Top five outsiders in European Championship

Posted on by Shaun

With the eagerly-awaited European Championship just around the corner following a less-than-certain future, thirty-two teams come together in what has been the singular most difficult period for European football as a whole. With Video Assisted Referee (VAR) added into the mix, punters can be sure that drama, bookings and penalties (and therefore shocks) will follow. 

With that in mind, whilst the European Championships have mostly been won by teams within the top five bookmakers’ favourites since 1996, 2004 saw Greece overcome their outsider status, as did Denmark in their win back in 1992, and the former Czechoslovakia overcame great adversity when they won the tournament in 1978. 

Nonetheless, here we give you a rundown of five of the core outsiders for your perusal, and whilst it is your choice what to do with your hard-earned money, perhaps there are a handful of general markets and strategies that we can outline which may or may not be worthy markets for savvy punters to follow.

1. Slovakia (#36 FIFA Rank)

With Singapore Pools offering the highest odds at 100/1, Slovakia surprised many by qualifying after some miserable results leading to the qualifiers. With accusations of being a ‘one-man show’ laid at their feet for a long time now (namely, Trabzonspor’s Marek Hamsik), many are expecting Slovakia to be the first team to be effectively eliminated from the competition. 

The Slovaks do play better when they are underdogs however and whilst they could salvage points against Sweden, overcoming both Poland and Spain as well, is a stark ask to many for an ageing team who only qualified via a play-off. 

Unless both Poland and Sweden each have a stinker of a competition, Slovakia may be a good team to follow for PaddyPower ‘Whats Odds?’ – namely, to lose, to have the least corners, but receive the most cards. 

2. North Macedonia (#62 FIFA rank)

Qualifying for their first major tournament, North Macedonia also qualified via the play-offs and whilst fair competitors in the qualifiers [W4-D2-L4], the issue for them will be to keep their key players fit, whilst maintaining 100% focus for 90-minutes. Therefore, many punters are expecting North Macedonia’s matches to feature high cards, high goals, and plenty of corners. 

However, sharing with Austria and Ukraine – who have had lacklustre European Championships in the past – and a post-Koeman Holland, North Macedonia may have a point to prove and may play with less pressure on their shoulders than their counterparts. 

With Bet365 offering an ample 500/1 on, you could imagine that they’d be worth an each-way bet (to get out of the group), but in reality, if any team were to ‘get a pasting’ in this tournament, North Macedonia would be odds on each time to lose, and lose big.  

3. Hungary (#37 FIFA Rank)

Edging in through the backdoor of the UEFA Nations League, Hungary may be underdogs here, but were also underdogs in Euro 2016 and ended up getting through to the knockout stages. With Betway offering 750/1 odds on Hungary winning the European Championship, the chances of Hungary revisiting their all-conquering form of yesteryear are nil. 

That said, expect Hungary to line up with a 5-3-2 and switch to a 3-5-2 on the press. Not only will this yield a high corner count, but will also mean they will be open to the counter in transition. Therefore, Hungary will more than likely need to get dirty when it counts and will be one to watch on the disciplinary front. 

Hungarians aplenty will be celebrating any goal in a group with Germany, Portugal and France and may attempt to attract the wandering eye of VAR as a source for goals. They open against Portugal, a team who they’ve lost to-nil against in five of their last six head-to-head matchups. 

4. Finland (#54 FIFA rank)

Someone at Skybet must be Finnish or they’re privy to some knowledge as they are offering 150/1 for Finland to take the top prize. Considering the average salary for a top-flight player in Finland is €20 per hour, Skybet surely can’t be receiving big bets for the first-time qualifiers.

That said, Finland turned to a former schoolteacher in Markku Kanerva and he has since taught the Finns how to play. They ‘finnished’ runners-up in their qualifying group after winning six of their ten games (but losing the other four), and have a great Premier League-bound player in Teemu Pukki. 

Pukki has scored 30 goals from his 90 caps for Finland and has just been promoted with Championship club Norwich City after netting 26 league goals and he has scored in each of his last four non-friendly international matches. Interestingly, Finland face Denmark in their opener and Pukki has, in fact, scored past Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel at club level in ’19/’20.

5. Scotland (#44 FIFA rank)

William Hill will give you 250/1 odds for Scotland to win the European Championship. That’s good odds considering former Scotland manager Craig Brown has claimed that Scotland can “Go the distance”.

Whether or not Craig Brown was referring to Scotland’s chances of winning in a group with England, Croatia and the Czech Republic, or whether he was referring to the fact that Scotland qualified after beating Serbia in penalties to nab their spot in this group remains to be clarified. 

Nonetheless, the Scots will always entertain and with Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson on the left, you can be sure Scotland will go for corners, cards and freekicks. 

They face old enemies England in round two and drew 2-2 in their last head-to-head with the English. Moreover, their last four meetings with the old enemy have seen +2.5 goals, with their last two matchups seeing exactly three yellow cards per game.

Whatever happens, punters the world over will be glad to have international European football back on their televisions. With the new formats and many up and coming players looking to present themselves in the shop window before the domestic season starts, you can bet your bottom Euro that drama and theatrics will follow in what is the first European Championship to feature a Video Assisted Referee (VAR). 

VAR was introduced to international football for Russia 2018 (World Cup) and saw a swathe of issues and incidents due to its hand in sending (then holders) Germany packing in the group stage, whilst additionally, helping Spain knock-out Morocco.

VAR played a huge part throughout the tournament, checking a total of 455 incidents to help award 29 penalties, the most in any World Cup. This could follow through here and you can be sure the above teams will try to use VAR to their benefit.

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