Ranking Every Team In The Euros
Food is my sport. Restaurants are my religion. I support local bistros and eateries like most people support their local football teams and my equivalent of watching live sporting events is settling down on the sofa and railing my way through an entire series of a reality cooking competition in one night. God bless Chopped. That being said, I am also a football fan and tend to get really caught up in the excitement of the beautiful game when it comes to big international competitions like the World Cup and the Euros.
So, combining my passion for football and food, I thought I’d take the chance to research every team competing in the Euros this year and try to work out which of their country’s national dishes best represents their squad and their chances of winning the whole thing this year. Why? Because... why not? Haven't you always wanted to know what your favourite football team would be if they were a dish? No? Well, I don’t care. Because I’ve gone and done it anyway.
Scroll down to find out what every team at this year’s tournament would be if they were a tasty (or slightly not-so-tasty) plate of food. There’s röstis, borscht, and even a cheeky fry-up in the mix. Just don’t go acting all surprised at how delicious the French team is. We all know they’re a Michelin-calibre team. And it's time you accepted that.
Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales, Switzerland
Turkey – Köfte
The Turkish national team might not wow anyone on paper but – like a delicious köfte, thrumming with fragrant aromats and spices – the starting XI is far greater than the sum of their parts. A sturdy unit of a squad that can really hit the spot when the time is right. Although I love köfte, I’ll also be the first to admit that the dish usually requires a little something extra on the side to turn it into a complete meal. So while I can’t see Turkey taking home the trophy, I do think that they share a lot with the humble köfte in that they’re going to be deceptively hard to beat.
Italy – Risotto Alla Milanese
Once viewed as world beaters and now seen as an outfit that’s a little tired and long in the tooth, the Italian team is a Risotto Alla Milanese through and through. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. RAM is objectively delicious and the Italian team is objectively good. Gianluigi Donnarumma is one of the best keepers in the tournament (providing the undeniable, rich, and buttery base of the squad) and Roberto Mancini has done a good job at turning the Azzurri into a semi-credible threat once again. That being said, they lack the requisite bite to go all the way and – let’s be honest here – it’s as easy to get bored halfway through a bowl of risotto as it is to switch off halfway through an Italy game.
Wales – Welshcakes
Welshcakes are nice, aren’t they? Sure, they’re not the most exciting thing on the planet but you’d eat them if they were given to you with a mug of tea, wouldn’t you? The Welsh national team is a lot like that – just a group of nice lads trying hard at football. They’re also a lot like Welshcakes in that their downfall is often due to a few unnecessary extras – specifically, the managerial equivalent of bad dried fruit. While there’s a lot to like about the squad (Gareth Bale, Daniel James, Harry Wilson) there’s also a lot to dislike (Ryan Giggs). Don’t expect to be blown away by the Welsh.
Switzerland – Rösti
I’m actually a big fan of röstis. They’re crisp and golden and I love it when their lacy edges take on an almost burnt quality. I feel the same way about the Swiss national team. They look great, they’ve got a banging logo, and their captain is a genuinely scary man with what seems to be a genuine anger problem. Which is a plus, in my books. So, yeah, Switzerland is a real craggy rösti of a team. The Swiss are, however, also rather rösti-like in how they can’t really be counted on to provide all that’s required of them. A rösti is regrettably not a meal by itself and the Swiss are definitely prone to disappoint if they show up undercooked and out of match fitness.
Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia
Denmark – Smørrebrød
Smørrebrød’s are severely underrated. They’re not a flashy or a particularly sexy dish – they, after all, just an open-faced sandwich – but that combination of good quality rye bread with a range of meats, fish, cheese, and toppings can really amuse your bouche. It’s easy to forget how good a smørrebrød is until you’re sitting in front of one. The Danish team is no different and provides a similarly pleasant surprise when they’re in action. What they lack in star power they more than makeup for in chemistry and I wouldn’t put it past them to make a decent run in the tournament.
Finland – Leipäjuusto
This squeaky cheese is basically the Finnish version of halloumi. It even kind of tastes like the Finnish version of halloumi. By which I mean it tastes like a cheese that watches far too many dour crime dramas. The Finnish national team isn't bad by any means but they’re nothing to write home about. Leipäjuusto is a dish that you will eat and the Finnish football team is a team that you will watch play football for 90-odd minutes. That’s pretty much where the excitement ends.
Belgium – Fries
There’s not many better eats out there than a portion of freshly-cooked fries. Crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle, a good portion of frites is a winning dish. That’s exactly what this year’s Belgium squad are capable of being: winners. If the best version of Belgium shows up at the Euros (the version where Kevin De Bruyne is feeding balls to Lukaku like he’s a Hungry, Hungry Hippo), then you best believe they’re going to give every team a run for their money. You wouldn’t bet against a cone of perfectly cooked fries, would you?
Russia – Borscht
Borscht is, quite simply, not for everyone. It’s an acquired taste that a lot of people might find a little strange; a dish that’s a bit too unfamiliar in its sharply sweet and sour flavour for some palates out there. Russia’s international side is similarly hot and cold. The simple fact is that this isn’t a team that anyone’s going to fall in love with anytime soon and it’s unlikely that they’ll be putting in a performance that will change your preconceived notions about them. Watch them if you’re a fan though.
Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia
Netherlands – Bitterballen
When the mood is right, and the Dutch beers are flowing thick and fast, a bitterballen can be all that you’ve ever wanted from a dish. Those deep-fried meatballs are best when dipped in fiery mustard and make for excellent drinking food. In what’s a relatively weak group, the Netherlands could take advantage of their meaty squad and make short work of their opponents. Nonetheless, like all good drinking food, bitterballen aren’t particularly great when you’re sober and their flaws (too filling, too greasy, too cloying) become all the more evident in the cold, harsh light of day. Basically: the Netherlands will do all right in the tournament but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re the full package after you’ve had a few jars.
Ukraine – Varenyky
Now, I’m going to be really nitpicky here because the Ukraine football team isn’t just any type of varenyky (a delicious style of stuffed dumpling that’s hugely popular across eastern Europe) but are, very specifically, a cottage cheese-stuffed varenyky. Why? Because although they’re still good, they’re not that good. And any dumpling stuffed with deliciously tender meat would be far too a favourable comparison. The fact that Andriy Shevchenko is the team’s head coach is a lot of fun but that’s pretty much where the fun ends with Ukraine.
Austria – Apple Strudel
A simple dessert that’s sort of like a swanky version of a McDonald’s apple pie, the apple strudel represents the Austrian football outfit in all of their above-average glory. There’s nothing overtly wrong with the squad and their starting XI is actually pretty decent, dotted as it is with some tasty players like David Alaba… and David Alaba… and David Alaba. Okay, they’ve pretty much just got David Alaba and a bunch of other lads who aren’t quite as good or as experienced as he is. But strudel is nice and I can see Austria making it out of the group stage, at the very least.
North Macedonia – Sarma
Nothing says North Macedonian football quite like a heaping plate of pickled cabbage leaves that have been stuffed with mincemeat and a mixed bag of ingredients including rice, bacon, and garlic. Now, before you have a go at me: I do actually think that sarma is delicious. It’s a hearty hodgepodge of a dish that’s perfect on a cold winter’s day. It’s less perfect, however, consumed out of a polystyrene box in a football stadium under the blaring sun. North Macedonia’s best player and captain, Goran Pandev, is 37. Which I think tells you all you need to know about these loveable underdogs. They’re not going to do very well.
Group D: England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic
England – Fry-Up
Ah, England. No dish sums up this team of loveable rogues quite like a greasy fry-up. The England team is blessed with a combination of talents that, when in happy unison, can be unbeatable. You’ve got the sturdy sausage of Declan Rice, the crisp bacon of Harry Kane, the flashy fried egg of Raheem Sterling, and the “I guess you’ve got to have it on the plate” mushroom of Ben Chilwell. Yes, the England squad is capable of being very, very good when the time is right and you’re feeling very hungover. But, as we all know, a lot of fry-ups can be awfully disappointing and it’s not hard for a bit of undercooked bacon and cold baked beans to bring the quality of the whole dish tumbling down.
Croatia – Crni Rižot
Crni rižot (aka “black risotto”) is a super traditional Dalmatian dish that seems like an apt metaphor for the difficult-to-judge Croatian team. On the one hand, they’ve got players like Luka Modrić and Dejan Lovren while, on the other hand, their third-choice keeper is a fella named Simon Sluga who plays for Luton Town. Squid ink is what gives crni rižot its unique flavour and goth aesthetic and, just as that murky risotto will elicit a mixed response from diners, it’s plain to see why not many people back Croatia to do very well this year. Not everyone is up for eating something that turns your teeth black and not everyone has faith that Modrić is enough to make up for the team’s lack of depth.
Scotland – Cullen Skink
A hearty dish of Cullen Skink might not sound all that appealing but that rich and fishy chowder is actually rather lovely. In similar fashion, the thought of watching Scottish football might not sound all that appealing but the Scotland team are full of youngsters and quite exciting to watch. Most of the time. I’ll admit that there’s still something undeniably fishy about the team. The occasional chunk of flaky haddock (i.e a crisp pass from Andrew Robertson to Scott McTominay) is a treat to look forward to, but I’d be surprised if Scotland is what anyone orders for their dinner when they’re out and about. They’re a home comfort that’s best enjoyed in dreary Britain.
Czech Republic – Česnečka
Česnečka is a Czech garlic soup that’s celebrated across the nation as the ultimate hangover cure. While I’m not too sure about slurping down a garlicky and potato-y broth the morning after a mad one, I am very sure that it tastes pretty great. The Czech team are a bit of a dark horse with the likes of Tomáš Souček, Vladimír Coufal, and Patrik Schick all showing excellent form in their respective domestic competitions. If they can transfer that form to the Euros then I can see them causing a few upsets. Just like the sort of upsets you’d cause in your own flat if you ate garlic soup for breakfast.
Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia
Spain – Paella
When a paella is good, it’s really good. When the Spanish football team is good, they’re really good. While the current squad have struggled to recapture the magic of the Spain team that dominated all comers from 2008 to 2012, it’s hard to find fault with the immense pool of talent they’ve got to choose from. With Sergio Ramos at the helm you’ve got a man who brings plenty of mussel(s) to the paella party and it’s difficult to pinpoint a weakness in the team. The only real issue is that, much like a paella, the volume of individual players and glut of ingredients can sometimes get a little lost in the shuffle. If everything comes together, though, you should expect some bright excitement from the Spanish team.
Sweden – Köttbullar
An IKEA classic, köttbullar (otherwise known as Swedish meatballs) is a firm favourite among pretty much everyone with working taste buds. They’re juicy, meaty, moreish and pretty hard to dislike, to be honest. I’d seriously question anyone who told me that they “weren’t a fan” of Swedish meatballs. Much in the same way that I’d question anyone who’s not a fan of the Swedish football team. They’re just a super likeable bunch of lads with a terribly talented narcissist leading the charge. Ibra might be the love-it-or-hate-it lingonberry jam of the team but they’re not the same without him.
Poland – Pierogi
I don’t want to say that Poland is a one-man team because that’s doing a disservice to stars like Arkadiusz Milik and Grzegorz Krychowiak but I hope you’ll agree that when that one-man in question is Robert Lewandowski that stance becomes a lot more understandable. Lewandowski is probably the best striker in the world at the moment – he’s the perfectly crimped pierogi of an inexpertly cooked batch of a football team, a golden wonder on a plate piled high with leakier, less impressive dumplings. When you bite into that picture-perfect ‘rogi though? It’s magic. Best to savour it now before it's gone.
Slovakia – Kapustnica
Kapustnica is cabbage soup. Cabbage soup is what Roald Dahl made the Bucket family eat in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because he wanted to show how poor and dilapidated their living conditions were. Which is harsh on cabbage soup, in my opinion. Cabbage soup isn’t bad at all and a Slovak kapustnica is probably the perfect thing to fill your boots with on a day where the wind is threatening to nip your nose off. It’s not, however, something that I’d get particularly excited about eating every day. And the prospect of watching the Slovakian football team for 90 minutes isn’t all that exciting, either.
Group F: Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany
Hungary – Lángos
I don’t want to sound harsh but Hungary hasn't got a hope in hell of getting out of this group. That’s why I think they’re a bit like lángos – a deep-fried flatbread topped with sour cream and grated cheese. Because I don’t have much desire to eat lángos anytime soon. I don’t want to offend any Hungarians reading this, and I’m sure there are some lángos out there that would be capable of instilling me with some faith in Ádám Nagy and the boys, but it’s just not something that makes me very hungry.
Portugal – Bifana
A sturdy and well-built sandwich (squad) that’s got enough filling (talent) to satisfy your taste buds and your stomach (win a few football games). Yeah, I’d say the Portugal team is a hefty bifana and the kind of sandwich that counts as a meal in and of itself. They might be the reigning champions but they are, however, a tad one-note and rely too much on the strength of the thinly sliced marinated pork that makes up the brunt of their offering. That thinly sliced pork is Ronaldo. If he’s not on form, the team won’t do well. Got it?
France – Moules-Frites
If the Belgian team are fries then the French team is a portion of moules-frites – an improvement on the former in just about every way and one of the tastiest dishes on the planet. Yes, I’m a massive moules-frites fan and I’m also a massive fan of the French football team. They’re a classy, creamy unit of a team that seems to be peaking at just the right time and I’d be surprised if they didn’t win the whole tournament. Nevertheless, like the spiky feeling of betrayal you get after being given food poisoning from a bad mussel, I’ll feel cheated and let down if the French don’t do incredibly well.
Germany – Käsespätzle
This Euros is going to be Joachim Löw’s last tournament in charge of the German team and it’s about bloody time. Löw’s achieved a great deal in his time with the squad but the wheels are well and truly starting to fall off Die Mannschaft. A käsespätzle can be one of the most delicious dishes on the planet when it’s piping hot and topped with melted cheese and sweet roasted onions. When it’s left to get cold and coagulate on the side, however, it becomes a hell of a lot less appealing. It’ll be interesting to see which Germany shows up for Löw’s swansong.