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Less glamorous team guaranteed moment in sun at Euro 2016

Football Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 soccer tournament - Enghien-les-Bains, France - 20/04/2016. Logo for the upcoming Euro 2016 soccer championships. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Football Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 soccer tournament - Enghien-les-Bains, France - 20/04/2016. Logo for the upcoming Euro 2016 soccer championships. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

By Karolos Grohmann

EVIAN, France (Reuters) - Euro 2016 is guaranteed to see one of the continent's less glamorous teams grab a rare moment in the spotlight by reaching the final in Paris on July 10.

With the round of 16 match-ups due to be finalised on Wednesday, the continent's strongest teams on paper have found themselves in the bottom half of the draw with Italy, France, champions Spain, England and World Cup winners Germany.

This illustrious group have won a total of 11 World Cups and nine European championships between them.

The upper half of the draw could not be more different with teams such as Wales, Croatia, Poland and Switzerland already through.

None of them has won a major trophy and they could soon be joined by Hungary, Iceland, Albania, Slovakia, Northern Ireland, Portugal or Sweden, in a knockout section of newcomers and -- usually -- also-rans.

The championship, which began in 1960, has largely been dominated by the continent's big names, apart from 2004 when Greece pulled off a huge surprise and 1992 when Denmark lifted the trophy after a late call-up to the finals.

The teams in the upper half of the draw have a superb chance to avoid the continent's superpowers until the final and make more history.

Spain and England ended up with the big names after failing to top their groups. Spain have the toughest task so far in the round of 16, facing Italy in a repeat of the 2012 final.

This year's Euro is the first to include 24 teams compared to the old 16-team modus and has already been criticised for its size and number of matches.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said the qualification of some third-place finishers with only a few points was unfair to other teams that may have cruised through their group stage.

He also said traditional clashes between big teams were rarer, given the larger number of matches involving smaller teams.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann. Editing by Adrian Warner.)

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