Spain has already won all its games at Euro 2024, kicked the butt of the Group of Death, and unleashed the brilliance of 16-year-old Lamine Yamal onto the world of international soccer.

Its reward for all that? How about a place in the Bracket of Death?

As the knockout portion of the tournament approaches, take a quick look at how things line up for the elimination rounds. Just be careful as you do so, as the bracket is so lopsided that gazing at it too long might set you off with a nasty bout of nausea.

With Spain, host nation Germany, tournament favorite France and Cristiano Ronaldo’s in-form Portugal all occupying the top half of the draw, that section has taken on an undeniable Squid Game feel, as potentially painful for those involved as it is masochistically mouthwatering for the neutral fan.

At the top, there is star power everywhere you turn. 

There is Ronaldo, widely considered the best European player in history. There is Kylian Mbappé, with his iconic World Cup exploits and the broken nose/masked face combo that have been the talking point of the tournament.

Then, there is Yamal, making everyone wonder how it is possible to be that good at 16, and who has been capping off his tournament brilliance by doing homework in his free time. 

And, for the host nation, there is the lively excellence of Jamal Musiala, the best player from the first round of games and enjoying a breakout tournament that has turned him into an instant national hero.

“At a major tournament, nothing is easy,” Germany head coach Julian Nagelsmann said. Sure, but it doesn’t always have to be this tough.

In fairness, it’s not like the bottom of the bracket is devoid of talent. After all, England and Italy were the European Championship finalists last time out, the Italians prevailing at London’s Wembley Stadium in a nerve-shredding penalty shootout.

England wins Group C with a scoreless draw

But neither has stood out so far, each winning just a single game in the group. Both landed in a prime spot merely by escaping the clutches of the other half, and England head coach Gareth Southgate knew it.

“We have huge respect for all of the teams you’ve mentioned,” Southgate told reporters, when quizzed about the stacked opposite side, before making a diplomatic qualifying remark. “But equally, there are some very good teams on our side of the draw.”

The top half has the last three European winners of the World Cup (France, Germany, and Spain), not forgetting France’s oh-so-near effort in Qatar in 2022. As mentioned, Italy won the most recent Euros, but top-half teams provided the previous six winners before that (Portugal, Spain twice, France, Germany and Denmark) if we temporarily ignore Greece, the 2004 champ that failed to qualify for this event.

The top half even has each of the top four in our latest FOX Sports Euro 2024 power rankings.

“It doesn’t cost anything to dream, but we must keep our feet on the ground,” Spain head coach Luis de le Fuente said, highlighting the difficulty of the level ahead.

Why has it gone down this way? Blame France. The draw already looked a little top-heavy, but it was made infinitely more so when Mbappe’s penalty on Tuesday got canceled out by already-eliminated Poland’s spirited comeback, meaning Les Blues got pipped for first place in Group D by Austria.

As things stand, this is how it might feel if all the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament got lumped into the same regional. Or if the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers were told that a rule change meant they had to unexpectedly duke it out on Wild Card weekend last season, instead of waiting until the Super Bowl. Or if Wimbledon next week said to heck with the seedings, let’s stick all the superstars in together.

Austria wins Group D, France, Netherlands advance

In 2016 at the Euros, a similar lack of balance played out. Portugal won it all despite finishing third in its group with no wins, yet landing in a part of the draw that allowed it to get to the final by beating Croatia, Poland and Wales.

On the other side sat Germany, France, Spain, Italy and England, although the Three Lions eased the congestion a little by managing to lose to Iceland.

When the big teams collide, it naturally sets up the potential for delicious matchups. Spain and Germany could meet in the quarters, as long as the hosts survive a rematch of the 1992 Euros final when they meet Denmark.

France and Portugal could provide a quarterfinal that not only pits Ronaldo and Mbappé against each other, but offers a rematch of the 2016 final.

As temperatures soar in Germany, things are heating up in the bracket, too. It’s just that one side is significantly toastier than the other.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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