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Football changes constantly as each year progresses and as of late, for the better.

No longer does anything such as the ‘big four’ exist nor are there any clear favourites to win a tournament.

Euro 2016: The underdog stories changing football for the betterThe game is becoming more and more unpredictable and upsets and shocks seem to happen with far more regularity.

Leicester City’s Premier League triumph was the latest episode of an underdog upsetting the status quo. The Foxes beat all odds on their road to glory as we were all reminded that passion, dedication, spirit and a whole lot of hard work counts for most when it comes to major honours.

The European Championships in France has added a whole new chapter to the underdog story.

Football fans have been fortunate enough to witness some heroic performances in France. Hungary fought boldly, the Republic of Ireland defeated Italy, Northern Ireland entertained us all, while Wales and Iceland created shockwaves through the world by progressing further than even their most optimistic supporters dreamed of.

As the underdog story gladly prolongs, here is a closer look at how it is positively impacting modern day football.

Evolution of the game

UEFA’s European Championship expansion from 16 to 24 teams initially came under heavy fire but has turned some doubters into believers after the initial instalment.

Smaller teams have been presented with a fantastic opportunity to perform on the biggest stage in European football and they have taken that opportunity with both hands, putting in some eye-catching and memorable performances in their incredible journey so far.

Wales, Northern Ireland and Iceland qualified for their first European competition in their history while also all managing to reach the knockout phases as well. The Republic of Ireland also reached the knockout stages for the first time ever and Hungary managed to reach the knockout phase in a major competition for the first time in 44 years. It has been such a big achievement for these teams as well as for their respective futures.

These success stories will undoubtedly reach to more teams in the competitions to follow and UEFA can take pride in the positive stories that have reached all corners of the globe.

Breaking stereotypes and reaching new grounds

The term ‘levelling the playing field’ has been taken all too seriously in this year’s competition with the traditionally stronger teams nowhere near guaranteed a win against supposed lesser opponents.

England and Belgium were widely expected to trounce Iceland and Wales respectively, but miserably failed to do so. Spirited wins from the minnows not only knocked out their counterparts but all showed exactly what they are capable off.

Gaining some vital experience in a major tournament will also do wonders for the future stars of these teams as it has opened so many doors to help continue their progress. Football fans will hopefully get to witness a lot more of what these teams, and other European minnows, can achieve given the opportunity, which has eluded them for some time.

The feel good factor

While the players have given it their all on the field, the fans have created a fantastic footballing environment in the stands and on the streets of France.

The beautiful voices of the Welsh fans, the spine-tingling Viking clap from the Icelanders and the simply awe inspiring attitude of both sets of Irish fans (Will Grigg’s on fire!) have created an electric atmosphere in France.

Barring a few moments of senseless violence which marred the opening week, Euro 2016 has been full of positivity and has undoubtedly displayed the true spirit in which football should be played.

With all the commotion and scandals hovering around various governing bodies, it is good to know that the on-field exploits have remained as exciting as ever.

In a thoroughly entertaining competition so far, it has been smaller teams grabbing all the headlines for the right reasons. The unpredictability, the passion, the spirit and the glory is what makes us love this sport even more and if the environment of Euro 2016 is anything to go by, the future is in good hands.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Rahul Dantes, Twitter: @rahulsdantes
for Outside 90, Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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