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Euro 2016: The tournament of the Underdog

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We don’t have to go too far back in time to find an underdog raising the trophy at the Euro championships. Greece started Euro 2004 as an 80/1 shot and in a huge upset in international football went on to win it.

So could this tournament also be the year of the underdog?
There is no lack of favorites which are the contenders to win the Euros, with Spain, Germany, France and England the obvious front runners. However all of them look vulnerable for varying reasons.

Germany
Their 2-0 win against Hungary in their final warm-up was Germany’s first clean sheet for a year and have lost 7 international games since their World cup triumph in 2014. Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger played only 23 minutes against Hungary and said he doubts he will be able to play all of the opening game against Ukraine on June 12. The team has other injury concerns too with Hummels doubtful and Reus left out of the squad due to a groin injury. Admittedly they have Kroos, Ozil and of course Mueller fit but Group C is no easy challenge with Poland scoring 33 goals during the qualification, the highest of any team. Going through as winners of the group is not a done deal and lack of squad depth could hurt them throughout the later stages of the tournament should a key player get injured.

Spain
The defending champions are looking to win the Euro cup for the third time in a row, yet Spain do not have quite the allure they had four years ago, as a recent lack of friendly form attests. Costa and an improving Torres have been left out of the side leaving Alvaro Morata, the Juventus striker as favourite to lead up front. Of course they have some real quality in midfield, but if Morata gets injured they could be a little light on firepower. This scenario seems ever more plausible given he picked up a thigh injury during the friendly against South Korea and has been absent from training. Spain still have one of the best squads in the World but their players are ageing and they might get found out on pace.

France
The outright favourites of the competition aided by a home advantage, so what’s the problem? Two words 'defensive options'. France had no issues here at the start of the year, but since then Varane has been injured and Sakho was suspended. The Sakho ban has been overturned but there is still too much heat on the player for Deschamps to add him to the squad. Laporte fractured his ankle earlier in the year and can't be called upon either.

England
Where is Drinkwater? Reputation over form, England never learn. The golden generation incredible for their respective teams never worked together at an international level as well as they might. Yet despite this they were chosen again and again without any coach really making any hard decisions. European football is more ruthless, look at Spain where an entire excluded 11 could arguably win the Euros

Spain’s excluded XI (4-2-3-1): Reina; Carvajal, J.Martinez, I. Martinez, Monreal; Gabi, Cazorla; Saul, Isco, Mata; Costa.

That leads us onto Rooney who has been pushed into an attacking midfielder role, where he can play but isn’t the best in the squad. Using ratings based on a combination of key passes made and assists Rooney scores lower than Barkely, Alli and Lallana. The heart of the defence is even more problematic. John Stones, Gary Cahill or Chris Smalling are years away from the level of John Terry or Rio Ferdinand but even farther from Toby Alderweideld, Gerard Pique, Raphael Varane or Mats Hummels, Eric Dier will have to be in the form of his life to help hold the back line. Joe Hart is a decent keeper, but is he as good as De Gea or Manuel Neuer? This argument can be repeated at each position within the team. England look bright and have some real talent but a quarter final exit beckons.

So who are the underdogs with a chance?

Croatia
The midfield is a particular strength with Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic the stars with the joint top goalscorer of Euro 2012 (Mandzukic) up front

Austria
The team revolves around star player David Alaba of Bayern Munich, but there is plenty of other talent in this team including in form striker Arnautovic. Impressively, they only conceded 5 goals during qualification.

Poland
Lewandowski, Lewandowski and Lewandowski oh and a 33 qualifying goal tally and Milik and Krychowiak.

Belgium
Can we call them an underdog? There odds are only a touch longer than England, but let's go with it. This is the golden generation of Belgium football and have been named by many pundits as potential European champions. With a team packed full of quality including Kevin de Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and the on fire Eden Hazard who can fault them.

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