With just nine weeks to go before the first ball is kicked at Euro 2012 the excitement is already building and with it, the attention is turning to the early betting on who are the fancied teams to emerge victorious from Poland and the Ukraine in June.
The pre-tournament favourites are defending champions, Spain, who are priced at 5/2 in the Euro
However, the fact that the Three Lions feature ahead of France, Italy and Portugal is down to the fact that patriotic fans will continue to back them irrespective of the current manager situation and bookmakers can afford to be stringent, knowing that the blind faith of loyal England supporters will see them bet on the team no matter who is in charge and how disrupted preparations are.
In addition to betting on the outright winner, bookies are also offering a host of other markets including which player will win the Golden Boot and also odds on who will win and qualify from each of the four groups, which offers a great insight into which teams are fancied to progress to the Quarter Finals in what are arguably some of the toughest groups seen at a major tournament for many years.
Group A consists of Poland, Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic and looks likely to be the hardest of the four Groups to select the winner from but clearly Poland will have home advantage being the joint host nation along with the Ukraine. It is Russia though who are the 6/4 favourites to win the Group and 1/2 just qualify, with Poland next best at 7/2 and evens to finish in either of the top two positions. The Czech Republic are a fraction bigger than evens to qualify at 6/5 and 4/1 to finish top whilst Euro 2004 winners, Greece, are the outsiders of the four at 9/2 and 6/4 to progress to the knock out stage.
No matter who wins or who qualifies for the last eight they will be in for a very tough assignment as the winners of the group will play the Runners Up in Group B, and the Runners Up in Group A will play Group B winners, which looks almost certain to be Germany and Holland. Subsequently, it would take a huge shock for any team from Group A to progress beyond the Quarter final and therefore, backing Germany and Holland to reach the semi final makes plenty of appeal, for which, Germany are priced at 9/10 and Holland 7/5, which works out at a 7/2 double.
Boasting Holland, Germany, Portugal and Denmark, Group B has understandably been dubbed “The Group of Death” but should provide plenty of entertainment in the first week of the tournament. However, the two teams with International pedigree are clearly Holland and Germany and whilst both Denmark and Portugal are capable of causing an upset, common sense tells us that it will be the two favoured teams that will go through but which of the two finishes first and second remains open to debate but as highlighted, neither should face any problems in the Quarter Final against opposition from Group A.
With the argument laid out for Germany and Holland reaching the last four, it would make sense to consider their respective biggest goal threats in the Golden Boot betting. Currently, Germany’s Mario Gomez is the favourite to finish as the tournament’s top scorer at odds of 9/1 with Holland’s Robin Van Persie just behind at 10/1 in the Golden Boot odds, both of which make plenty of appeal given that if the teams reach the final four, they will be guaranteed to play a sixth game even if they suffered defeat in the Semi Final as they would play in the 3rd and 4th place play-off game.
In Group C, there will be few people who will back against Spain and Italy qualifying, with Croatia and the Republic of Ireland providing the opposition and whilst both teams will pose difficulties against the two heavyweights of International football, it would be a shock if either of the group favourites went home early. In fact, there will be few people backing against Spain winning the tournament outright given they are a team that have maintained their high standards first seen in this tournament four years ago and whilst the odds of 5/2 aren’t going to win fortunes, it is difficult to make an argument against Spain not being the force that football fans have come to enjoy in recent years. Backing Spain to win Group C at 8/13 represents no real value but the straight forecast with them finishing top and Italy second at odds of 13/8 can be taken with confidence.
The Quarter Final opponents for the top two in Group C will come from France, England, Ukraine or Sweden who make up Group D. Whatever the outcome, the two quarter final ties on this side of the draw promise to be exciting affairs but none of the Group D teams would relish a Quarter Final match with Spain, hence the need to finish top but even the prospect of the winner playing Italy in the last eight is a daunting one.
Had Fabio Capello not resigned from his position as the England Head Coach, then England’s chances of at least making the Semi Final would have to rate as high but with no replacement yet appointed, England’s chances have to be diminishing by the day as preparations and squad selection are impeded without a permanent manager in place. It has to be thought that if Stuart Pearce was to be handed the role of guiding England to Euro 2012, it would have been announced by now and with Under 21 and the Great Britian Olympic football team also under his remit, it has to be questioned whether Pearce is up to the juggling act of three jobs and equally, is it fair of the FA to expect him to manage all three without it having a detrimental affect on England’s chances?
As such, no case can be put forward for England achieving anything at the Euros and the bookies must sport a rye smile with each bet placed on England winning the competition. Difficult games against France, Sweden and the Ukraine mean that the Three Lions are far from guaranteed to even progress from Group D and at this stage, it has to be thought that only a morale boosting appointment along the lines of Harry Redknapp following the conclusion of the Premier League season would give England any realistic chance of making an impact and even if that was to be the case, time is rapidly against whoever takes charge with just four weeks between the final Premier League games and England taking on France on 11th June.