Euro 2020 Tips: Why an outsider could go all the way

Pierre Emile Højbjerg, Denmark
Is Pierre Emile Højbjerg heading for Euro success?

The Euro 2020 betting strongly favours England, Italy, Spain and Belgium, but don't rule out an underdog success story, says Stephen Tudor, who profiles the four outsiders

"Ukraine have nothing to lose and that makes them a very dangerous proposition for England in Rome on Saturday evening."


Best Euros performance: champions (1992)

The narrative surrounding the Danes is that they are riding a wave of emotion after the awful Christian Eriksen drama and there is undoubtedly some truth to this. Crucially though, the charged atmosphere is not negatively affecting their football which remains clinical and controlled. Denmark boast the fourth highest possession average and have used it wisely, putting together the third most attacks - depressingly 89 more than England - and regularly getting the ball out wide to best utilize their strengths. No other team have completed more crosses. Their 30 shots on target is a tournament high and lacking an out-and-out finisher it impresses how they are sharing around the goal-scoring burden. Six different players have found the back of the net to date. In defence, Kasper Hjulmand's side are sound just so long as they avoid Belgium - eight of their last 13 conceded have been against the Red Devils. Their shut-out of Wales made it 11 clean sheets in 20. The Red and White have already justified their pre-tournament tag as dark horses. Now they're on a cause and on course to repeat their incredible achievement in '92.

Czech Republic

Best Euros performance: runners-up (1996)

The Czechs have a worrying propensity to concede early but if the opening 15 minutes is navigated, they typically grow into games. Just ask the Dutch. For a side ranked 40th in the world very rarely are the pre-tournament 125-1 shots outclassed or indeed show any shred of inferiority complex. It is telling that they have lost only once by more than a single goal in their last 25 games. This means they remain in contests throughout and with Golden Boot contender Patrik Schick up front they always have a chance, with his fearsome left foot and aerial prowess. Only four players have had more attempts on goal than the tall Bayer Leverkusen forward and the Czechs use him as a focal point well and often. Jaroslav Silhavy's side are decent front-runners, winning nine of the last 12 fixtures in which they have gone ahead and in a knock-out format they pose a constant threat with Darida, Masopust and Jankto all useful ballers. Only Sweden and Finland have committed to more long balls but frankly, a direct style hardly hurt Greece in 2004.


Best Euros performance: round of 16 (2016)

For an outsider to upset the odds and win a major competition three qualities are essential, over and above luck and momentum. The most obvious plus is a strong work ethic allied to squad unity and here the Swiss come up trumps. They define themselves as a team of no stars who are greater than the sum of their parts. A forward enjoying a purple patch on the biggest stage of his career is another key ingredient. Haris Seferovic was prolific in Portugal last season and has carried that form into the tournament, scoring a goal every 72 minutes so far. A stand-out player to emerge is the last necessity, and for this look no further than Steven Zuber. Incredibly, the Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder has assisted every 38.5 minutes across his last four appearances for his country. Finding themselves in the more difficult half of the draw counts against the Swiss, as too does a disciplinary issue that sees Granit Xhaka suspended for their quarter-final clash with Spain. A 1-1 Nations League draw with La Roja last November offers genuine hope though.


Best Euros performance: group-stage (2012, 2016)

Ukraine have nothing to lose and that makes them a very dangerous proposition for England in Rome on Saturday evening. Going into the summer, Andriy Shevchenko insisted qualification from Group C would represent significant progress while several tipsters had them down as possible quarter-finalists. Everything from here is a free hit.What's more, they have enough quality in the final third to genuinely trouble an English rearguard that is winning plaudits without yet being properly tested. Roman Yaremchuk has scored four goals in his last seven. Ruslan Malinovskiy meanwhile finished off his Serie A campaign with Atalanta in spectacular fashion, directly contributing to 15 goals in the Goddess' last 11 games. Then there's West Ham's Andriy Yarmolenko who can be brilliant or anonymous entirely dependent on mood.Regarding form, there doesn't appear to be any middle ground with this team. They're either flying, capable of beating Portugal and holding Italy, or stuck in a sustained slump and having seven put past them by France. Right now, buoyed by a 120th minute winner against Sweden, it's the former and England should beware.

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