Football has witnessed a lot of upsets in the past, with ‘little teams’ upsetting ‘big teams’ in specific matches, and sometimes in major competitions. Blackburn Rovers shocked England and won the league in 1995, Atletico Madrid rattled Barcelona and Real Madrid’s cages to pick up the La Liga trophy in 2014. Also most recently, Hibernian lifted the Scottish cup to end a 114-year wait at Rangers’ expense, while Leicester City defied the odds by winning the English Premier League with a 10-point gap after battling relegation the previous season.
The Euros has also witnessed its fair share of upsets, with the most popular shock coming in 2004 when Greece claimed the coveted prize. That year was a special year, as Spain, Germany and Italy were knocked out in the group stages, while defending champions at the time, France, were knocked out by Greece in the quarter-finals. It was also the first time in the competition that the last match featured the same teams as the opening match (Portugal and Greece).
So with the aforementioned, it is deducible that upsets are inevitable. Whether in just a match or throughout an entire tournament, it must happen. So with the spotlight on teams like Spain, Germany, Italy and possibly England, this piece aims to highlight a few teams that could produce moments of magic or fluke their way to cause major upsets in France this summer. The European championships has seen stunning performances from teams viewed at minnows down the years, as all eyes will be cast on France this summer so many of the smaller teams would love to “Leicester” the championship and send shock waves around Europe.
Swiss Boss, Vladimir Petkovic has a good spine of young players who are regulars in top flights clubs in Germany, England and Italy. He would fancy defying the odds this time and gun for the top prize. Qualifying second only to England in the qualifying campaign, they mustered 24 goals without any potent striker in their ranks – relying on the nifty Xherdan Shaqiri in the attacking department and the steel provided by Valon Behrami and Arsenal’s new boy Granit Xhaka in midfield. The Swiss should be able to negotiate an easy passage from group a consisting of debuting Albania, Romania and hosts France and who knows maybe all the way?
Fact: Xherdan Shaqiri finished as Switzerland’s highest goal scorer in the qualifying rounds with 4 goals
Wales have waited for 58 years to reach a major competition and compete they will! With the world’s most expensive player ever in their squad buoyed by his heroics for Real Madrid, Wales can surprise us all. Scoring 7 of 11 goals the Welsh national side managed in the qualifying round, Gareth Bale is undoubtedly the main man and manager, Chris Coleman will certainly hope he is in rich form in the summer while looking out for the defensive resilience of Swansea’s big man Ashley Williams and tireless runs of Aaron Ramsey from the middle of the pack. With the Welsh possessing great team spirit and camaraderie, nothing might be able to stop them.
Fact: Wales let in just 4 goals in the qualifying round, putting them fourth on the list of fewest goals conceded.
Although they are placed in a somewhat easy group, Austria’s 28 points from 10 games is enough to make potential opponents wary. Bayern Munich left back David Alaba featured as a primary figure following his tally of 4 goals and 3 assists in 8 games. The defender is likely to be employed as a central midfielder in the competition, and this might pay off well having seen what Philipp Lahm is capable of. Another useful asset to the Austrian side is Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic whose impressive season in the Premier league saw him reel in 11 goals and 6 assists. It is expected that Marko will be employed on the left in France, reason being he scored 9 and assisted 5 from that position in the just concluded season. So, with Alaba and Arnautovic’s ability, it is expected that 6ft 5” striker Marc Janko will be able to build on his 7 goals in the qualifiers. The Austrian can defy all odds and we might have a debuting champion.
Fact: the Austrian side won 9 of their 10 games in the qualifying rounds
Scoring 33 goals while qualifying didn’t surprise many due to the presence of Robert Lewandowski, Europe’s top marksman in the qualification round finishing with 13 goals. Poland found the back of the net the most times (33 goals) from 162 attempts in the qualifying round. England who came second in scoring goals, found the net 31 times from 195 attempts. Other teams had over 200 attempts to score the number of goals they did. This statistic makes one thing clear; Poland are a huge threat in front of goal. Reliance on Lewandowski goal scoring prowess isn’t overburdening, the polish national side have Ajax’s striker Alexander Milik who had 6 goals and 6 assists to place him joint top of the assist rankings in the qualifiers. Poland’s head coach, Adam Nawalka knows he can field a side that can play intense and confident counterattacking football and punish sides in the opposition box. Just like Iceland, this team should not be taken for granted; just ask Germany. Can Lewandowski fire his side to glory?
Fact: Bayern Munich’s forward Robert Lewandowski 13 goals in the qualifying round is a joint record with David Healy of Northern Ireland
You can’t have Zlatan in your ranks and not be considered for any competition you enter for. Even at 34, Ibrahimovic is one of the best strikers on the planet. The Swedish side are over reliant on his ability and aren’t even ashamed to admit, who would? Finishing second in the qualifying round with 11 goals only to Lewandowski, his free kick against Denmark in the qualifying playoff was him pushing his side over the line one more time; can he do it in France?
Fact: 3 of Zlatan Ibrahamovic’s 11 goals in qualification came against Denmark in the playoff rounds.
Article by: Feyijimi Olanrewaju, @Larryfeyii and Opeyemi O. Babalola (Babs), @Opeyemi_B.