With the EURO 2012 tournament only days away and the first game on the schedule being Poland versus Greece it felt customary to talk about the little guys. There are some teams in this illustrious tournament that will have long, long odds. As Greece themselves proved in their shocking tournament victory in 2004 you cannot write off the underdogs.
Here are some thoughts about the chances of the less fancied among the elite.
The Irish are not famed for their ability in major tournaments, but fans can count on them for a passionate display. They will chase everything and although this may expose them they could just hound the opposition into mistakes or smash and grab against their bigger opponents.
They have Spain and Italy in their group, but reputation does not overawe the team led by Robbie Keane. They could have been in the last World Cup had it not been for a now infamous handball by Thierry Henry of France in that fabled qualification playoff.
They are also coached by Giovanni Traptatoni, an Italian who has been there, done it and sold exclusive rights to the T-shirt. He will fire up his side for the Italy game and he will have no issues with going all out against Croatia, Luka Modric and Slavan Bilic in the first game.
They may be bruised after their second game with Spain, but an Italy match should see the best of them and whatever happens they will be popular. As Keane himself said, “If you ask any supporter outside of Ireland, they always want the Irish supporters there, because they are always in good spirit, and they always have good fun.”
They may have a few gamy veterans, but it is not a case of something being rotten in Denmark.
You may recognize names like Daniel Agger, Simon Kjaer, Simon Poulsen and Dennis Rommedahl, but they also have the X Factor in some positions. Firstly, Nicklas Bendtner is their leading striker and he is a man renowned for his delusions of grandeur.
Bendtner thinks he is World Class and in some situations confidence can carry a player through. Milan Baroš did it in 2004 for the Czech Republic, through sheer power of will and a few lucky swings. It could happen for Nicklas, particularly as he is supported by highly rated young attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen. The two of them may conspire to score some goals against the run of play and score on the break against the Dutch in their first outing.
They may not be EURO 2012 semi-finalists, but there is a sense that they will stumble across goals. Look out for corners.
They are the embodiment of defiance and snailing their way to a title. The Greek people may be rioting and defaulting; their football team may be doing the same.
There are less household names in this Greek team than most, though many may know who dribbling tyro Sotiris Ninis is after too long, but they will want to keep things tight. Crowding other teams out may prove fruitful and they just have an impossibly deep midfield for games.
Keep an eye out for Schalke’s Kyriakos Papadopoulos. He may clatter his way into your hearts as opposition players lie in heaps. In many ways he is a throwback to 2004 and also the act-first-think-later hero that contemporary Greece deserves.
The Scandinavian’s are dragged through international soccer by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as far as the world is concerned.
He is talismanic, mercurial and prone to change. If he is not flicking a ball over someone’s head he is swaggering along lines looking plainly disinterested. However, he is only in such a position because his nation needs a focal point.
Built up of career professionals rather than mazy master the Swedish side is one who are stuffy. However, with a potential left side of Martin Olsson and Kim Kallstrom the Swedes may have a quick outlet to build play and snap into action whenever Ibrahimovic is on the move.
It is all about the support cast for this team and they can stifle England and topple Ukraine. After that they will just hit and hope. Maybe they can light a fire under Ibrahimovic. Maybe fast breaks will tease the best out of him.