Euro 2016 dark horses: Austria, Croatia and Poland can surprise
By Adam Bate and Nick Wright
Last Updated: 10/06/16 8:21am
With world champions Germany, defending European champions Spain and hosts France all fancying their chances at Euro 2016, the competition is fierce.
However, look beyond the favourites and there are plenty of countries capable of causing a shock.
We pick out three teams who could emerge from the pack in France this summer…
Manager: Ante Cacic
How they qualified: Finished second in Group H behind Italy
Previous best at Euros: Quarter-finals (1996 & 2008)
Top scorer in qualifying: Ivan Perisic (6)
Key player: Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
Odds of winning Euro 2016: 25/1
Croatia's qualification was fraught with difficulty following charges for racist behaviour that resulted in a points deduction and being forced to play home games behind closed doors. But two draws with Italy are an indication of their true quality and this is a team that has lost only twice since the 2014 World Cup. Expect them to be easy on the eye in France.
The midfield is a particular strength with Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic the stars. But they're not alone. Ivan Perisic has had a fine season with Inter and was his country's top scorer during qualifying with six goals. In attack, Mario Mandzukic, joint top scorer at Euro 2012, remains a force.
The draw has not been too kind. With Spain alongside them in Group D, it will be difficult to top it, and a runners-up spot would mean facing the winners of Group E and a possible last-16 clash with either Belgium or Italy. But it would hardly be a huge shock to see the two-time quarter-finalists come through that. Croatia have the look of archetypal dark horses.
Euro 2016: Ultimate guide
We profile all 24 teams in action at Euro 2016, looking at their key men and chances of success.
Manager: Adam Nawalka
How they qualified: Finished second in Group D behind Germany
Previous best at Euros: Group stage (2008 & 2012)
Top scorer in qualifying: Robert Lewandowski (13)
Key player: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Odds of winning Euro 2016: 50/1
Poland were co-hosts four years ago and still couldn't get beyond the group stage but there's more reason for optimism this time around given their qualifying campaign - their tally of 33 goals was more than any other nation in Europe. That owed much to Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich forward who netted a record-equalling 13 goals.
The big difference is that Lewandowski now has support. Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik scored in five of the qualifying games himself, while Sevilla midfielder Gregorz Krychowiak was also missing at Euro 2012. With the formidable right-flank partnership of Lukasz Piszczek and skipper Jakub Blaszczykowski still going strong there is quality in this team if not depth.
Recent friendly wins over Iceland, Serbia and Czech Republic mean that Poland have lost only once - in Germany - in the past two years and while they find themselves alongside the world champions in Group C it's a favourable draw. A runner-up finish would see them avoid a group winner and make Poland likely favourites for the last eight. That could make 50/1 look a very good price indeed.
Manager: Marcel Koller
How they qualified: Won Group G after unbeaten campaign
Previous best at Euros: Group stage (2008)
Top scorer in qualifying: Marc Janko (7)
Key player: David Alaba (Bayern Munich)
Odds of winning Euro 2016: 40/1
Austria qualified for Euro 2016 in hugely impressive style, topping a group containing Sweden and Russia with nine wins out of 10. Only England qualified with more points, and Marcel Koller's side exhibited their potential with a 4-1 thrashing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden in Stockholm last September.
Bayern Munich's David Alaba is the star and plays in a midfield role for his country, but the 23-year-old is not the only talent in the team. Towering striker Marc Janko scored seven goals in qualifying and is ably supported by Stoke forward Marko Arnautovic. They are defensively strong, too. Leicester's Christian Fuchs captains the side from left-back, and they only conceded five goals in qualifying.
Tottenham defender Kevin Wimmer has talked up the "incredible development" of the team over the last two years, and in a favourable group containing Portugal, Hungary and Iceland, they will fancy their chances of progressing to the European Championship knock-out stages for the first time in their history.