The round robin is over, and the field of 16 is set for the playoff round of Euro 2016. This is when things get interesting. The preliminaries produced a surprise or two - like Wales winning their group and leaving upcoming World Cup hosts Russia on the sidelines - but for the most part you can't argue that the teams that aren't advancing are anything other than the teams that should be out of the tournament.
Now, though, strange things can start to happen - remember, this is the tournament that Greece shockingly won in 2004 and that Denmark won in 1992 after only making the field as an alternate after war-torn Yugoslavia had to withdraw. So, will one of the true powers of European soccer win this time around, or will there be another big upset?
There are a few live underdogs to keep an eye on (odds to win Euro 2016 are from BetOnline ):
Iceland (+15000): Just think about this for a second - the entire nation of Iceland has fewer citizens than the city of Omaha does. Freaking Omaha. And yet here they are in the elimination round of this tournament. Incredible. Their biggest effort by far so far has been an opening draw against Portugal. It was a very gutsy effort and could easily have been a win given their second-half intensity. They have a very tough draw going forward as they are in by far the tougher half of the bracket.
There is at least a chance for some success, though. They start against England, a team that has made a habit of underwhelming in the biggest of situations in recent years. If they survive that then they most likely play host France. That won't be easy, but the French looked soft in their third game and could be overly confident. It doesn't let up, but the Icelanders could hope that Germany, Italy and Spain beat themselves up so much that the team that emerges is vulnerable.
It all isn't likely to happen for Iceland, but we can dare to dream about what a story it would be if it did. I wouldn't entirely ignore the chances of one win, though, if the price was right and you felt like gambling a little.
Wales (+2800): Wales, most famous perhaps for being my ancestral home, is bigger than Iceland but not by tons - the current population is about 3 million. What they have done in this tournament has been very impressive. They opened by beating Slovakia. Then they came within a lucky extra-time goal of earning a draw against England. Then they absolutely destroyed Russia to clinch the group win. Winning the group not only allows them to advance, but it placed them in the much more manageable half of the bracket - they avoid the likes of Germany, Italy, Spain, France and England until the finals.
They open up their efforts against Northern Ireland - a team that has already lost twice in this tournament and advanced only because they beat a Ukrainian team that seemed totally disinterested in being in the tournament at all. Wales will win that game. Next they will likely face Belgium, a team that is among the world elites but which has not looked particularly sharp this tournament and could potentially be vulnerable. From there their most likely semifinal opponent is a Portuguese team that has yet to win a game in this tournament.
If Wales could capture the same magic that carried Greece or Denmark then they have the path ahead of them to do some intriguing damage.
Poland (+2000): We return to the easier half of the bracket for the third and final team on our list. Poland has been impressive in this tournament. They won two games, but the best effort by far was a scoreless draw against Germany in their second game. It wasn't like it happened in the third game when both teams had already advanced - Poland shit down a German team looking to win this tournament. They are no joke.
They have a tough-but-manageable game against Switzerland in their opener that they should win. They will likely face Portugal next. The Portuguese are more talented but have looked lousy here en route to three draws, and they could certainly fall. The semifinal opponent would most likely be Belgium or, as we already discussed, Wales. Poland doesn't need to truly fear either opponent - especially if they have already dispatched Portugal to get this far. We have definitely seen stranger things happen than Poland advancing to the finals - or beyond.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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