England did their chances of qualifying for Euro 2016 the power of good by beating San Marino and Estonia in consecutive games, topping Group E with nine points from a possible nine, three clear of Slovenia and Lithuania.
As it stands, Roy Hodgson’s side should make smooth progress to France ’16, and while it could be argued the Three Lions haven’t been pushed by their group rivals, they did dispatched Switzerland in Switzerland with ease. It was billed as England’s toughest game of the group stage but if that’s as difficult as it’s going to get, the FA can start booking hotels on the other side of the Channel.
Getting to major tournaments has rarely been England’s problem. Barring Euro 2008 – Steve McClaren, the umbrella, Croatia and all that – England have been a regular fixture at finals. They’ve rarely stayed very long, though, the quarter-final usually the limit of English involvement. By 2016 it will be 50 years since the national team landed a trophy – what price they mark it by righting that wrong?
Just under two years out is too far to seriously back any side to win the European Championships but it’s worth keeping an eye on the odds and the form. In doing so, punters will come across offers available from various bookmakers, such as on this
World Cup winners Germany are understandably the favourites for the competition, with the hosts France and the holders Spain second and third respectively. Belgium, tipped as World Cup dark horses but failing to live up to expectations, are next, followed by the Netherlands, third at the World Cup but now without the leadership of Louis van Gaal.
Then come England. Hodgson’s side are generally considered sixth favourites by the bookmakers, about level with Italy, victors last time they met, in Brazil. England’s Euro 2016 qualifying form has been good but judged over a longer period, back to the World Cup – and back to recent tournaments – the assessment is probably about right.
The odds will change as qualification goes along. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of the less-fancied sides goes on a run of form that makes the continent – and the bookmakers – sit up and take notice, or one of the favourites lose a key player and with him, their tournament hopes.