Euro 2012: Underdogs can bark as well as bite this year

In a football season that can be termed as a season for the underdogs, Euro 2012 would be a fascinating one if the trend continues.

Updated: June 04, 2012 12:34 IST
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In a football season that can be termed as a season for the underdogs, Euro 2012 would be a fascinating one if the trend continues.

Manchester City proved that money can win you titles albeit a last gasp effort.

Juventus won their 30th or as Sepp Blatter corrected, 28th title going unbeaten all season. (Read report here)

Chelsea won the FA Cup and Champions League title after a pathetic Premier League season that saw the Blues going from bad to worse.

Barcelona have also had a rather jaded season and were particularly found wanting over finishing skills against Chelsea in the Champions League semi finals.

Real Madrid marked the highest ever points tally in La Liga history to topple favourites Barca.

Borussia Dortmund too regained their Bundesliga title and added a German Cup to make it a double whammy for the season.

After a bizarre footballing season that saw some surprises, setbacks, ecstasy and tears on the way, the Euro 2012 brings in the country factor once again.

Let us take a group wise look at the underdogs and their chances at the Euro 2012.


Russia, Greece and Czech Republic are joined by co-hosts Poland who would definitely be the underdogs in probably the group which has been least talked about in the run up to the championship. Polish coach, Franciszek Smuda, though, has some aces up his sleeve cometh the Euro. Arsenal goalie, Wojciech Szczesny, has been a revelation this season. He has been an important cog in the Arsenal wheel that has seen them rise to the third spot on the Premier League table. His 18 clean sheets in 48 games for Arsenal is a good testament to his skills and a great sign for the Poland Euro squad. But Polish internationals, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski, who have been the two most influential players this season for Borussia Dortmund will hope to be the same for Poland. With 28 goals and 8 assists between them, both of them have been instrumental in not only winning the Bundesliga but also the German Cup. It was their countrymate, Lukasz Piszczek, who provided support at the back to the duo. Add Lukasz Piszczek to the mix and the Polish side looks bright. Infact reportedly the red side of Manchester has been looking for Robert Lewandowski while Lukasz Piszczek too has been searched for by many, but Borussia have categorically denied their exit. The only major injury concern for Poland would be Defender Damien Perquis whose broken arm would be healed before the tournament but he might be lacking match practice at the Euro. 19-year old rookie, Rafal Wolski, could be the trump card for Poland even as Borussia Dortmund are reportedly eyeing another Polish player in him.


They did not qualify for the 1992 Euro final tournament. But Yugoslavia were not allowed to participate giving the Danes an opportunity. And they grabbed the opportunity and later the Euro 1992 trophy by both hands. Denmark were also handed a tough qualifying group this time, with Portugal and Norway in it, but managed to top their group. Denmark's first choice goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen, was provided much required match practice by his manager at Stoke, Tony Pulis. Second choice Goalie, Anders Lindegaard, too has been declared to be fit and has undergone test games with Manchester United reserves. Among coach Morten Olsen's men, Nicklas Bendtner and experienced winger Dennis Rommedahl could prove to be influential. Both looked good in the qualifying stages although Rommedahl has a bit of an injury concern. Nicklas Bendtner has been in decent form for Sunderland ever since his move on loan from Arsenal. His 8 goals along with 5 assists have raised Danish hopes of a good show at the Euro. Daniel Agger is another piece in the Danish jigsaw without whom the side is incomplete. After an indifferent and injury laden season in 2010-11, he has been regarded as one of the best centre backs in Premier League despite a not so great performance by Liverpool. Infact, Agger has also had 4 assists and 2 goals this season, his best "attacking" tally till date.


In a group where the Azurris (Italy)and the Tiki-taka team (Spain) are a dominating presence, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland would be looking to bring a few tricks out of their kitty.

IRELAND- Robbie Keane has been doing good with 10 goals in 20 games for LA Galaxy and Aston Villa (loan period). More importantly, Keane has always done well for his country with 53 goals in 115 games. Aiden McGeady, who plays for Spartak Moscow, has recently found going difficult after a great 2011. But he is slowly clawing his way back. Shay Given has not had the brightest of seasons with Aston Villa but with more appearances for his country than anybody else, Given would be looking to impress at the Euro. Strikers Kevin Doyle and Shane Long haven't had great seasons (12 goals between them) by any stretch of imagination but Ireland would be hoping that they come into their own at the finals. The Italy-Ireland encounter would be even more emotional for Irish team and supporters. (Also read: Ireland to play Italy with black armbands)

CROATIA- The biggest asset can become the greatest concern too, sometimes. Croatia pin a lot of their hopes on Luka Modric but he has not been in great shape for Tottenham this season. Niko Kranjcar might not have got the chances at Tottenham, but his exploits for the national team bode well for Croatia coach Slaven Bilic. Ivica Olic, who recently missed a penalty against Chelsea in the Champions League final, has scored just 4 goals for Bayern this season in 28 appearances. His form too would be of concern to Croatia. Others like Vedran Corluka, who has found some form on loan at Leverkusen and Darijo Srna, who has had a decent season at Shakhtar, would raise Croat hopes to some extent.


Laurent Blanc's French side has been the form side going unbeaten for almost 20 months now. We could consider England to be the underdogs in the group but let us stick to the unfancied sides for now.

UKRAINE- Oleh Blokhin's side may not be in the best of shapes for the tournament but home support should bring in the necessary fight and vigour into the side. Defender Anatoliy Tymoshchuk did play the Champions League final for Bayern but was kept on the bench for quite a lot of the season. Centre-back Dmytro Chygrynskiy, who has appeared for Barcelona, is making a comeback after a long hiatus from injury. Andriy Voronin did look in scintillating form for Dynamo Moscow scoring 12 goals in 27 games but lost his place in the side beginning 2012. The tournament is meant to be Andriy Shevchenko farewell but his recurrent back issues might prevent him to be in top flight at the Euros, although he has managed 6 goals this season in 22 appearances for Dynamo Kyiv.

SWEDEN: Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic could not lead Milan to a league victory, his 35 goals and 14 assists rounded off a great season personally for the striker. Johan Elmander has had a decent season himself with Galatasaray scoring 12 goals in 36 games for the Turkish club. Ola Toivonen has been in a similar goal scoring form for PSV Eindhoven. Kim Källström has been in decent for French side Lyon and so has Sebastian Larsson been for Sunderland. Swedish coach Erik Hamren would be hoping for these players to keep striking such form during the tournament.

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