Euro 2016 gets underway this Friday when the host nation France take on Romania in Paris and is the first game of what is sure to be very competitive tournament.
At first glance, the tournament appears to be wide open, with no one outstanding team rating as a stand out bet, but it would be a surprise if any team outside the top seven in the betting were to lift the trophy on July 10th.
Only twice have rank outsiders, Denmark (1992) and Greece (2004), won the competition and to me it’s only France, Germany, Spain, England, Belgium, Italy and Portugal who can realistically expect to win. They’re the countries who have the greatest number of quality players (albeit not in all the positions) who have experience of winning at the highest level and that counts in tournament football.
Currently the 3/1 favourites, they’ve been well backed in recent weeks and have the advantage of being the host nation. If they were able to name their strongest line up then I would fancy them to win but the loss of centre-halves Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho can’t be under-estimated as it will leave them vulnerable in the knock out stakes when they face the better sides. In their favour they do have probably the best midfield trio in Kante, Matuidi & Paul Pogba and one of Europe’s leading attacking players in Griezmann. I can see the French making it to the final but the loss of them defensive players as well as striker Karim Benzema not being picked will probably just see them come up short.
The Germans at 9/2 in the betting will have plenty of backers but they didn’t impress in qualification as they struggled to break through an organised Irish defensive team both home and away. There’s undoubtedly star players in the side but the loss of captain Philipp Lahm and the decline of Bastian Schweinsteiger robs them of their two leaders from their World Cup success and all signs seems to indicate that they’re a side in decline.
A lot of pundits are dismissing Spain’s chances based on what happened at the World Cup when as reigning champions they were eliminated after just two games. However, that can be easily forgiven as the pressure of defending and being in a tough group (Holland & Chile) were key factors to that exit. There’s going to be less pressure on them, compared to France as hosts and Germany as World Cup champions, but they have a hugely talented squad and conceded just three goals in their qualification campaign. Concerns exist over the striker position but Alvaro Morata is sure to get enough chances to make it count for La Roja.
England are 9/1 fourth in the betting and difficult to see why they’re shorter than both Belgium and Portugal in the outright betting. The problem for Roy Hodgson’s side is that don’t have balance in midfield and are weak in central defence with Gary Cahill being the prime exhibit based on his World Cup performance two years ago. They should easily top their group and if Hodgson were to pick players on club form and in their best positions then they could get to the semi-finals. However, given the fact that he left Danny Drinkwater out of the squad it shows that Hodgson won’t pick the right team and they’ll be eliminated before the semi-finals.
Belgium are very talented side but showed at the last World Cup that they fail to gel when it matters most in tournament football. De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku are three of the best attackers in European football but haven’t delivered as a unit and they simply can’t be trusted to do so in France this summer. Also manager Marc Wilmots has a tendency to pick players out of position highlighted by his persistence in playing Tottenham’s central defenders, Vertonghen & Alderweireld, as full-backs and using Thomas Vermaelen at the heart of his defence. If Belgium had a decent manager, then they would be worth backing but until then it’s best to avoid backing them.
As usual, Italy will go to a Finals with a rock tight defence but that’s as good it gets for the Italians. The loss of Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio gives them few midfield options and they have even fewer attacking options. I can see Italy struggling to get out of their group – they will lose to Belgium and it’s hard to see how they will score against Sweden & Ireland.
Portugal’s chances rest solely on Cristiano Ronaldo who has rarely delivered for them. They were a major let down at the last World Cup and simply don’t have the temperament for tournament football – exemplified in full by Pepe!
In summary, this looks a tournament that will be won by either the hosts France or their near neighbours Spain. I favour the latter but can’t resist a small bet on the two sides meeting in Paris on July 10th.
2pts Spain to win the Euros @ 5/1 (general)
0.5pts France- Spain to play in the Final @ 12/1