Cape Town - 2016 has been the year of the underdogs, as we saw Leicester City’s whirlwind victory in the Premier League, so it’ll be no surprise if there’ll be upsets at Euro 2016 in France.
The tournament kicks off on Friday, June 10 and this year promises to be as tantalising as the 2012 edition.
The expanded 24 teams are preparing to take centre stage at one of the world’s biggest events and there are five teams appearing in their inaugural Euro campaign, namely Albania, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and Wales.
Some of these (along with a few other) teams are not as experienced and rich in European Championship football, such as two-time defending champions Spain or 11-time Euro qualified team, Germany.
There are a few underdog teams that are looking particularly ruthless and look to cause an upset in the tournament; here are four of the dark horses for Euro 2016:
David Alaba for Austria (Getty Images)
This is the second Euro tournament for the Austrian team, as they automatically qualified as co-hosts in 2008, however this time the team made it through after finishing on top of Group G in the qualifying rounds. This is the first time since the 1998 World Cup that the team have qualified for a major tournament.
Under the helm of Marcel Koller, they are placed in the ‘weakest’ group of the tournament; the Austrian’s will no doubt advance to the knockout phase, as neither of their Group F members (besides Portugal) poses a huge threat.
A player to watch out for is David Alaba, who has been turning heads for Bayern Munich this season. Alaba’s performance during the 2015/16 season has even gotten the attention of Champions League winners Real Madrid and the 23-year-old will play a pivotal role for his national team at this year’s Euros.
Austria faces Portugal, Iceland and Hungary in Group F.
Arda Turan for Turkey (Getty Images)
Turkey were left dead and buried when they started off their qualifiers last year, however the Turkish overtook Netherlands and thrashed them 3-0 to seal a spot in this year’s Euros.
Under head coach Faith Terim and Barcelona’s Arda Turan as skipper, the squad have an attacking midfield, but are somehow lacking in defence, which could prove a problem during their campaign. This is the country’s fourth Euro tournament and successfully proceeded to the semi-finals in 2008, before losing to Germany 3-2.
Turkey faces Spain, Czech Republic and Croatia in Group D.
Kyle Lafferty for Northern Ireland (Getty Images)
Although they are new to the Euro stage, Northern Ireland has participated in three World Cups and has once reached the quarter-finals in 1958. Manager Michael O’Neill’s team has only lost once during their qualifiers and go to Euro 2016 with 12 straight game wins.
28-year-old Norwich City forward Kyle Lafferty is the team’s highest goal scorer going to France with 16 added to his name from 51 appearances. However, lack of defence could illustrate Northern Ireland’s weakness, they however have no pressure and can go out all blazing in their first continental tournament.
Northern Ireland faces Germany, Poland and Ukraine in Group C.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay for Wales (Getty Images)
The last time Wales have graced the world stage was at the 1958 World Cup and nearly 60 years later, manager Chris Coleman and his team will hope to put all their past failings behind and surprise Europe with some fantastic football.
Built on the attack of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsay, Wales is counting on their two stars to see them through to the knockout stages. 26-year-old Bale steered the United Kingdom team to their first Euro tournament by scoring seven of the teams 11 qualifying goals.
They face England, Russia and Slovakia in Group B.