The 16th UEFA European Championships are upon us and fans across the world can hardly contain their excitement. Experts have compiled who has the best chance of lifting the trophy, but what of the dark horses? In 2004, Greece did the unthinkable and shocked the world by winning the tournament against the hosts, Portugal.
This year as well, all eyes are on the usual suspects ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, but the most recent rounds of qualification suggest that there could be a batch of new underdogs jostling for a place up with the top teams this year.
England occupies the favourite spot for the fixed odds football betting at Euro 2020 and rightly so after a fantastic World Cup run in 2018. With the six groups, there are a number of exciting dark horses in the competition who boast exciting prices.
Of the 24 teams that qualified, 19 are returning from the 2016 edition and are preparing to lock horns on the biggest stage in football. Let’s explore the dark horses in the competition and who has the potential of causing a huge upset.
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski will be leading the line for Jerzy Breczek’s Poland side in Euro 2020. Lewandowski is one of the best finishers in the world and has returned 293 goals for German club Bayern Munich in his 8 seasons.
Another round in the chamber for the Polish outfit is the emerging young talent, Krzysztof Piatek. The Hertha BSC star has made a splash in the Serie A and has now carved out form in the Bundesliga. Poland has a blend of experience and youth on their side.
11 players have been handed international debuts since the start of last year to help freshen up the squad. Notably, Jakub Moder has impressed since breaking into the national team, scoring an emphatic World Cup qualifying goal against England.
Sweden is still a long shot, but they proved that they could still compete at the highest level after reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup, falling short to a driven England outfit.
They’re by no means the most talented team in the tournament, but they do boast some veteran experience. Sebastian Larsson, Pontus Jansson and Martin Olsson still occupy the Sweden ranks and aim to have one final hurrah.
The Swedes know exactly their team ethos. They embrace the fact that they often defend in blocks and play on the counter. Their style of play isn’t pretty but it can be effective against teams that press high. Sweden might be the dark horse to watch this year at the Euros.
The nation’s hope was restored after Russia treated their fans to a wonderful World Cup ride in 2018. The host nation’s dreams were extinguished after losing to a resilient Croatia team on spot-kicks.
Russia exceeded expectations after progressing to the quarter-finals and it seemed a cruel way to end the team’s tournament, but the team came out with a plethora of experience.
Russia is placed in Group B alongside Belgium, Denmark and Finland. While Belgium are the favourites to top the group, Russia’s sole focus will be aiming to defeat Finland and Denmark to progress to the last 16.
Turkey has the arsenal to be the surprise package at Euro 2020. With a magnitude of players who perform at the top level, the team will relish the pressure of plying their trade in this year’s international tournament.
Midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu is their star man, while Juventus’ Merih Demiral and Leicester’s Caglar Soyuncu will man the backline. Turkey’s squad incorporate a good mix of experience and youth.
Turkey has been placed in Group A alongside Italy, Wales and Switzerland. Although the group looks tough on paper, Turkey has the quality to make a deep run in the tournament.
Challenging international titans is nothing new to the Turks, they finished third in the World Cup in 2002 and again in the Euro 2008 Championships, shocking the world both times.
Wales has endured a painful 57-year wait to reach a major tournament, and once they did in 2016, they showcased to the world why they deserved a spot. They finished runners-up in their group, before surprising everyone by reaching the semi-finals, beating Belgium 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
The stars of the show for Wales have been Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, the old guard being key for Wales hopes of reaching the deeper stages of the competition.
What Can We Expect?
The tale of an upset is all too familiar. One of the heavyweights goes on to bully a smaller nation, swallowing a humiliating defeat in the process. A minnow trading blows with the established team is an occurrence that every true fan of the game wants to see.
The achievements of Greece in 2004 and Iceland putting England to the sword in 2016 can give the confidence to the underdogs that they may have a chance.
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