DAVID SHONFIELD: Athletic Iceland look best-equipped outsider to reach last 16

Michel Platini is in disgrace, his career with Uefa apparently over, but his legacy to this tournament lives on.

Whatever Platini’s motives for expanding the tournament, it has given the big teams a few potential banana skins and given a chance of progress to the knockout stage for the smaller ones, even the rank outsiders.

It has also created an unprecedented opportunity for players from the Premier League and Championship, with the Republic, Northern Ireland, England, and Wales involved.

Wales must have a decent chance in Group B. Gareth Bale has had a fine season with Real Madrid. He rises to big occasions and will be relishing the game against England. Wales are also more than a one-man team: They have a competitive group in midfield, including Andy King, who should bring them some of that Leicester City spirit.

Their worry could well be Slovakia, who are ranked as outsiders, because they are in these finals for the first time, but had an extraordinary qualifying campaign. They are the weakest side in the group on paper, but have just beaten Germany in a friendly.

While these warm-up games are always a poor guide to tournament form, that win shows that they are not to be underestimated.

Group F has potentially the best combination of factors to create an upset. Portugal are the clear favourites, but they have a habit of starting slowly. Their first game could be crucial, as Iceland are perhaps the outsiders with the best chance of making it through to the last 16.

Their problem is they no longer have the advantage of surprise, as they did in the qualifiers, when they twice ambushed the Dutch. Since then, they have been less convincing and on paper they should be no match for Portugal and their combination of experience and exciting young talent.

Nevertheless, Iceland have their own combination of athleticism and stickability that has caused problems for the Portuguese in the past. They also have a talisman in Eidur Gudjohnsen, which gives their first-ever appearance in the finals a touch of romance.

In Group A, France have a kind draw, especially as this is one of four groups where the team finishing second avoids a group winner in the next round.

Albania are the biggest outsiders in the tournament, but they did beat France in a friendly 12 months ago, and also made it hard for Portugal in the qualifiers. Albania are well-organised, with one of those time-served Italian coaches, Gianni De Biasi, who is almost unknown abroad.

However, having qualified for the finals by virtue of Serbia’s implosion, they must be favourites to finish in last place.

That could give Romania a chance, because they are hard to beat, even though they have a problem scoring goals. They meet Albania in their third game, which is an advantage.

This, like the other final group games, is harder to call, because the four best third-placed teams go through to the knockout stage. It gives outsiders a chance, but it also means there is more chance of funny business in the final group stage matches. The most notorious case of collusion was in the 1982 World Cup (Austria and Germany at the expense of Algeria) when there were two group stages.

There were also some convenient results when third-placed teams went through in the 1986 tournament.

Uefa have done their best to avoid this, but by the time Ireland meet Belgium on June 18, the permutations will be clearer and some sides will already be looking towards the next round and possibly resting key players.

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