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UEFA Euro 2016: A look at the five teams making their debut

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 10 June 2016, 19:30 IST

With the European Championship finals expanding from a 16-team format to a 24-team one this term, the quadrennial event opened its doors to the less-fancied teams of the continent.

As many as five countries, Albania, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia and Wales, are set to make their debut at the tournament in France this month.

With 16 teams set to make it to the next round, the first knockout stage, all the five teams will hope to make their mark in the group stages and make it to the round of 16.

Here's a look at all the debutant teams involved in the battle for European supremacy, starting from Friday, 10 June, in France.


Photo: Twitter (@UEFAEURO)

The Southeastern European country is being deemed by bookmakers as the least likely team to lift the title in Paris next month, alongside Hungary. Albania, having qualified for the first time to the finals, will be aware of the task at hand, having been grouped alongside hosts France, Switzerland and Romania. They are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament as well.

During their qualifying campaign, Albania pipped Denmark and Serbia to a direct qualifying spot and even managed to pull off a shocking 1-0 win over Portugal away from home. While their prospects of moving to the round of 16 do not look very bright on paper, stranger things have happened in football.

Manager: Giovanni De Biasi

Key players: Lorik Cana, Taulant Xhaka


Photo: Twitter (@UEFAEURO)

With a population of 330,000, Iceland are the smallest country participating in this year's UEFA Euro Cup. Lars Lagerback's side defeated Netherlands home and away, and beat Turkey and Czech Republic at home to secure the second place in their group behind the Czechs, and direct qualification to the Euros last year.

Now grouped alongside Portugal, Austria and Hungary in the main tournament, Iceland will fancy their chances of making it to the round of 16. With seasoned campaigners like Gudjohnsen and Sigurdsson in their ranks, Iceland have the squad to spring a few surprises in France this summer.

Managers: Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson

Key players: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Eidur Gudjohnsen

Northern Ireland

Photo: Twitter (@UEFAEURO)

Coming into the tournament, Northern Ireland haven't lost for 12 straight games, a run that stretches back to March 2015. This is the best unbeaten run among all the 24 competing teams at UEFA Euro 2016.

Having secured qualification after topping their group, Northern Ireland will have a much tougher task in the main competition, after being grouped alongside Germany, Ukraine and Poland. With a host of players who have played in the top two tiers of English football, Northern Ireland will hope to put together a respectable campaign.

Manager: Michael O'Neill

Key players: Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty


Slovakia. Photo: Twitter (@UEFAEURO)

After an impressive qualifying campaign, which saw Slovakia finish ahead of Ukraine after a set of crucial victories, including a 2-1 win over Spain, the debutants will be hoping to continue their good run of form at the Euros.

With the likes of Marek Hamsik, Miroslav Stock, Martin Skrtel, et al., Slovakia have enough ammunition to grind out results from a group that contains England, Russia and Wales. The Jan Kozak-managed team will start its campaign against Wales on Saturday, 11 June.

Manager: Jan Kozak

Key players: Marek Hamsik, Martin Skrtel


Photo: Twitter (@UEFAEURO)

With Gareth Bale in fine fettle throughout the qualifying campaign, Wales secured qualification in style, losing only one game during the entire campaign. The Welshmen also managed to beat heavyweights Belgium at home in the process.

With a number of current and former Premier League stars in their ranks, Wales have a squad that can go further than the group stages. The team, however, will be heavily dependent on Gareth Bale, who, having won his second Champions League title with Real Madrid last month, will lead his side's charge in France.

Manager: Chris Coleman

Key players: Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey

First published: 10 June 2016, 19:30 IST