Fri June 8th: It’s hard to recall a major tournament where England have shouldered less expectation than this summer’s European Championships in Poland and Ukraine but a combination of Wayne Rooney’s suspension for the first couple of matches and the fact that Roy Hodgson will have been in place as manager for less than a month by the time his team kicks-off against France, means that few people give the Three Lions much chance of success.
However, with a ready-made excuse for failure effectively in place, England will head to Eastern Europe with the pressure on them significantly reduced and furthermore, the attention-diverting spectacle that is the London Olympics could also mean that the camp will be under a little less scrutiny than they are used to.
Ultimately this should work in the Three Lions’ favour but while off-field issues do play an important role in tournaments, they alone do not win football matches and it’s the quality on the field in comparison to their main rivals that make England unappealing at 12/1 with Stan James for Euro 2012 glory.
Holders and world champions Spain head the betting with most bookies and it’s easy to see why. The way Vicente del Bosque’s team keeps the ball and unlocks defences with precise passing is a joy to watch and they will undoubtedly take some stopping. The absence of all-time top scorer David Villa and influential defender Carles Puyol however, doesn’t help their preparations and Villa’s injury alongside the topsy-turvy form of Chelsea’s Fernando Torres means they aren’t quite as strong in attack as they would like so their odds, which have drifted out to 3/1 at William Hill, are still plenty small enough at present.
Ladbrokes’ 3/1 shots Germany possess an exciting blend of youth and experience and can call on one of the continent’s form strikers, Mario Gomez, although the Bayern Munich front man hasn’t fired in his two previous major tournaments. Joachim Low’s side also have the prolific Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski in attack, so they provide a huge threat going forward and with a hundred percent record in qualifying they will head to the competition in confident mood, making them arguably the best outright bet at this stage.
Another team with danger men up front are 2010 World Cup runners-up the Netherlands. Arsenal’s Robin van Persie has enjoyed a tremendous season for the Gunners while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Schalke helped himself to a dozen goals in qualification for Bert van Marwijk’s side, who are Boylesports’ 7/1 third favourites. The Dutch however, contest the so-called ‘group of death’ with Germany, Denmark and Portugal so they won’t find it easy to progress to the knockout phase and on that basis others are preferred, even though the ‘Oranje’ shouldn’t be written off.
For each-way punters France stand out at 12/1 with Paddy Power having made decent progress in recent months, even beating Germany, albeit in a friendly in Bremen back in February. Laurent Blanc’s tenure got off to an inauspicious start as his team lost his first competitive game in charge at home to Belarus but Les Bleus haven’t been beaten since and look to have been underestimated a touch here. They certainly look cracking value at 7/4 (Bodog) to clinch top spot in Group D ahead of England, co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden and Betfred’s 2/1 for them to make the last four is also worth considering.