Can Romania follow Denmark and Greece into the record books at EURO 2016?Published April 26, 2016
Romania only conceded two goals during qualification, making its defense by far the meanest in European football. Can this be a platform for victory in France?
As opposed to the World Cup, the European Championships have seen some major upsets and surprises over the years. Who can forget the Danish triumph of 1992?
Initially, Yugoslavia qualified, but due to the Yugoslav wars, the team was disqualified and their qualifying group’s runner-up, Denmark, took part in the championship. Players had to cut their summer holidays short and fitness levels and preparation was not the best. However, when they beat the reigning champions Germany 2-0 in the final, the fairytale was complete.
In 2004, another unlikely winner, Greece, shocked the football world. Before the tournament they were deemed by the bookmakers to be the second least likely team to win the tournament, just ahead of Latvia. A solitary goal by Angelos Charisteas saw them beat Portugal to lift a thoroughly unlikely title.
These EUROs are even more even with fewer teams considered easy to beat. Perhaps it is down to the fact that many of those playing for the so-called ‘minnows’ are earning their trade in the top European leagues alongside the finest players on the continent. The gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in European football is certainly smaller than it has ever been.
At EURO 2016, there are many ‘dark horses’. Austria are one of only two teams to have qualified for the finals unbeaten, qualifying ahead of Russia. Romania had by far the best defensive record, only conceding two goals along the path to qualification.
Poland and the Czech Republic are not exactly newcomers or unknown quantities but they certainly won’t be counted among the favourities. However, both teams have young, highly-valued and exciting talent and can easily upset any team on its day.
This EURO has the potential to be another tournament which shocks the football world and give us new household names like Peter Schmeichel and Georgios Samaras.