Spotlight on Euro 2024: The outsiders

As Euro 2024 draws nearer, we turn our attention to the tournament’s outsiders.

While little is expected of the underdogs, this next group of teams will have greater ambitions.

So we’ve delved into Twenty3’s Toolbox, to assess the six countries with an outside chance of success at the upcoming European Championship.


Poland scraped through qualification, finishing third behind Albania and Czech Republic in Group E.

That left Michał Probierz’s side needing to win two playoff games. They cruised past Estonia in the first, and had a more difficult challenge away to Wales in the second.

After a tense, nervy affair in Cardiff, Poland were the eventual winners on penalties.

They will need to improve significantly come June, but the Eastern Europeans have achieved their first objective.

The next challenge will be to progress from an extremely difficult group, which includes France, the Netherlands and Austria.

Based on their qualifying campaign, Poland might struggle.

They scored just 10 goals in eight group games, and conceded 10 too. The 5-1 playoff win over Estonia boosted their numbers somewhat, but they were remarkably cautious against Wales and didn’t register a single shot on target.

Nonetheless, the Poles ranked third in qualifying for shots from headers (29) and fourth for attacking duels won (294).

And in Piotr Zieliński and Robert Lewandowski, they boast genuine world-class quality.

The latter only netted three times in qualifying and has had a relatively disappointing season at Barcelona by his usually high standards. But his ability to pop up with a crucial goal could be invaluable.

Zieliński, meanwhile, ranked second in qualifying for through passes completed (12) and fifth for shots assisted (22). His creativity will be key for Poland.


Under uniquely difficult circumstances, Ukraine’s qualification for Euro 2024 was an impressive achievement.

Russia’s invasion of the country has meant Serhiy Rebrov’s team have been unable to play games in their homeland.

Their home matches in qualifying were played in other European countries, including Poland, Germany and Slovakia.

But that didn’t hinder a Ukraine team with commendable resilience. They finished third in a tough group, level on points with second-placed Italy.

Back-to-back 2-1 wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland in the playoffs confirmed their place in Germany this summer.

Mykhailo Mudryk was the hero against Iceland, scoring in the 84th minute to spark raucous celebrations.

The Chelsea winger, though still raw, is a genuine threat for Ukraine, completing 27 dribbles and winning 100 attacking duels in qualifying.

Striker Artem Dovbyk will also be a key man in Germany, having enjoyed a prolific season with La Liga high-flyers Girona.

He only scored twice in qualifying but is a lethal finisher when presented with chances.

Rebrov typically sets his side up in a 4-2-3-1 system, and Oleksandr Zinchenko is influential in midfield. 

The Arsenal man, who averaged a passing accuracy of 90.3% in qualifying, will help Ukraine establish control in central areas, as they look to progress from a group that includes Belgium, Slovakia and Romania.


Serbia qualified relatively comfortably for Euro 2024, though it was not as convincing as they might have expected.

They finished second in their group, four points behind Hungary and three ahead of Montenegro.

Aleksandar Mitrović stepped up when it mattered most, scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Montenegro in October.

The former Fulham and Newcastle striker remains Serbia’s main man in attack, netting five times from seven games in qualifying.

He is an excellent focal point, winning 25 aerial duels and 17 loose ball duels.

Serbia are blessed with real quality in attack. Dušan Vlahović has had a superb season with Juventus, while Dusan Tadic, at 35, is still influential, providing four assists in qualifying.

Dragan Stojković’s side make full use of their powerful centre forwards. No team in qualifying had more shots from headers (35) and they ranked sixth for crosses completed (73).

Serbia typically play in a 3-4-2-1 system, with Sergej Milinković-Savić and Nemanja Gudelj forming a strong midfield partnership.

Filip Kostić is a constant threat from left wing-back in a team that looks to create opportunities with repeated box entries.

Serbia are, as they showed in the 2022 World Cup, occasionally vulnerable defensively, although an xG conceded of just 5.71 in qualifying suggests they have tightened up at the back.


Scotland were superb in qualifying, winning their first five games — including a memorable 2-0 victory over Spain — to fly clear in Group A.

Steve Clarke’s side were eventually reeled in by Spain, but they finished comfortably in second ahead of Norway.

In a compact 3-4-3 shape, Scotland looked solid out of possession and a real threat in transition.

Scott McTominay was prolific in qualifying. The Manchester United midfielder scored seven times, making a habit of powering into the box to convert chances. Only Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappé, Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku netted more.

John McGinn was equally impressive, bringing his Aston Villa form onto the international stage. He scored twice and provided three assists from midfield.

Andy Robertson is also a key man and his performances on the left flank will be significant if Scotland are to progress from a group including Germany, Switzerland and Hungary.

Clarke’s immediate priority will be to arrest his side’s dismal run of form heading into the tournament.

Scotland have not won since beating Cyprus in September 2023, falling to heavy defeats against England, France and Netherlands in recent friendlies.

If they can rediscover their form from last year, the Scots could make a big impression at Euro 2024.


Hungary were impressive in qualifying, going unbeaten in Group G and finishing four points clear of Serbia.

Marco Rossi’s side scored 16 goals and conceded seven, easing through a group that might have been tricky.

Having reached the finals so convincingly, they will hope to go deep in the tournament.

Hungary usually operate in 3-4-2-1 formation, with the influential Dominik Szoboszlai allowed to play in a more advanced role than at Liverpool.

He scored four goals and provided three assists in qualifying, ranking first for shots from free-kicks (11).

His set-piece quality is crucial and he has the invaluable ability to decide tight games.

Szoboszlai ranked third in qualifying for dribbles completed (40) and attacking duels won (59).

He will be looking to create chances for striker Barnabás Varga, who also got four goals in qualifying.

At the other end of the pitch, an experienced back three of Attila Szalai, Adam Lang and Willi Orban will aim to provide the foundation for Hungary’s bright attacking players.

They may not have a litany of star players, but Hungary might be considered dark horses, particularly if Szoboszlai is on song.

Rossi’s team will likely be battling with Scotland and Switzerland to progress with Germany from their group.


Austria looked good in qualifying, only finishing one point behind Belgium in their group.

With just one defeat from eight games, Ralf Rangnick’s outfit are not accustomed to losing games.

And the former Manchester United and RB Leipzig coach has got his country playing some eye-catching football.

The system regularly changes, with Austria switching between a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2.

Rangnick’s emphasis is on counter-pressing. Only Spain and Switzerland allowed a lower number of passes per defensive action (7.39) in qualifying.

Marko Arnautović is still a key man up front, although he only scored twice in qualifying and has been on the periphery at Inter this season.

Marcel Sabitzer and Xaver Schlager will be instrumental in midfield. The latter ranked fifth in qualifying for defensive duels won per 90 minutes (6.88).

Winning the ball back quickly and attacking at pace will be the plan for Austria, who find themselves in a tough group alongside France, the Netherlands and Poland.

The aim will be to go one better than their run to the round of 16 at Euro 2020. That seems a realistic ambition given their recent friendly performances, with a 2-0 win over Germany in November and a 6-1 thrashing of Turkey in March.

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