Spotlight on Euro 2024: The underdogs

Euro 2024 is less than two months away and the countdown will have started in earnest for some of the tournament’s smaller nations.

This is a competition that has often been kind to underdogs over the course of its history.

Denmark and Greece have been unlikely winners, while Wales memorably reached the semi-finals in 2016.

Ahead of this summer’s edition in Germany, we’ve used Twenty3’s Toolbox to assess some of the less-fancied participants.


Reaching Euro 2024 was an achievement in itself for Georgia.

The Eastern Europeans beat Greece on penalties in their playoff game, securing their place in the finals for the first time ever.

In a sense, then, ​​Willy Sagnol and his players will just be happy to be in Germany.

But they will have no intention of simply making up the numbers. Georgia proved in qualifying that they are both technically accomplished and impressively well-disciplined.

Despite finishing fourth in Group A, they drew against Scotland and Norway, and are capable of giving far stronger opposition a scare.

Georgia look to hurt teams in transition: only Israel (343) attempted more dribbles in qualifying (336).

And they averaged just 43.69% possession, content to sit back and break at pace. Only Portugal (3.07) had a higher post-shot xG from counter-attacks (2.07).

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is, of course, the main man. The Napoli star was instrumental as Georgia defied the odds to reach the finals, scoring four goals and attempting 104 of the aforementioned dribbles.

The winger ranked first in qualifying for attacking duels won (76) and his performances will be key if Georgia are to make a mark in a group that includes Turkey, Portugal and Czech Republic.


Slovakia got the better of Luxembourg and Iceland in qualifying to reach a third successive Euros.

Francesco Calzona, who is now manager of both the national team and Napoli, guided his side to second in their group, finishing behind runaway leaders Portugal.

With 17 goals scored and just eight conceded, it was an impressive campaign for the central Europeans.

Slovakia are defensively resolute: only Portugal (nine) kept more clean sheets in qualifying (six).

Calzona’s side typically line-up in a 4-3-3 formation and look to press from the front. They attempted more pressing duels (473) than any other team in qualifying.

In Lukáš Haraslín and Róbert Bozeník, they should have plenty of attacking firepower.

The former was Slovakia’s top scorer in qualifying, netting three goals in a squad that largely shared the burden.

Bozeník, meanwhile, will be a key man up front after a strong season with Portuguese side Boavista.

At the back, Slovakia will need big performances from Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka and Paris Saint-Germain defender Milan Škriniar.

The latter, aside from his obvious defensive qualities, plays an important role in buildup, ranking fourth in qualifying for forward passes completed (218).

Slovakia are certainly among the underdogs, but with a relatively favourable group — Belgium, Romania and Ukraine — they may fancy their chances of upsetting the odds.


Albania’s progress over the last decade has been impressive.

They reached their first ever European Championship in 2016, managing to beat Romania and holding their own in narrow defeats to France and Switzerland.

Eight years on, they are back on the big stage after failing to qualify for Euro 2020.

They secured their place in the finals by finishing above Czech Republic and Poland to top Group E, scoring 12 goals and conceding just four.

A robust defence is the foundation for Albania, now managed by former Arsenal and Barcelona player Sylvinho.

The Brazilian has instilled real discipline in his players. Just six teams — Belgium, Portugal, England, Spain, Austria and France — bettered Albania’s post-shot xG of 5.09.

That defensive resolve will be tested in the finals, particularly in daunting a group that includes Spain, Croatia and Italy.

But Albania will go into the tournament with no fear, confident that they can make things difficult even for the most gifted opponents.

The Eagles typically play with a low block out of possession, with Atalanta’s Berat Djimsiti and Empoli’s Ardian Ismajli forming a strong partnership at centre-back.

Full-back Elseid Hysaj is the most recognisable name, having been a regular for Napoli and Lazio over the last decade. His experience will be invaluable.

Albania’s weakness is in attack, where they lack an out-and-out goalscorer. Jasir Asani and Nedim Bajrami both scored three goals each in qualifying, and they will need to be fit and firing come June.


Slovenia enjoyed a strong qualifying campaign, finishing level on points with Group H winners Denmark.

Matjaž Kek, who has been in charge since 2018, guided his country to the Euros for just the second time in their history as an independent nation.

Though they might lack the star names of some other teams at the tournament, Slovenia should not be underestimated.

Their recent 2-0 friendly win over Portugal was an example of their ability to pull off an upset.

Kek’s side are direct in possession, ranking fourth in qualifying for long passes completed (292).

Benjamin Šeško, rangy but with plenty of pace and power, is the main man up front. The 20-year-old scored five times in qualifying and is an excellent focal point.

At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Jan Oblak remains an influential figure.

Still one of Europe’s best, he is likely to be called into action regularly in a group that includes England, Denmark and Serbia.

Slovakia will have aspirations of reaching the knockout stages, but their key players will need to be on top form if that is to happen.


Romania will appear at their sixth European Championship this summer.

Only once have they made it beyond the group stages, but they will be hoping that changes in 2024.

Edward Iordănescu’s side were superb in qualifying, finishing five points above Switzerland and ending the campaign undefeated.

They conceded just five goals in 10 games, proving almost impermeable at the back.

As is often the case for sides with less individual quality, a solid structure has been the foundation of their success.

Romania, under Iordănescu, are exceptionally combative. No team in qualifying won more loose ball duels (182) and they afford their opposition very little time and space on the ball.

Tottenham defender Radu Drăgușin is a key figure at the back, ranking first for ball recoveries completed (157) and second for duels won (119) in qualifying.

Alongside the more experienced Andrei Burcă, Romania boast a formidable centre-back pairing.

Denis Alibec, Valentin Mihăilă and Nicolae Stanciu were the main men in attack during qualifying, scoring three goals apiece. Winger Olimpiu Moruţan, meanwhile, was chief creator, providing four assists.

If they continue to play to their strengths, Romania certainly have a chance of progressing from a favourable group.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic have plenty of European Championship pedigree, having won the tournament in 1976.

They were runners-up in 1996 and have reached the semi-finals on three other occasions.

Things have not been so good in recent years, though. They made it to the last eight in 2012 and 2020, but Czech Republic are no longer the force they once were.

Still, this will be an eighth successive Euros, and there will be aspirations of progressing from a group that includes Georgia, Turkey and Portugal.

The Czechs finished level on points with Albania in qualifying, proving similarly cohesive as a defensive unit.

Only three teams won more aerial duels in qualifying (221) and they ranked fourth for crosses completed (77).

Czech Republic also looked to hurt teams in transition, making more dangerous ball recoveries in the opposition half (53) than any other outfit.

They will be something of an unknown quantity under Ivan Hašek, who took charge in January and has overseen just two games.

West Ham midfielder Tomáš Souček will be a key player. He scored three goals in qualifying and is a constant aerial threat, ranking third for aerial duels won (44).

Czech Republic will hope Bayer Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick can stay fit. He was impressive at Euro 2020, but missed much of the last qualifying campaign through injury.

If Hašek can get his team firing, the Czechs may well exceed expectations in Germany.

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