Euro 2012: Croatia or Poland?

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The up-coming 14th European Football Championship (UEFA Euro 2012) – hosted by Poland and Ukraine – is the third tournament of its kind (with two hosts) and the 10th with more than four participating teams. The two biggest upsets came in 1992 and 2004 when Denmark and Greece shocked the football world. Who do you think is the dark horse of 2012 – and can that team win?

Slavek i Slavko

UEFA Euro 2012 mascots: Slavek & Slavko (Photo credit: DrabikPany)

Although the idea of an European Championship had already been introduced by the famous Henry Delaunay in 1927, it took more than 30 years for it to become reality. Three years after Delaunay’s death – they named the winners trophy in his honour – France held the first European Championship which had seen four out of 17 participating teams make it to the finals. The championship was eventually won by the Soviet Union: the Soviets beat Yugoslavia 2:1 in the final in Paris, but they could hardly proclaim themsevles the best in Europe. England, West Germany and Italy didn’t participate in the 1960 European Championship, while Spain withdrew in the qualifiers after their dictator Franco didn’t allow his team to play against the Soviets on their soil.

In the next tournaments – Yugoslavia’s 1976 tournament was the last one to host only four nations in the finals  – only two teams really shocked Europe with their final victory: Denmark in 1992 and Greece 12 years later.

In 1976 Czechoslovakia won after the first ever penalty shoot-out. Remember Panenka’s shot?

1992: Danish dynamite

A few months before the 1992 championship (8 teams) nobody – literally nobody – thought Denmark could win the European championship. How could they: they had never even qualified! But life is full of surprises and after Yugoslavia started falling apart because of the war and was expelled from the tournament because of UN sanctions, they took their opportunity very seriously. The Danes had precious little time to prepare and never looked like progressing after the first two games. A draw with England and a defeat against the host Sweden is not actually a great start, but the boys in red and white never stopped winning after that … France, the Netherlands and finally (the just re-united) Germany were on their knees as the Scandinavian side rolled to victory. »They weren’t quite dragged off the beach as the popular myth suggests, but their coach Richard Moller Nielsen was decorating his kitchen when he got the phone call. They ate burgers, played crazy golf and defied the odds,« remembers Jonathan Wilson of FourFourTwo.

This is how Denmark did it in 1992 … re-live their victory against Germany!

2004: When the Euro was a Greek thing

Even after they raised the trophy, nobody could really believe it! How can such an underdog win? Greece was supposed to be one of the worst, if not the worst among the 16 teams that made it to Portugal. Without a single international star – their biggest name was probably the German coach Otto Rehhagel – they never looked like even making it out of their group, which featured hosts Portugal, Spain and Russia.

Deutsch: Trainer Otto Rehhagel (rechts im Bild...

Otto Rehhagel (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everybody thought their initial win against the Portuguese (2:1) was a lucky one and even when they sensationally made it through to the quarter-finals everybody was sure it was only due to luck. They progressed »only« because they scored more goals scored than Spain, they said. The whole world was sure they would say their goodbyes against France, but no … They won 1:0 and carried on! Two more identical wins – against the Czech and the host team – were enough for them to become European champions! It was a miracle, but a deserved one, we should add. Tactical discipline, fanatical commitment and supreme fitness – yes, they were true Greek warriors – were key. Oh, and Rehhagel, with this genious plan to outplay footballing superior teams.

From the battle of Porto to (and through) the gates of Lisbon

Having read that, isn’t it interesting that William Hill offers best money if the both teams that already made an upset win in Kiev on 1st July? Greece is at 66-1, Denmark at 100-1.

If you enjoy risk, how about Croatia or Poland this time? They are both currently at 50-1.

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