By Robert McCracken
The football season – for the most part – is over. So then is the season of the ridiculous accumulator and crazy scorecast. But fear not bookie bashers! Euro 2012 is on the horizon and it brings with it some tasty little bets, here’s an early look at some of the best ones out there.
WHO IS GOING TO WIN?
Let’s look at the obvious ones first.
The Spanish will be looking to defend their title. A feat which no nation has ever achieved, but the Spanish are probably set up better than most to manage it. A squad full of winners at club and international level – they have the mentality. The question is, can the Barca contingent shake the fatigue of a long season for one last push?
SPAIN 5/2 TO WIN
So many people are tipping the Germans for this one, and it’s no wonder. Their top division continues to go from strength to strength and is continually producing some of the brightest talents in Europe. It has been a long while since Germany lifted a trophy, possibly too long for a team who perform so well in the big competitions. Is this their year?
GERMANY 3/1 TO WIN
World Cup finalists and a team of undoubted skill. A left back problem beckons for the Dutch – leaving a weakness in an already questionable defence. However a front line with Robin van Persie, Klass Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben involved in the mix looks dangerous. If Sneijder can re-capture his form from their last tournament then Oranje could be in the mix.
HOLLAND 7/1 TO WIN
The Italians love going into a tournament as underdogs. Look at the 2006 World Cup. Their defence leaked 2 goals in 10 qualifying games and Cesare Prandelli has balanced the experience in the side with young players like SuperMario. Pirlo has performed majestically all season as Juventus claimed the Scudetto, he’s in his his best form for many a season, can he carry it over to the Euro’s and make this his swan song? Italy need goals however and therein lies the rub, no Rossi, Casanno still struggling, can Balotelli provide goals?
ITALY TO WIN 14/1
It’s been a while since we saw France as a force, but they are getting back to that status under Laurent Blanc. Like Italy, they are striking a nice balance between youth and experience. A plethora of attacking talent in Benzema, Ribery, Gourcuff, Remy and Valbuena could help fire France all the way. France struggle for leadership on the pitch and squeezed into the finals through a play-off but don’t write them off.
FRANCE TO WIN 12/1
GROUP A: Poland, Russia, Greece, Czech Republic.
The Poles will be buoyed by playing in front of their home crowd and have some real quality up front.
Russia are settling in well with a fantastic defensive spine to the squad. They weren’t prolific in qualifying but look strong.
Greece are the side we recognise from 2004. Defensive, ugly and impossible to pronounce.
Czech Republic. Who? Should be Scotland that are there. (I’m not bitter)
WINNERS: RUSSIA (11/8)
RUNNERS UP: POLAND (5/6)
GROUP B: Holland, Germany, Portugal, Denmark
The Dutch will be in the mix for the latter stages, they ooze ablity.
Germany are so heavily fancied. Strength in every department and fluid, Jochim Low has the Germans going from strength to strength.
Portugal are forever the bridesmaid, never the bride. Their best chance was in 2004, and despite some real quality in the side this is a tough group for them.
The Danes qualified well, pipping Portugal to win group h, but this is such a strong group I think they’ll struggle.
WINNERS: GERMANY (11/10)
RUNNERS UP: HOLLAND (1/2)
GROUP C: Spain, Italy, Croatia, Ireland
Spain arrive in Poland and Ukraine to defend their title and have a raft or creative, quick thinking players. They need no introduction. Qualified at a canter and will qualify as winners from this group too.
Italy will be written off by many but performed well in qualifying and will get through this group – possibly a step below Spain in quality though.
Croatia have plenty of players Premier League fans will be familiar with and they have plenty of talent too. Look no further than Luka Modric. And with Eduardo, Jelavic, Olic and Klasnic making up their strikers – there’s goals there. Outside package for this group at 7/4 to qualify.
Ireland have galvanised well under Trapattoni who will have them marshalled well for this, their first Euro’s appearance since 1988. They lack the quality of Spain/Italy but this tournament loves an underdog.
WINNERS: SPAIN (8/15)
RUNNERS UP: ITALY (8/13)
GROUP D: Ukraine, England, France, Sweden
Co-hosts Ukraine will look to be spurred on by the home crowd. They still have Schevchenko in the squad, and to me that points at a lack of options.
England have a new manager and new ideas, depending on how they settle together this could be an interesting tournament. Potential last roll of the dice for some players. They are 6/4 to drop out in the group stages. England are 1/2 to qualify and 13/8 to win their group.
France are striking a balance in the squad and Laurant Blanc is forming them into the nation they once were not so long ago. Favourable group for them.
Sweden, a bogey team for England somewhat and they look quite creative. Zlatan goes into this group in good form too.
WINNERS: FRANCE (13/8)
RUNNERS UP: SWEDEN (no, not England) (7/4)
Group Winners Accumulator: 19.07/1
Group Forecast Accumulator: 605.37/1
An absolute smorgasbord of quality goal scoring talent awaits at this tournament. Robin van Persie, Klass Jan Huntelaar, Karim Benzema, Ibrahimovic all arrive in hot form for their clubs. But as Milan Baros showed in 2004 sometimes the unexpected players can pop up too.
Here’s a run-down of some of the best:
Klass Jan Huntelaar: top scorer in qualifying with 12 goals and a poacher of the highest quality. If the Dutch do well, he should too. (16/1)
Karim Benzema: An excellent season at Madrid, should be interesting to see how he fares in this one. France love to have a shot and Benzema will be in the mix for the French. (16/1)
Robin van Persie: Astonishing form for Arsenal in what has been RVP’s best season for a while. His role for the Dutch is somewhat different but if he plays out wide instead of Kuyt there’s no reason he can’t be in with a shout. (8/1)
Mario Gomez: The talismanic Bayern man is one of Europe’s hottest strikers and will be a huge player for the Germans this year. (8/1)
Miroslav Klose: Low is a big fan of Klose and he’s had a good season with Lazio. Some excellent supply in the German team, the old man might just do it yet. (14/1)
Nikica Jelavic: A superb few months for Everton will no doubt have caught Slaven Bilic’s eye. They’ve got a tough group but they do have quality – if they can sneak through then Jelavic might just be worth a look. (50/1)
Sebastian Giovinco: The Parma man has had a good season and has shone in a league amongst stars like Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic. Italy need a striker and if Prandelli decides to give Giovinco a shot, then who knows? (66/1)
Fernando Torres: I feel his odds are probably a bit short. Though he is a confidence player and right now he seems to have plenty. (16/1)
ALL ODDS ARE FROM BET365 AND WERE CORRECT AT TIME OF PUBLISHING
Robert McCracken -firstname.lastname@example.org – Twitter: @rmccracken91