With the 16th UEFA European Championships knocking on the door, we are going to witness some world class teams with world class players running the show. But at the end of the day, it is the story of the underdogs, that thrills us the most in football. The sheer magical turn of events and turnarounds are what keeps us on the edge of the seat in these tournaments. Nothing can beat the sheer thrill in watching a relatively weaker team giving it’s all, fighting till the end to clinch a clinical victory against a favourite. Denmark in 1992, Greece in 2004, Portugal in 2016.. there hasn’t been any less incidences of some major upsets by the underdogs. So, let us look at four such dark horses on whom people can keep their eyes upon to emulate the fairy tale story of Greece in Euro 2004.
Dark Horses of Euro 2020
Italy will be coming to this competition with a serious point to prove after their rebuilding process in recent years. With Roberto Mancini taking up the head coach position Italy have went on a win spree losing only twice and qualifying for Euros with three games to spare, as the Azzurris have went on to a straight 26 win streak which is their second longest run since 1935-39 under Vittorio Pozzo. Mancini taking up Italy job has seen the introduction of around a score of young and talented players with the likes of Zaniolo, Barella, Chiesa, Pellegrini, Bastoni, Locatelli and many more. Though on a good run of form, the four times World Champions and the Euro Champions of 1968 will go into the tournament as dark horses after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. With such an mix of young as well as experienced players Italy are definitely a team to take an edge over other teams.
Considering Sweden to win the Euros is a long shot, but they are someone who definitely would be the cause of upset for other teams. With the presence of experienced defender Victor Lindelof of Manchester United, world class attacking midfielder Emil Forsberg who had shone consistently with RB Leipzig, young prodigy Aleksander Isak who has notched up 17 goals this season in La Liga with Real Sociedad and Dejan Kulusevski who has come to the limelight after a decent run of form with Juventus, combining 25 goals and assists in 52 starts for the Turin outfit, Sweden would be trying their best to go all the way to the knockouts and then hope to push further till the late stage. The absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic could of course be a dent in their confidence but their style of play of sit back and counter attack could help them take the better of some teams. Their clash against Spain in Group E will definitely be a treat to watch.
The chances of Poland in the Euros are purely based on one single man, ace Robert Lewandowski. He is arguably the best striker out there in the world let alone in Europe, and has been in a enigmatic goalscoring spree, topping the scoring list in Europe with 41 goals to his name in Bundesliga. Lewandowski has also broken Gerd Muller’s record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season in 1971/72, which has been intact for 4 decades, which is no less an understatement. Poland has lots of quality on the bench with Szczesny and Fabianski vying for the spot under the bars, Bednarek and the experienced Kamil Glik in defence, Karol Linnety and Gregorz Krychowiak acting as the key pieces in the midfield and Milik adding to the firepower upfront with Lewandowski. With the Bayern Munich ace leading from the front and some other promising players like Piotr Zielinski, Paulo Sosa’s men would be looking to play their hearts out in their upcoming campaign. Watch out their fiesty fixture with Spain in Group E.
Croatia had their dream run in 2018 Fifa World cup, literally turning out to be the dark horses and reaching the finals of the prestigious tournament. They eventually suffered a heartbreak to their story against the mighty France, who were almost unbeatable that year with all the firepower they had, but Croatia’s performance was considered nothing short of a miracle with players like Modric, Rakitic and Mandzukic running the show. Though that golden generation of players are on the verge of retirement, with Rakitic already deciding to call his time, Croatia will still be playing under the leadership of 2018 Ballon D’Or winner midfield maestro Luka Modric of Real Madrid, who had been in an impeccable form this season with the Spanish giants, featuring regularly despite his ageing legs. Important players like Mateo Kovacic who was a key figure in Chelsea’s Champions League winning squad and Marcelo Brozovic who led Inter Milan to their Scudetto win after 11 years would hold the key for Croatia. The form of Ivan Perisic and Andrea Kramaric would be an added boost to them, and will be a contributing factor as the Croats look to repeat their underdog story this year in the Euros as well. Croatia Vs England is a clash the spectators should definitely look out for.
Other teams who can anytime spring upon the occasion and stage an upset: Turkey and Austria.