Football

Five surprise nations that could qualify for Euro 2016

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The Euro 2016 qualifiers are well underway and a picture as to which teams will be competing at the tournament in France in just under two years' time is starting to emerge.

So, which surprise nations can we expect to see at Euro 2016? Scroll down to see which teams are in contention - some of them could leave you shocked. 

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Iceland

Despite being in a group with more established nations such as Holland, Turkey and the Czech Republic, Iceland have a real chance of making it to Euro 2016. Iceland have won their opening two qualifiers both 3-0 wins against Latvia and Turkey.

Iceland’s recent history also is very promising. They made it two the play-offs for the 2014 World Cup where they lost 2-0 on aggregate to Croatia but did manage to get a 0-0 draw with ten men in the first leg.

In that World cup qualifying campaign Iceland had some stand out results against bigger nations. They beat Norway 2-0 at home and beat Slovenia 2-1 away. Iceland also secured a very impressive 4-4 draw away in Switzerland after coming back from being 3-1 down.

Iceland also have some stars playing in top leagues around Europe such as Gylfi Sigurðsson at Swansea City and Kolbeinn Sigþórsson at Ajax.

Wales

There is a new sense of optimism around the Wales team. With world class players such as Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in their squad the fans believe this could be their time to make it back to a major tournament.

Wales have shown signs of improvement under the management of Chris Coleman and now having established Welsh side in the premier league is given more Welsh players the chance to play at a higher level. With a win and draw in the opening games Wales have made a good start and apart from Belgium all the games in Wales’s group look winnable.

Some of Wales’s recent results also indicate that the team is progressing in the right direction including an away draw with World Cup quarter finalists Belgium and two victories against Scotland.

Slovakia

Three wins out of three is an impressive start to qualifying for Slovakia but the teams they beat make it look even more impressive. Slovakia have beaten the three hardest teams in their group already by winning 1-0 in Ukraine, beating defending champions Spain 2-1 and winning 3-1 in Belarus.

They have also beaten Poland 2-0 in Wroclaw last November in an international friendly.
Slovakia would feel confident about getting home and away wins against the other two teams in their group Luxembourg and Macedonia. Slovakia do have some quality in their squad as well and are captained by Liverpool’s Martin Škrtel but their best player is Napoli’s Marek Hamšík.

Their squad also contains former Chelsea player Miroslav Stoch who scored the winner against Spain. If Slovakia where to qualify it would be their first appearance in a European
finals as an independent nation after the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland currently sit top of their qualifying group after picking up wins against Hungary and the Faroe Islands. Northern Irelands group also contains Greece, Romania and Finland which are all teams Northern Ireland shouldn’t fear and fancy their chances of picking up points against.

In recent times however Northern Ireland have struggled against lesser nations such as losing 3-2 against Luxembourg yet beating bigger nations such as when they beat Russia 1-0 both in World Cup qualifying.

If Northern Ireland could become more consistent against all nations they would have a real chance of qualification. Michael O’Neill also needs his top players such as Kyle Lafferty
and Jonny Evans to be in top form but if they are there is no reason why Northern Ireland shouldn’t be in France in two years time.

Albania

Albania shocked the footballing world in their opening qualify by winning 1-0 in Portugal and then followed that up with a 1-1 draw against Denmark. Albania also showed progress in World Cup qualifying by claiming wins against Norway and Slovenia.

Having already beaten Portugal they won’t fear playing against Armenia who they have recently beaten 2-0 and Serbia who are the other sides in their group. They have also risen 25 places in the recent world rankings and are currently ranked 45th in the latest FIFA world rankings.

Their most well know player is their captain Lorik Cana who has played for Marseille, Sunderland and Galatasary and is currently playing for Lazio.

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Topics:
Gylfi Sigurdsson
Martin Skrtel
Football
Internationals

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