Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012 at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, a victory which helped them record an impressive three major tournament wins. That last title came after winning the 2008 Euro’s in Austria and Switzerland, before taking the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They’ll be back in France next year to defend their trophy, and to have a tilt at becoming the first country ever to win three consecutive European Championships.
However, their performance in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was anything but impressive, and they will face stiff competition this time around from the likes of World Champions Germany, Host country France, and the much-touted golden generation of Belgium. The usual suspects of England, Italy, Holland and Portugal are all on course to qualify as well, and it promises to be a thrilling summer of football. We’ll be covering every qualifier from here until the tournament, and we’ll have plenty of previews and tips closer to the time, but for now we’re having a look at the early odds for the outright winner of the tournament to try and get a bit of long-term value.
Germany are the rightful favourites after a World Cup triumph which saw them get the better of France, Brazil and Argentina en route to the trophy. They have developed some excellent technical young players, under Jurgen Klinsmann first then under Joachim Low. They’ve always been strong at international level, and crucially have that ‘big tournament mentality’ that other nations seem to noticeably lack. They are a side with very few weaknesses, and should make the semi-finals at least.
France qualified as hosts, so have a long wait for competitive football, but they showed at the World Cup that they have a promising young team, and with a bit more adventure in the quarter-final against Germany it might have been a different result. They won the tournament the last time they hosted it in 1984, and with home advantage will be strongly fancied. Whether they can live up to Zidane’s generation who won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euro’s in 2000 remains to be seen, but a semi-final appearance is probably the least they will expect.
With Germany and France at the head of the betting, Spain have been pushed out to quite a tempting price – if you can forgive their tame World Cup surrender. That’s not overly difficult to do, as they were too bad to be true in Brazil, and with Xavi and Iniesta calling time on their international careers, the likes of Fabregas, Carzola and Isco will have their chance to shine on the biggest stage. After winning the last two tournaments they will surely fancy their chances of an unprecedented hat-trick, and they have the quality to compete with any of the top teams. It would be foolish to rule them out on the back of a poor tournament in Brazil, where they never really recovered from the shock of the 5-1 loss to Holland.
England under Roy Hodgson can look excellent for the most fleeting of moments, but are generally underwhelming overall. There’s a feel of transition about the national side at the moment, and after Gerrard and Lampard both retired there is a need for younger stars to step up and claim the shirt. The emergence of Harry Kane has been a big positive this season, but once again the English media are guilty of labeling him ‘England’s Savior’ as they have done with so many promising young players down the years. The truth is that England don’t need a savior, they need eleven technically gifted players to make up a team, and that’s something that the Three Lions probably lack.
If England are a +1400 shot, then Belgium and Holland are excellent value at the same odds. Belgium have an abundance of talent coming through, and deservedly reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup where they lost narrowly to eventual finalists, Argentina. Hazard, Fellaini, Lukaku, Kompany, Benteke, Courtois, the list of quality players in their squad goes on, and this could be the start of a golden era in Belgian football.
Holland finished third in the World Cup after comfortably beating Brazil 3-0 in the play-off game, but are long odds to get as far at Euro 2016. Again that seems like a big price, although there are a few question marks over the squad. They’ve already lost two qualifiers, and despite not looking in danger of failing to qualify, that’s probably reflected in the odds. They played a 3-5-2 formation under Louis Van Gaal which had its success, but with players like van Persie starting to age, and a lack of real quality in defence, the Dutch look potentially vulnerable.
The Italians are always there or thereabouts, although we said that before the World Cup, and their performance in Brazil was just as abject as England’s. Pirlo has retired, and that may give others the chance to step up, but Italian football isn’t in one of its best periods, and they are easily overlooked in the betting.
Portugal – +2800 with Coral
The same can be said of Portugal who continue to rely far too heavily on Ronaldo. If they had a group of players around him that could offer the necessary support they could be a danger, but for opposing teams the challenge is clear; stop Ronaldo and you stop Portugal.
Croatia won’t be many people’s tip for the winner, but at the odds they stand out like a sore thumb. It was a tough World Cup for the Croats, who went down 3-1 to Brazil in the opening game but deserved at least a point. They thrashed Cameroon 4-0 in the next match, but were hit on the break in a 3-1 loss to Mexico in a game where they were once again, desperately unlucky. They’re unbeaten in qualifying so far, and sit top of Italy’s group after drawing away in Italy. In Modric and Rakitic they possess two of the best midfielders in Europe, and could be a bit of a dark horse for the tournament. We’ve seen Greece (2004) and Denmark (1992) spring shocks at the Euro’s before, and Croatia will give any of the top sides a tough game on their day. They could be worth backing as an each-way outsider, with the possibility of trading out if/when they reach the latter stages of the competition.
To win Euro 2016
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