In Pictures: EURO 2024's Surprise Packages

The EURO 2024 group stage was seemingly going to plan for many of the pre-tournament favourites. Enter the final round of matches.

From last-minute goals to the biggest shock in the history of the European Championships, the third round of matches really sparked the tournament into life.

Ahead of the knockout rounds, we look at the biggest surprises of the tournament so far.


The Way to the Surprises of EURO 2024: 





Knock-out blows



Appearing in their first-ever major tournament, Georgia started Group F with a 3-1 defeat to Turkey. But even in defeat, the debutants received many plaudits for their positive approach. 

They went one step further in their second match, securing a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic – though it could have been so much more. Having endured sustained pressure, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament caught the Czechs on the counter, finding themselves three-on-one with just seconds to go. But with just the keeper to beat, substitute Saba Lobjanidze blazed over, denying them their first-ever win at the Championships. 

But Georgia – ranked 74 – didn’t have to wait for long. Despite being huge underdogs against an already-qualified Portugal (ranked sixth), they ran out 2-0 winners. The biggest shock in Euros history (based on FIFA world rankings).

The reward? A last 16 tie against many people’s team of the tournament so far, Spain.

iGeorgia players celebrateIMAGO / Pressinphoto / Sergio Ruiz I Georgian players celebrate the win against Portugal. 



At Euro 2020, Austria reached the last 16 of a major tournament for the first time since 1954. And at Euro 2024, they did it again – this time as surprise Group D winners.

Having narrowly lost their opener 1-0 against one of the tournament favourites, France, the Austrians knew anything but a win over Poland would leave them with it all to do against the Netherlands. And they started quickly, taking the lead through a Gernot Trauner header in the ninth minute. But after Poland equalised, Austria pushed on in the second half to secure the win through goals from Christoph Baumgartner and a penalty from Marko Arnautović. 

But even in victory, Austria knew qualification would be out of their hands without a result against the Netherlands. And they certainly delivered. 

Having taken a sixth-minute lead, they were pegged back just after half-time. Austria retook the lead before the Netherlands equalised again. With just ten minutes to go, Marcel Sabitzer crashed in a winner to send the Austrian fans wild.

With France held 1-1 by bottom-team Poland, Austria secured top spot in Group D and a last 16 match against Group F runners-up, Turkey.

Marcel Sabitzer scoresIMAGO / Xinhua / Peng Ziyang | Austrian captain Marcel Sabitzer (r) scores a goal against the Netherlands.



Going into the final round of matches, all four teams in Group E were still in with a chance of qualifying, with each having won one and lost one of their opening two matches.

It was Romania who made the most impressive start to their campaign, running out 3-0 winners against Ukraine in Munich – their first win at a European Championships for 24 years. They took the lead through captain, Nicolae Stanciu’s 20-yard strike, before two goals in the space of four second-half minutes secured the win for the Tricolours.

After losing 2-0 to Belgium, the Romanians – who came through qualifying unbeaten – secured top spot with a 1-1 draw against fellow surprise package, Slovakia. They will face the Netherlands in Munich on Tuesday, 2 July.

Nicolae Stanciu celebrates goal

IMAGO / Ulmer/Teamfoto | Romanian captain Nicolae Stanciu celebrates his goal against Ukraine.



Slovakia were ranked 48 before Euro 2024 – a massive 45 places below their opening day opponents, Belgium. But when it comes to tournament football, history, ranking and prestige means nothing if you don’t turn up on the day – and so it proved.

Within seven minutes, Ivan Schranz pounced on a mistake from Manchester City’s Jeremy Doku, eventually poking in the rebound after Koen Casteels saved the first shot from Robert Bozenik.

Belgium’s star striker Romelu Lukaku had two goals ruled out by VAR, with the second particularly controversial, but the Slovakians held on to secure an opening day win in Frankfurt.

After losing 2-1 to Ukraine in Dusseldorf, Slovakia drew 1-1 with Romania in their final match to go through as one of the best third-placed teams, setting up a date with England in Gelsenkirchen on 30 June.

Slovakians celebrate goalIMAGO / Schüler | Slovakian players celebrate a goal against Belgium.


Knock-out blows

And finally… while not exclusive to any one nation, there have been a few, decisively cruel last-minute goals that have changed the course of the tournament so far.

In Group A, Hungary’s 100th minute winner against Scotland sent both the Scots and eventually Hungary home too, with three points and a negative goal difference not enough to send the Hungarians through.  

In Group B, Italy left it until the 98th minute to find an equaliser against Croatia, with a stunning strike from Mattia Zaccagni sending them through to the last 16 in second place behind group-winners Spain. Croatia knew anything but a win would likely send them out – and that proved to be the case, with two points not enough to qualify in third.

Kevin Csoboth scores

IMAGO / Xinhua / Philippe Ruiz | Kevin Csoboth (r) scores the winning goal against Scotland

Mattia Zaccagni celebrates goal

IMAGO / Pressinphoto / Bagu Blanco I Mattia Zaccagni (m) celebrates his late goal with his teammates.


Image selection by Robin Metz



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