Sunday 6/20/21
EURO 2020

Euro 2020 outsiders: Pukki and the return of the Scots

The champions who lift the trophy on July 11 will probably be on the list of favorites, but it is important not to forget other countries that could surprise.
football Pukki-and-Malin-vie-for-possession-by-UEFAcom

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki (L) is Finland's star. Photo: UEFAcom/file photo.
Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki (L) is Finland's star. Photo: UEFAcom/file photo.

Euro 2020 begins Friday in Rome, a year later than planned, when Italy face Turkey in a Group A clash with football rather than coronavirus worries coming to prominence.

The favourites at Euro 2020 are well known and the winner of the 11 July final - whoever it is - is unlikely to be a massive surprise.

But upsets do happen on the way and, just maybe, there could be a repeat of 1992 when Danish dynamite derailed the mighty Germany or 2004 when Greece defended, defended, defended and then struck precisely to stun several big names and lift the title.

Here are potential stories of outsiders to follow.

The Scots return

Some 23 years after the 1998 World Cup, Scotland have made it to a major finals once again - beneficiaries of the generous Nations League play-off system which saw them qualify with penalty shoot-out wins over Israel and Serbia.

Steve Clarke's squad will relish a trip to Wembley to face old rivals England but Glasgow matches against the Czech Republic and Croatia give them hope of advancing. And Premier League stars Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Scott McTominay are now joined by Champions League winner Billy Gilmour, the (relative) glory days of the past could be returning.

football Teemu-Pukki-by-Huuhkajat--InstagramFinland's star Teemu Pukki. Photo: Instagram/Huuhkajat/file photo.

Newcomer Finland

Norwich City goal machine Teemu Pukki will be up front and Bayer Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky is between the posts. And in between? 

Finland do not have a squad bursting with famous names and a rehearsal loss to Estonia will have done little for their confidence ahead their finals debut. Taking on the world's best in Belgium and effective away games in Russia and Denmark is daunting but has the advantage of keeping expectations low.

Crowning a career

Goran Pandev has a winner's medal from the Champions League in his desk drawer along with one from Serie A and five from the Italian Cup - but it's safe to say the 37-year-old striker would scarcely have dreamed of representing his country at a major finals.

North Macedonia, however, seized the chance offered through the Nations League play-offs and a March win away to Germany in World Cup qualifying proved the Netherlands, Austria and Ukraine should not take them for granted.

10 June 2021, Austria, Seefeld: (L-R) Austrian national football team players Aleksandar Dragovic, David Alaba and Florian Grillitsch take part in a training session ahead of Sunday's UEFA EURO 2020 championship soccer match against Northern Macedonia. Photo: Robert Jaeger/APA/dpaAustrian players Aleksandar Dragovic, David Alaba and Florian Grillitsch take part in a training session. Photo: Robert Jaeger/dpa.

The Bundesliga XI

Austria's squad has more players from the German Bundesliga than Germany themselves.

Only five of the 26-man group play their football somewhere else and quality provided by the likes of David Alaba, who has left Bayern Munich for Real Madrid, and RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer means they are hoping for more than just a first victory at the Euros after difficult campaigns in 2008 and 2016.

08 June 2021, Hungary, Budapest: Hungary's Attila Fiola (R) and Republic Of Ireland's Josh Cullen battle for the ball during the International Friendly soccer match between Hungary and Republic Of Ireland at Szusza Ferenc Stadium. Photo: Trenka Atilla/PA Wire/dpaHungary's Attila Fiola (R) and Republic Of Ireland's Josh Cullen battle for the ball during a friendly match. Photo: Trenka Atilla/dpa.

Hungary for success

Hungary must curse their luck at a Group F draw which paired them against World Cup champions France, title holders Portugal and Germany - who they face in Munich.

The first two opponents at least visit Budapest and with the Puskas Arena set to be full despite the coronavirus pandemic, it will likely be an uncomfortable experience for the away sides.

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