournament.
 
“I’m a zombie right now. I’m a dead man walking,” he said.
 
But the crowd support Friday helped keep him going, and he acknowledged them at every opportunity — including at the par-3 15th party hole when he made birdie, then cupped his ear to hear the fans cheer.
 
“It’s quite an honor to be out here and have so much support,” DeChambeau said. “It’s fantastic. This is what LIV is all about.”

Team counting scores

Standings and counting scores for Friday’s opening round of the team competition at LIV Golf Nashville:

 

1. FIREBALLS GC -14 (Ancer 64, Chacarra 67, Garcia 68)

 

2. CRUSHERS GC -10 (Catlin 66, DeChambeau 67, Casey 70)

 

3. TORQUE GC -9 (Muñoz 67, Ortiz 68, Pereira 69)

 

4. LEGION XIII -8 (Hatton 65, Rahm 70, Surratt 70)

 

5. MAJESTICKS GC -7 (Horsfield 67, Westwood 69, Stenson 70)

 

T6. STINGER GC -4 (Schwartzel 69, Burmester 70, Oosthuizen 70)

 

T6. RIPPER GC -4 (Leishman 69, Smith 69, Jones 71)

 

T6. CLEEKS GC -4 (Kaymer 68, Bland 70, Samooja 71)

 

9. IRON HEADS GC -3 (Na 69, Vincent 69, Kozuma 72)

 

10. SMASH GC -2 (Koepka 69, Kokrak 71, Gooch 71)

 

11. HYFLYERS GC E (Mickelson 70, Steele 71, Ogletree 72)

 

12. RANGEGOATS GC +1 (Watson 70, Wolff 72, Uihlein 72)

 

13. 4ACES GC +2 (Varner III 71, Reed 72, Perez 72)


Tom Kim builds a 2-shot lead over Scheffler and Morikawa at Travelers Championship

Tom Kim builds a 2-shot lead over Scheffler and Morikawa at Travelers Championship
Updated 22 June 2024
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Tom Kim builds a 2-shot lead over Scheffler and Morikawa at Travelers Championship

Tom Kim builds a 2-shot lead over Scheffler and Morikawa at Travelers Championship
  • Kim already is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, though he has only one top 10 in his last 19 starts worldwide
  • Morikawa, like Kim, did most of his work on the front nine by rolling six birdie putts

CROMWELL, Connecticut: Tom Kim is looking at the long term with his golf game and is getting short-term results at the Travelers Championship, where he followed an opening 62 with a 5-under 65 on Friday for the lowest 36-hole score of his career and a two-shot lead.
Kim had to settle for eight straight pars on the soggy TPC River Highlands and still finished at 13-under 127, two shots ahead of a group that includes Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa.
Scheffler, coming off his first middle-of-the-road performance of the year at the US Open, had to wait through a storm delay of more than three hours to finish his last two holes. He made an 8-foot birdie on the 18th for a 64.
Morikawa (63) and Akshay Bhatia (65), who also was two behind, finished before the storms.
Kim and Scheffler both celebrated birthdays during the second round — Kim is 22 and Scheffler is 28 — and did their birthday damage earlier in the week with a trip to one of the Connecticut’s best known pizza joints.
Kim already is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, though he has only one top 10 in his last 19 starts worldwide since his victory in Las Vegas last fall.
“I think the work I’ve been doing has ... the past few months it’s just been kind of like making sure that I feel confident out in the competition, not practice rounds,” Kim said. “So I think this stretch is making me sharper and more ready and I think it’s kind of time to show.”
There certainly should be no rust for the 22-year-old Kim. He has not missed a tournament dating to the Byron Nelson, making this his eighth consecutive tournament.
Scheffler tied for 41st last week in the US Open at Pinehurst No. 2, a course he never quite figured out. It was the first time since the fall of 2022 that he was outside the top 40.
He looks like the No. 1 player this week, missing only one fairway and one green in the second round. That was key to scoring because officials allowed players to lift, clean and place their golf balls provided they were in the short grass.
“Definitely better than last week,” Scheffler said. “I felt like I found a little stuff in my swing and feel like I’m seeing the breaks a lot better on these greens. Definitely feeling some good momentum from the last two days.”
Scheffler birdied four of his last six holes, the final two after the rain delay. He left his approach below the hole on the 18th to set up his final birdie.
Morikawa, like Kim, did most of his work on the front nine by rolling six birdie putts. He picked up his final birdie on the par-3 16th and will be in the final group with Kim on Saturday.
Morikawa, a two-time major champion, has been getting himself in the mix at the some of the bigger events over the past few months. He played in the last group at the Masters and the PGA Championship until falling back.
This round was largely about putting. Morikawa made a pair of birdies from the 15-foot range early punctuated by a 30-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole. His swing looks to be back to be as consistent as ever.
“I know where the ball’s going, so that helps,” Morikawa said. “Obviously, I want to be able to get the win and that’s kind of what’s stopping me from being on a great run. It’s a big mental mindset. When you know where the ball’s going it’s a lot easier to play golf, and I’ve kind of been able to trust that.”
PGA champion Xander Schauffele had another 65 and was alone in fifth place, three shots behind. Another shot back were Shane Lowry (62) and Justin Thomas (63).
Lowry hit a magnificent approach with a 5-wood on the par-5 13 and rolled in the long birdie. That put him at 8-under par for the day, with a couple of good birdie chances on the in. But the Irishman had a couple of pedestrian wedges — from the fairway, one a pitch — for pars.
And then the horn sounded to stop play, and Lowry had to settle for three pars.
Thomas, who chipped in for eagle on the 13th, had his lowest score since a 61 in The American Express in the California desert to start the year.
The signature event has no cut — the field is 70 players — and a $20 million purse.
 


Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 to force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final

Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 to force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final
Updated 22 June 2024
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Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 to force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final

Edmonton Oilers beat the Florida Panthers 5-1 to force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final

EDMONTON, Alberta: Leon Draisaitl made his first major impact in the Stanley Cup Final, and the series is heading back to South Florida.
Draisaitl set up Warren Foegele’s early goal, Adam Henrique and Zach Hyman scored in the second period and the Edmonton Oilers forced a Game 7 by beating the Florida Panthers 5-1 in Game 6 on Friday night.
They are the first team to tie the final after falling behind 3-0 in the series since the Detroit Red Wings in 1945. The Oilers have the chance Monday night in Sunrise to join the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only NHL teams to come all the way back from that deficit to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The opportunity to make hockey history and end Canada’s three-decade-long Cup drought exists only after Connor McDavid’s heroics with four points apiece in Games 4 and 5 to take the Oilers from the brink to belief. Draisaitl, his longtime running mate from Germany who has also been league MVP and considered among the best players in the world, lit the spark in Game 5 after being largely ineffective against the Panthers.
Draisaitl got the puck at center ice, skated around and through Florida defenders and put the puck on the tape of Foegele’s stick for a tap-in that Sergei Bobrovsky had nearly no chance of stopping. That, of course, did not stop the fired up sellout crowd of 18,000-plus from mockingly chanting, “Ser-gei! Ser-gei!” starting before the anthems and continually throughout the night.
The goalie everyone calls “Bob” was hardly to blame, though, with mistakes in front of him also contributing to the 2-on-1 rush that ended with Henrique beating Bobrovsky off a 2-on-1 rush off a perfect pass from Mattias Janmark. The Panthers in front of their goaltender looked tight and timid and unlike the juggernaut that reached the final for a second consecutive year and won the first three games to move to the verge of the first title in franchise history.
Florida had just six shots on net midway through the game and finished with 21. Continuing a trend of being there when the Oilers need him the most, Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner made timely saves to stymie the Panthers, allowing just a goal to Aleksander Barkov less than 90 seconds into the third period.
The first time Barkov got the puck past him, 10 seconds after Henrique scored, the goal came off the board when Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch successfully challenged for offside. A lengthy review found Sam Reinhart entered the offensive zone perhaps an inch or less before the puck, the announcement of which was followed by a roar from fans.
That was not the loudest Rogers Place got, and there were plenty of candidates for that distinction. The decibel meter shown on video screens reached 113.8 when the Oilers stepped on to the ice to the tune of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
It might have approached that noise level when Ryan McLeod and Darnell Nurse scored empty-netters in the final minutes, setting off chants of “We want the Cup!” and a wild celebration at the viewing party outside.
That was the fever pitch of a city that was awash in a sea of blue and orange downtown in the hours before puck drop. Friday might as well have been a holiday in Edmonton, the home of nearly a million people now fully able to let themselves dream of the Oilers adding another white championship banner to the rafters — and do so in the most improbable way possible.


Caeleb Dressel earns an individual race in Paris, winning 50m freestyle at US Olympic swimming trials

Caeleb Dressel earns an individual race in Paris, winning 50m freestyle at US Olympic swimming trials
Updated 22 June 2024
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Caeleb Dressel earns an individual race in Paris, winning 50m freestyle at US Olympic swimming trials

Caeleb Dressel earns an individual race in Paris, winning 50m freestyle at US Olympic swimming trials
  • Dressell will get a chance to defend his 50m freestye title in Paris, blowing away the field in the all-out sprint from one end of the pool to the other
  • Guiliano has emerged as a big star of these trials, heading to his first Olympics with three individual events on his plate

INDIANAPOLIS: After a long layoff and all the doubts about whether he’d reclaim his place as one of the world’s greatest swimmers, Caeleb Dressel looked like himself again Friday night.

Dressel earned his first individual race of the Paris Games, powering to a relatively easy victory in the men’s 50-meter freestyle at the US Olympic swimming trials.

One of the biggest stars in Tokyo with five gold medals, Dressel finished third in the first individual event, the 100 freestyle, which relegated him to the relay at that distance.

But he’ll get a chance to defend his 50 free title in Paris, blowing away the field in the all-out sprint from one end of the pool to the other at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s tough. That was a tough one,” Dressel said. “I was not super-confident until I got up on that block. There’s only so much you can do in the 50. It’s head down and go fast.”

Dressel did just that to touch in 21.41 seconds, not far off his winning time (21.07) at the last Olympics. Chris Guiliano claiming his third individual race in Paris with a runner-up finish of 21.69.

In the aftermath of his Tokyo success, Dressel stunningly walked away from swimming during the 2022 world championships. He later revealed what a toll the sport had taken on him, saying he needed to take an extended break to rediscover his passion at the pool.

Dressel failed to even qualify for the 2023 worlds, but these trials have provided proof that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in Paris.

About 35 minutes after his victory in the 50 free, Dressel returned for the semifinals of his final event, the 100 butterfly.

The tattooed Floridian showed more impressive speed, posting the fastest time of 50.79 to stamp himself as the favorite in the final Saturday night. Dare Rose was next at 51.11.

If Dressel can finish in the top two of that race, he would likely swim up to five events in Paris counting the relays — not far off his six-event program in Tokyo.

Regan Smith will also be swimming three individual events at the Olympics after winning the 200 backstroke.

Smith was under world-record pace through the first two laps, but faded a bit at the end to touch in 2 minutes, 5.16 seconds.

Still, she finished more than a second ahead of Phoebe Bacon, who grabbed the second Olympic spot in 2:06.27. She chased down reigning world champion Claire Curzan, who missed out on a berth in Paris with a time of 2:06.34.

Smith previously won the 100 backstroke in world-record time, along with a victory in the 200 fly. She just missed a fourth individual race in Paris with a third-place showing in the 100 fly.

Still, it’s been a dynamic meet for the Minnesota native, who has endured plenty of ups and downs since setting her first world record in 2019.

“I’m incredibly proud of this performance,” Smith said. “I ran out of gas in that last race, but its been a great meet for me.”

Guiliano edged Matt King for an Olympic berth by a hundredth of a second, with Jack Alexy taking fourth in 21.76.

Guiliano has emerged as a big star of these trials, heading to his first Olympics with three individual events on his plate. He won the 100 freestyle and was runner-up in the 200 free and now the 50 free.

Guiliano, who competes collegiately at Notre Dame, will be the first American male to swim those three events at the Olympics since the great Matt Biondi in 1988.

Carson Foster will be doubling up in Paris, adding a victory in the 200 individual medley to the title he won in the 400 IM.

Shaine Casas was under world-record pace through the first two laps, but Foster chased him down on the freestyle leg to win in 1:55.65.

Casas grabbed his first Olympic berth with a runner-up showing of 1:55.83 — a huge relief for a swimmer who was billed as a rising star ahead of the Tokyo Games but failed to qualify in either of his events at the 2021 US trials.

“This means everything,” Casas said. “Since I was a kid, it’s all I dreamed about. Now, I won’t have to pretend to be an Olympian. I am an Olympian.”
 


Kante sparkles again but France lose shine without Mbappe magic

Kante sparkles again but France lose shine without Mbappe magic
Updated 22 June 2024
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Kante sparkles again but France lose shine without Mbappe magic

Kante sparkles again but France lose shine without Mbappe magic

LEIPZIG, Germany: N’Golo Kante was the unlikely star of the show in the absence of a frustrated Kylian Mbappe as France and the Netherlands edged toward the last 16 of Euro 2024 after a 0-0 draw in Leipzig.
Recalled from a two-year international exile, Kante has rolled back the years in Germany with back-to-back man-of-the-match awards to become the fulcrum of Didier Deschamps’ midfield once more.
A star of France’s World Cup winning team in 2018, Kante’s time with Les Bleus appeared spent after he departed Europe to join Saudi side Al-Ittihad 12 months ago.
Injuries had blighted the end of his spell at Chelsea and cost him a place at the World Cup two years ago.
Deschamps’ decision to bring back the 33-year-old has proven inspired despite some initial skepticism.
“N’Golo is still out there running,” Deschamps quipped in his post-match press conference on Friday.
“But he doesn’t only run. He also has a capacity to carry the ball up the field, which is important to complement our other players in midfield so we have variety and we are not always predictable.”
Questions have been raised over how big European names lured by the riches of the Saudi Pro League would fare when thrust back into the intensity of an international tournament.
But Kante has shown that a less demanding Saudi campaign could even be beneficial in comparison to those players worn out by gruelling seasons in Europe’s top-five leagues.
“It’s important (to make a good impression), especially when you come back to the national team,” said Kante.
As impressive as his ball-winning and boundless energy has been against Austria and the Netherlands, the fact the diminutive midfielder has been France’s star so far tells its own story.
The 2022 World Cup finalists have managed just one goal in their opening two games and even that came via Austria defender Maximilian Wober.
Mbappe’s broken nose against Austria, which ruled him out on Friday, has not helped.
But more is expected of a forward line that also boasts Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Marcus Thuram, Ousmane Dembele and Kingsley Coman.
Thankfully for France’s hopes of becoming European champions for a third time, Mbappe looks set to be able to return with the aid of a mask.
The Dutch stalemate continued a worrying trend for Deschamps without their star man.
Over the past two years, France have not won any of the seven games that Mbappe has not started.
“Obviously the team is on a different plane when Kylian is in it,” added Deschamps.
The France boss conceded his caution with the Real Madrid forward would have been different had it been a knockout game.
The French have been here before under Deschamps and know underwhelming group games are easily forgotten — as long as they click in time for tougher tests in the knockout stages.
France have reached three finals in their last four major tournaments.
The exception came at Euro 2020 when an out-of-sorts Mbappe failed to score and missed the crucial penalty in a shock last-16 exit to Switzerland.
This time it is injury that threatens to ruin his Euros and France can ill-afford for their masked captain to be under par when he does return.
Despite France having an abundance of talent, Mbappe remains the inspiration to complement Kante’s perspiration that would make them the team to beat at Euro 2024.