Forget about your German, French and Spanish bets
Make it a bit more interesting by eyeing up these outsiders.
Unless you were living in a world without internet or television like North Korea, you’ll have known that Leicester City came from nowhere to win the Premier League. Garbine Muguruza beat Serena Williams at Roland Garros and Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix at just 18 years old. When we were 18 we were mesmerized by Sharon Stone, not winning Grand Prix’s.
2016 is undoubtedly the year of the underdog. Can that carry over into the biggest football event of the year? Could someone like Ireland or Northern Ireland charge to the title and make history?! No. They won’t.
But these three teams just might.
Poland have won precisely none of their six previous matches at the European Championships, despite hosting them alongside Ukraine in 2012. Their qualifying form gives off all the right signs that they will right that wrong this summer. The draw is kind to them if they manage to get out of their group containing Germany, Northern Ireland and their co-hosts from 2012.
Poland played ten games in qualifying, suffering just one defeat and scoring a qualifying high 33 goals. Robert Lewandowksi grabbed 13 of them to finish as top scorer in qualification and he is the great Polish hope. They are yet to lose a game since Euro 2012 when they score first – but are yet to win one when they concede first. Their only defeat in qualifying came to the Germans but they managed to beat them in Warsaw.
Opening against Northern Ireland on June 12th, if Poland come second they’ll likely be up against a low scoring Switzerland in the last 16. With a world class player leading the line, their odds to go all the way aren’t too shabby.
Gareth Bale come on down! Poland have a world class player leading the line and Wales have one leading the team. But despite the thousands of jokes that’ll be made about them being a one man team, which we proved, Wales actually have a pretty solid backline with a midfield that on paper will be tricky to get past.
Wales only conceded four goals in their ten qualifying games, including two clean sheets against the world’s number one side at the time Belgium. Only Romania conceded less than the Welsh, albeit in a weaker group.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about Gareth Bale. Of the 11 Wales goals in the group he got seven of them and assisted two more. Aaron Ramsey got two with one apiece from David Cotteril and Hal Robson-Kanu. Welsh legend Neville Southall wrote that Wales need to beat Slovakia in the first game to have a chance of qualifying, which we agree with. A crunch game against England could bring up the massive carrot of knocking out Roy Hodgson’s men, depending on results.
One of the best players in the world + one of the best defenses at the tournament = success. But how much success?
Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor had the hit in the 60’s. Football Crazy. The song’s title perfectly describes Iceland.
Despite having a population smaller than that of Wakefield and thus being the smallest country to ever reach the European Championship finals, it’s a country that has undergone a transformation when it comes to football in the last decade and a half.
Starting with the building of the first ‘football house’ – an indoor pitch – in 2000, the beautiful game has boomed since. There’s now an all-weather pitch beside every school and possibly the best youth recruitment system in all of Europe with UEFA qualified coaches dotted around every town. The results of this were clear in Iceland’s qualifying results.
Standing in a group containing the Czech Republic, Turkey and Holland not many expected them to get through. Six wins in their first seven including a double over the Netherlands and Iceland were on their way to the Euros.
Conceding just six goals, the defence is strong but there is no real quality in the team apart from Gylfi Sigurdsson. The signs show that there is potential for Iceland to slowly build it’s way towards a breakthrough. Perhaps Euro 2016 is just a bit too early for them.
- Check out more stats, facts and team by team previews at our dedicated Euro 2016 hub