Three potential surprise packages at Euro 2016

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Whilst the new, 24-team format of the European Championships has allowed minnows such as Albania and Iceland to qualify for their first major finals, the opportunities do not end here.

In fact, with the top two from each group qualifying for the latter stages along with four third-placed sides with the best records, some of Europe's lesser countries will fancy their chances of going far.

With this in mind, who could emerge the surprise packages of Euro 2016? Here are our picks.


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The Irish have a relatively rich history in delivering surprises on the international stage, even despite their limited resources and a lack of appearances at major tournaments.

Their most famous victory came in the 1982 World Cup, when Northern Ireland stunned hosts Spain and progressed to the knockout stages.

The Green and White Army also recorded a thrilling 3-2 win over the Spanish in a qualifier for the 2008 European Championships, with hat-trick hero David Healy going on to score a record 13 goals during a single Euro campaign.

Although the Irish failed to qualify, they showcased the spirit and defensive organisation that became the hallmark of their 2016 campaign.

With this in mind, and with third place securing progression into the knockout stages, Northern Ireland will fancy their chances of challenging Poland and Ukraine, with Germany also featuring in their group.


Austria too has a fruitful international history, with the so-called ‘Wunderteam’ of the 1930’s enjoying huge success as Europe’s dominant force. Hugo Meisl's side secured fourth place at the 1934 World Cup, while the next generation of Austrian stars achieved third in 1954.

The side’s recent qualification for Euro 2016 was just the second time they have done so, winning nine of their ten group games and finishing eight points clear of second-placed Russia.

The Austrian’s are well-stocked in midfield talent, with David Alaba, Marko Arnautovic and Martin Harnik forming a competitive and creative trio in the centre of the park. This, coupled with a favourable draw, should see Austria qualify for the knockout stages and threaten Europe’s more fashionable sides.


Unsurprisingly, Albania has never qualified for a major international tournament, with Euro 2016 representing their first sitting at Europe’s top table. While many have tipped them for an early exit, their pedigree and performance during qualification suggests they have an excellent chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Albania came to the attention of football fans after a stunning 1-0 win over Portugal in Lisbon during qualification. Thanks to a complacent attitude from the Portuguese and a stunning volley from Slavia Prague striker Bekim Balaj, Albania got their campaign off to a winning start and laid the foundations for their success.

Two competitive draws with Denmark also highlighted the Albanians' organisation and work ethic, which will stand them in good stead next summer.

Drawn in Group A alongside hosts France, Romania and Switzerland, Gianni De Biasi's men will rely on their teamwork and spirit to offer a good account of themselves and seal qualification for the second round.

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