After a year of waiting, the biggest party of the summer will finally get underway on June 11th, as the European Championships finally take place. Some of the biggest players on the planet will be on show over the month-long competition, with many predicting that the team that wins the competition is one of the clear favourites in the betting. Betway currently have France as the narrow favourites to win the EUROs, as of June 10th, while England and Belgium are close second and third in the market.
However, with the hectic season that we have had domestically, could there be a potential shock winner of the tournament this year? Greece were the most shocking winner of the EUROs back in 2004 when they stunned Portugal, but which teams could be poised for a shock run at the honour this year?
Turkey have gone under the radar throughout the qualification, and have history of upsetting the odds at major tournaments. They finished third in the 2002 World Cup, and were semi-finalists in the European Championships in 2008. Turkey enjoyed an excellent qualification campaign, as they finished in Group H behind France. They were just two points behind the world champions, and lost just once during the group phase. That defeat came against Iceland, as they were beaten 2-1 on the road on matchday four. That was a shock setback for the Turks, as it came just three days after they had beat France 2-0. Defensively they were very strong throughout qualification, and in many major tournaments, a strong defence often means a strong run deep into the later stages.
Turkey conceded just three goals in ten qualifying games, and with high-quality central defenders such as Caglar Soyuncu and Merih Demiral, they could have a good chance of going far this summer. Their chances were certainly improved after being drawn alongside Italy, Wales and Switzerland in Group A, as they could have the best chance of finishing second.
It seems strange to call Portugal a dark horse for the European Championships this summer, as they go into the tournament as the defending champions. However, they are currently priced at 10/1 to win the competition. Much of that is down to the draw that they have been handed, as they will need to see off Germany and France in the group stages. However, the experience that Portugal have in their squad means that they shouldn’t be written off from winning a second straight major title. Cristiano Ronaldo will likely be leading his homeland for the final time at the EUROs this summer, and the Juventus forward will be looking to defy critics that have claimed that his best days are behind him.
The Portuguese captain remains among the front-runners for the golden boot this summer, but his nation’s chances could be decided after their opening two games. Portugal once again struggled to qualification, as they finished second behind Ukraine in Group B. However, they suffered just one defeat, and can lean on their never-say-die attitude from the EUROs five years ago as experience. There is so much attacking talent in this Portuguese side, with Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix and Diogo Jota likely to be the leading stars. Ruben Dias and Jose Fonte will offer the defensive protection after impressive seasons, which led both players to domestic titles in England and France, respectively.
Teams that are looking to go far in the EUROs will need a recognised goalscorer, as there are few nations that can boast a better number nine than Poland. Robert Lewandowski is coming into the summer tournament this year after the best year of his career, as he scored an incredible 41 goals in 29 games in the Bundesliga. Lewandowski has often been criticised for his performances for his national team, as they have failed to go deep in competitions throughout his career. However, at 32-years-old, there is a sense that this is now or never for the Bayern Munich striker when it comes to what he can achieve with his national side.
Poland remain a very competitive outfit, and they don’t concede many goals. However, they lack quality in the final third when Lewandowski is missing, which was seen in their recent World Cup qualifier defeat against England. They have been drawn in a decent group for the EUROs this summer, as they have Spain, Sweden and Slovakia to contend with. The minimum target will be a second-place finish, but they could have their sights set on a place at the top of the standings if they can get a positive result against the Spanish.