The UEFA Under-21 European Championship kicks off in the Czech Republic in less than two weeks, and we’ve been looking through the betting markets for the group stages. Just eight nations compete in the finals, with two groups of four vying for the semi-finals. There are some notable absentees in this year’s tournament, such as Spain, France and Holland, but Germany, England, Portugal and Italy are all present for what promises to be a cracking two weeks of football.
Both England and Germany make considerable appeal to be victorious in their respective groups, while the Czech Republic also look worth following as hosts of the tournament.
We’ll start by looking at Group A, which features tournament favourites Germany, Denmark, Serbia, and Czech Republic. A full schedule of the matches in both groups can be found here. The opening day fixtures on the 17th of June see Czech Republic play Denmark in the curtain-raiser, with Germany playing Serbia later in the evening.
To Win the Group
Germany – -155 with Bwin
Serbia – +700 with Betvictor
Germany are a short price to take the group, but they look very hard to oppose with any of the other three sides. The Germans waltzed through qualification with six wins and two draws from their eight matches, finishing 8 points clear of nearest challengers Romania. They went on to thump Ukraine 5-0 on aggregate in their play-off match, and should be taking all of their best players with them this time around. They also qualified in style for the last tournament in 2013, but with Brazil 2014 on the horizon, several of the squad were left at home and they under-performed in the finals. That shouldn’t happen this time around, and they are expected to get off to a good start against Serbia. They face Denmark next, with the last group game against hosts Czech Republic. By that time they should have qualification sewn up, which could serve to favour the Czechs.
The Czech Republic won the tournament in 2002, although the last time they qualified was in 2011, when they finished fourth. They qualify automatically as hosts, but could be set to spring a surprise with the support of the locals behind them. They drew 2-2 with Denmark in a friendly last November, so will not be outclassed in their opening game, and if they can get off to a good start, momentum may carry them through. They are the outsider of four to qualify from the group, but we rate their chances as good as, if not better, than Serbia and Denmark, so they represent a decent value bet.
Group B is a much more competitive affair, with England, Portugal, and Italy looking to be fighting over the top two spots, but Sweden are also far from out of it.
To Win the Group
Sweden – +800 with Ladbrokes
We’ve already backed England to win the tournament and Harry Kane to top score for the Three Lions, and they can also be followed to top the group. Manager, Gareth Southgate, has his side in fine fettle, and he named his final squad of 23 for the competition just a few days ago. Two of the notable players left out from the initial 27-man squad are Tottenham’s Eric Dier, and Chelsea’s on-loan Partick Bamford, who was voted player of the season in the Championship with Middlesbrough. That goes to show the strength of this young England squad, and in Harry Kane they have a player who could really stand out in this tournament. The under-21’s have beaten Germany, Czech Republic and Portugal in recent friendlies, so have nothing to fear from any of their rivals.
Portugal are our tip to represent the biggest danger, and they are also worth following to qualify from the group. The Portuguese have actually lost to England and Czech Republic and drawn with Denmark in their last three friendlies, but they were faultless in qualifying, winning all eight games, scoring 22 goals and conceding just 6. They also knocked out Holland over two legs in the qualification play-offs, and have a good chance of progressing.
Portugal – -175 with Ladbrokes
Italy and Sweden will attempt to spoil the party, and the Italians in particular carry a serious threat. They won 6 and drew 2 of their 8 qualifying games, before beating Slovakia in the two-legged play-offs. Recent form hasn’t been inspiring though, with defeats to Serbia and Denmark in their last four friendlies.
Sweden topped a tricky group in qualifying, which included Greece, Poland and Turkey. The Swedes won 5, drew 1 and lost 2, on their way to way to finishing above Greece by a single point. They knocked out France over two legs in the play-offs, and have been in great recent form with friendly wins over Russia and Serbia, as well as a 6-0 thrashing of Norway. However, what might be telling is that they conceded 14 goals in qualification while only scoring 20. Compare that with England’s record of scoring 31 and conceding 2 (over 10 matches compared to Sweden’s 8), and there has to be a concern over the Swedish defence. It’s possible to get away with that over the course of a qualifying group, but final tournaments are much less forgiving.
If Germany and England can top the groups, they can avoid each other in the semi-finals, and there is a huge incentive to do so – especially for England who would then face a semi against the second-placed team in Germany’s group, where they would definitely fancy their chances.
Under-21 European Championship, 17-30 June 2015
To Win Group A – Germany – -155 with Bwin
To Qualify From Group B – Portugal – -175 with Ladbrokes
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