In Depth

Euro 2016 vs EU referendum: Which team likes Europe most?

If the tournament was settled according to levels of Euroscepticism, England would still make it to the quarter-finals

Britain's eyes are on Europe this month as England, Wales and Northern Ireland's footballers compete in Euro 2016 in France and the country prepares for the EU referendum.

But it's not just in the UK that the future of the European Union is a political hot potato, it also divides opinion on the continent, in member countries and beyond.

So, who would win Euro 2016 if it was decided by each country's attitude towards the bloc?

Using recent polls on the issue, here's how a tournament to find the nation most in favour of the EU would pan out.

Albania77% positiveQ
Romania57% positiveQ
France35% positiveQ
Switzerland 23% positive 

There would be a massive upset in Group A, with minnows Albania, who hope to join the EU in the future, topping the league ahead of recent arrivals Romania, who also have a positive view of the organisation.

That leaves hosts France in danger of being dumped out in the first round as they come in third. However, they just scrape into the last 16 thanks to the enlarged format.

There is no escape for Eurosceptic Switzerland, who finish bottom of the group and must head home early.

England 41% positiveQ
Wales40% positiveQ
Slovakia35% positive 
Russia 26% positive 

The polls may suggest the UK could be heading for Brexit, but England and Wales still top group B, proving that they are a lot more positive about the EU than Slovakia and Russia, whose antipathy towards the West has grown in recent years.

On 35 per cent, Slovakia are level with France in Group A, but miss out on a spot in the last 16 thanks to France's longer EU heritage. Group B is the most Eurosceptic of the six and England and Wales would have struggled in others.

Poland55% positiveQ
Northern Ireland54% positiveQ
Ukraine  54% positiveQ
Germany 34% positive 

Another massive shock in Group C, with Germany, often seen as the country that dominates the EU knocked out in the first round by their far more Europhile opponents. 

Poland narrowly top the group with an approval rating of 55 per cent for Europe, while Northern Ireland and Ukraine are tied for second on 54 per cent. The Northern Irish, by far the most pro-European part of the UK, scrape into the second round as they are already members of the EU and Ukraine, whose hopes of joining the union led to conflict with Russia, scrape through as one of the third-place qualifiers.

Croatia  51% positiveQ
Turkey  44% positiveQ
Spain33% positive 
Czech Republic27% positive 

The shocks keep on coming as another major EU powerhouse, this time Spain, falls at the first hurdle and Turkey, who aspire to join the bloc, grab a place in the second round. New EU state Croatia top the group with 51 per cent in favour. The Czech Republic, who, like Turkey, are not members, have a very different opinion and limp home in fourth.

Rep of Ireland54% positiveQ
Belgium39% positiveQ
Sweden 39% positiveQ
Italy 38% positive 

Euro 2016's Group of Death is a nail-biter for everyone except unfancied Ireland, who top the table by some distance, with 54 per cent supporting the EU.

The battle for second is a real humdinger, with Belgium and Sweden tied on 39 per cent and Italy just one point behind. In the end, Belgium takes the spot - after all, the country is home to Brussels - but all is not lost for the Swedes, as they are one of the third-place qualifiers.

Portugal42% positiveQ
Iceland 41% positive Q
Hungary39% positiveQ
Austria23% positive 

The final group is also tight, with Portugal taking top spot from Iceland by just one per cent, even though polls suggest Iceland would reject the chance to join the EU.

Hungary come in third, but they qualify for the next round as one of the four best third-placed teams.


Match 1: Romania beat Northern Ireland

Match 2: Croatia beat Sweden

Match 3: England beats France

Match 4: Portugal beat Belgium

Match 5: Poland beats Hungary

Match 6: Ireland beat Turkey

Match 7: Albania beat Ukraine

Match 8: Iceland beat Wales

After the complexities of the draw for the last 16, there are a couple of big upsets. Northern Ireland, despite giving the EU a 54 per cent approval rating, fall to the even more Europhile Romanians. Belgium must head home after being put out by Portugal, while Ukraine, who love the EU as much as Northern Ireland, are knocked out by Albania.

The most stunning result sees the supposedly pro-Brexit English put France out the tournament by displaying far more love for the EU than their cousins across the Channel. England make it to the quarter finals despite a much lower approval rating for the union than Northern Ireland and Ukraine.


Romania beat Croatia

Portugal beat England

Poland beat Ireland

Albania beat Iceland

Britain and Ireland finally leave Euro 2016, as England lose by one per cent to Portugal and Ireland are beaten by Poland by a similar margin, leaving a final four that few would have expected at the start of the tournament. 


Romania beat Portugal

Albania beat Poland

Portugal's 42 per cent approval rating somehow got them to the last four, but it is no match for Romania's 54 per cent and tiny Albania stun Europe by thrashing Europhile Poland


Albania beat Romania

The two teams from Group A contest the final and inevitably, it is Albania, with a massive 77 per cent EU approval rating, who lift the trophy. 

It is an amazing result that goes to show that the little guys can win. The latter stages of the tournament also prove that the east of the continent has a far higher opinion of the European Union than the west and that the UK is not alone in sharing some concerns about Brussels.

Sources: EU: European Commission Standard Eurobarometer 84 (December 2015) / England, Wales, Northern Ireland: regional Brexit polls / Albania: AIIS European Perspective of Albania 2014 / Iceland: Ja Ísland poll 2016 / Russia: Lavada Centre poll 2015 / Switzerland: 2016 parliamentary vote on EU membership / Turkey: GMF Turkish Perceptions Survey 2015 / Ukraine: Rating sociological group poll 2014


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