Smaller Teams Are Defying Expectations At Euro 2024

The first stage of the knockout rounds of the 2024 Euros has concluded. Advancing through to the quarterfinals are England, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Türkiye, Spain, Germany, Portugal and France.

The road to the quarterfinals has not been easy, and it has been somewhat unpredictable. Stronger teams have struggled, with some crawling their way to the quarterfinals, whilst smaller teams have completely defied expectations.

Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, England, Portugal, Italy, Croatia and Belgium were expected to be the strongest teams in this tournament. However, that has not entirely been the case.

Smaller teams have been giving the ‘giants’ a hard time.

Spain vs Georgia

Despite struggling in their round of 16 fixture against Georgia, Spain have been the strongest team thus far. Spain still look the most likely to win the tournament. They topped Group B with maximum points. For their game against Georgia, they might have won 4-1, but it was no easy fit.

Georgia played in a 5-3-2 formation, sitting deep and with the clear intention of hitting on the counterattack with their two most dangerous players. Kvicha Kvaratskhelia and Giorgio Mikautadze did not position themselves up as lone strikers, but rather between the lines. This posed a constant threat to Spain’s defence.

Spain may have had the most possession, but often times throughout the 90 minutes, Georgia looked like the stronger team. The Man of the Match was Rodri, as he was the one who brought Spain back into the game. However, the man of the match was really Giorgi Mamardashvili. The Georgian goalkeeper had an incredible run in this tournament. Had it not been for him, Spain would have scored more goals.

England vs England and all opponents

England has been the shock of the tournament, to say the least. England boasts a star-studded team. With names like Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice, England was expected to take the Euros by storm. Instead, the questionable tactics deployed by Gareth Southgate have delivered anything but excitement.

Kane has been largely ineffective up front. On the wings, Saka has been decent, although not quite up to his standards, whilst Foden has been infective too. In midfield, Bellingham, Rice Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Gallagher have not been performing as expected, whilst the backline too has been below standards.

Premier League youngsters Kobbie Maino and Cole Palmer have been underplayed, despite proving to be game-changers for their respective clubs – Manchester United and Chelsea – and for England too. Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon has been underplayed too, and might be what England might need to bolster their attack moving forward.

England faced Slovakia in the round of 16. Just as in their previous games, their performance was poor, while Slovakia handled themselves well. England were 1-0 down going into stoppage time. Bellingham however scored an overhead game in the fifth minute of added time, to give the Three Lions a fighting chance. The game went on to extra time, with Kane scoring the winner, the game not going to penalties.

England has struggled against every team they have played against so far. What is concerning, is they are yet to face a strong team. In the group stage, they placed against Denmark, Slovenia and Serbia. The only team they beat was Serbia, in a slow 1-0 win.


England faces Switzerland in the quarterfinals. Before the start of the tournament, the Swiss team would have been determined as a weak opponent. However, they are now considered favourites to reach the finals.

In a group with Germany, Hungary and Scotland, the Swiss team finished 2nd with two draws and a win. One of their draws came against Germany, in a game where Switzerland were able to keep up with the hosts. Switzerland went on to face the title holders in the RO16. Switzerland ended up thrashing Italy 2-0, further showing that they should be taken seriously in this tournament.

Austria, Türkiye, France, Netherlands

Just like Switzerland, Austria were expected to go through to the finals in an underdog story. They topped the most difficult group of the tournament. A group that consisted of France, the Netherlands and Poland. They lost 1-0 to France in a game where Austria did not struggle as such. They then beat Poland 3-1, and the Netherlands 3-1. It was an impressive run.

Austria faced Türkiye in the round of 16, but lost 2-1. Despite Austria looking like the favourites ahead of the game, Türkiye wasnot to be counted out. Türkiye has had some good performances, including their win against Austria. Players to watch there have been their goalkeeper Mert Günok, Real Madrid’s Arda Güler and AC Milan’s Hakan Çalhanoğlu.

France and the Netherlands have not played up to their standards. For one, France’s only goal of the tournament so far is a penalty, with draws and own goals from their opponents carrying them through. N’Golo Kanté and William Saliba have been great for France though, defensively keeping their nation in the game. As for the Netherlands, Cody Gakpo has been amazing and is joint top scorer of Euro 2024 alongside Georges Mikautadze (Georgia), Ivan Schranz (Slovakia) and Jamal Musiala (Germany) with 3 goals so far.

Belgium and Portugal

Two teams that were not expected to necessarily be at the top, but not too far behind were Belgium and Portugal. However, both teams have been struggling all tournament long.

Portugal’s squad is star-studded with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Rafael Leão. However, they have been unable to convert most of their opportunities, with each win coming as a struggle. They will face France in the quarterfinals. Despite France struggling too, Portugal look more likely to go home by the final whistle.

Belgium were in a group with Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine. Despite missing their legend Eden Hazard, still present in the team are Kevin de Bruyne, Romelo Lukaku, Jérémy Doku and Leandro Trossard. Still, the squad have struggled to make an impression all tournament long. They were 2nd in their group, with a win, a draw, and a loss. Belgium faced France in the round of 16, losing 1-0, heading back home.

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