Euro 2020 - Potential 'dark horses' as last 16 draw throws up mouth-watering ties
While the usual suspects are being predicted by all and sundry as potential winners, the complexity of the draw has opened up opportunities for one or two less fancied sides to make a name for themselves in the latter rounds. Ibrahim Mustapha picks out the teams who could pull off an unexpected surprise going forward.
Here are a look at some of the teams who might spring a surprise as the tournament resumes.
With all the talk of the so-called ‘easy’ side of the draw potentially benefiting England or Germany, whoever emerges from their clash, the rest of the teams on that side of the draw may take issue with effectively being written off before a last 16 ball is kicked.
One of those teams will be Sweden who came through after finishing top of Group E, unbeaten and ahead of Spain.
Janne Andersson’s side has both demonstrated determined defensive resolve and shown themselves to be a threat going forward through Emil Forsberg and, despite not scoring yet, the highly-rated Alexander Isak, who has shown enough quality so far not be taken lightly.
Should they get the better of Ukraine, a potential upset against England or Germany, neither of whom are without flaws, is not inconceivable.
Bale was somewhere close to his best against Turkey
Image credit: Getty Images
Despite their heroics in France to reach the semis last time around, many people still dismissed Wales ahead of this year’s competition.
This has proven to be a mistake as Robert Page has led a committed side to their second consecutive last-16 Euros appearance.
A well-drilled and well-organised side who are aware of their limitations, but have two internationally renowned stars in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey at their disposal, will be set out to prove that lightning can strike twice.
Denmark will prove a tough test but given what we have seen from Wales in Group A, it’s unlikely they will approach the game with any fear.
Speaking of Wales’ second-round opponents, Denmark have been on an emotional roller-coaster so far this summer.
The traumatic scenes involving Christian Eriksen might have sent football to the back of their minds and few would have criticised them for or been surprised by an early exit, especially after losing their first two matches.
However, a sensational display against Russia has lifted not just the team, but an entire nation and, given the circumstances, are the neutral's choice to go far in the competition.
With the Eriksen situation potentially a galvanising force, there may even be some people thinking the Danes can summon the spirit of 1992 as they move forward. Now that would be something special.
Fan zone erupts as Denmark beat Russia 4-1 to surge into Euro 2020 last 16
Having smote original ‘dark horse’ Turkey to round off their Group A fixtures, the Swiss, perhaps through osmosis, could have inherited that tag heading into the latter rounds.
An admittedly poor performance against Italy was sandwiched between a frustrating draw with Wales and a fine win over Turkey so it’s difficult to tell which Switzerland will show up for the daunting tie with France.
However, if they can put in the same kind of performance they did in their final group game against the world champions who have yet to really find some form in the tournament, an upset could be on the cards - especially with tournament goalscoring specialist Xherdan Shaqiri among their ranks.
Of course, being on the ‘hard’ side of the draw means more tough tests await but the galvanising effect of a win over France could work wonders.
Shaqiri hizo un doblete en el Suiza-Turquía
Image credit: Getty Images
Defeat against England perhaps showed they are not quite up there with their 2004 and even 1996 vintage but showed glimpses of quality and organisation that could take them far.
Against Croatia and Scotland, they hardly dominated but were able to eke out the required results to ultimately seal their qualification.
Despite their Wembley loss, the Czechs have shown they aren’t to be taken lightly and will punish you even if given the slightest opportunity – take Patrik Schick’s stunner against Scotland, for example.
They face the Dutch in the last 16 who have impressed so far but are not unbeatable and could be caught short by a team as canny as the Czechs if not careful.