2016 may very well be the year of the underdog. After Leicester City took home the premiership it would be fitting that Euro 2016 come with a surprise package.
The Euros are a special tournament. Unlike the World Cup, which is quite dazzling and always open to a few surprise stories, like Costa Rica in 2014, the Euro’s can cough up big-time underdog stories, Greece in 2004 and Denmark in 1992.
With the Euro’s it might not be so outlandish to put your money on a minnow as they have taken home the trophy in recent years.
Here are two underdogs who could go all the way this year:
Some would contest that England are one of the favorites after a relatively strong where the Three Lions played 10 and won 10. However, that is not enough to make us the consider Hodgson’s men likely winners considering England’s lackluster and disappointing international displays since arguably 1990.
Albeit, there is reason for optimism this time round as England’s new-look squad could contain enough pace, flair, and hunger if Roy Hodgson is able to set up a system that works and galvanize his young stars such as Delle Alli and Raheem Sterling. Hodgson has been insistent on creating a new English brand of football with high-tempo “tiki-taka”, as some might say.
This system could work for England if it is finally executed properly (we are yet to see this mythical creature that Hodgson calls an exciting England side) but who knows, maybe Hodgson will get it right in time.
Hodgson will have to tailor this system appropriately to his strikers. Daniel Sturridge might be England’s first option, being pacier than Harry Kane and more of a creator than Jamie Vardy.
England’s main issue, however, will be their backline; it’s quite dodgy to say the least. Gary Cahill had a less than stellar season in the Premier League this year and struggled to match his terrific form in the 2014/2015 season, John Stones and Chris Smalling are still prone to be liabilities, and Roy Hodgson is only bringing three centre-backs (par Eric Dier).
Hodgson has to find a system that will work for England and with full-backs like Danny Rose, Nathaniel Clyne, Kyle Walker, and Ryan Bertrand who love to get up the pitch England’s shaky centre-back pairing may need help. Jack Wilshere or Eric Dier will most likely play a holding role to try and solidify England’s backline.
England recently proved that they’re something special when it clicks as seen in Berlin when the Three Lions came back from 2-0 down against Germany.
Typically out of the picture, the Swiss could shock us all this summer. In 2014 they performed respectably, reaching the round of 16 before being knocked out by eventual finalists Argentina after a heart-breaking Angel Di Maria winner in extra time.
Switzerland have one of the most balanced sides at the tournament. In goal, they have the Borussia Monchengladbach stopper, Yan Sommer. Sommer became the 2nd most expensive Bundesliga goalkeeper when he signed from Basel for €9 million in 2014 and is now being linked with moves to Manchester City after two very impressive seasons in Germany.
In defense, Juventus’ Stephen Lichtsteiner, Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez,Hoffenheim’s Fabian Schär… oh, and er, Arsenal flop Johan Djourou, offer grit at the back, hard running, and mean set pieces.
In midfield, exciting talents such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka could be the key to a Swiss run at the trophy. Shaqiri showed the impact he can have on matches at Stoke this year and Granit Xhaka continues to shine at Monchengladbach, becoming the club’s captain at the age of 23. Meanwhile, Valon Behrami, Watford’s hard man could be called upon to keep order in midfield and hold the line.
Up front, however, the Swiss are less proven yet could still be potent. Breel Embolo is an exciting young talent with bags of potential and at the age of 19, Euro 2016 could be his opportunity to cast himself into the world spotlight. Eintracht Frankfurt’s Haris Seferovic had his best season in Germany this year and scored 10 goals. He must keep his temper though if he will be of any use after he was recently sent off in a warm-up friendly against Belgium for verbally abusing the referee. Handbags.
Switzerland should be able to qualify for the knockouts, most likely second to France. From there, anything can happen if Switzerland can absorb pressure and hit the big boys on the counter-attack.
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