Non-competitive international breaks – is there anything worse for the football punter than those? Watching a whole bunch of meaningless friendlies, played by half-hearted sorts who would rather be anywhere else, is bad enough, but trying to predict their outcome is even tougher.
Even so, just the thought of international football has got us all giddy about the big one this summer: the European Championship.
Many of the ante post markets are up and ready to go, so we might as well take this opportunity to see if we can find any early value.
This market is as tough as they come to predict. You’ve got the reigning champions (Spain), the World Cup holders (Germany) and the hosts (France)….and you could make a case for any of them.
Of the three, it’s Spain who you would argue have the toughest draw. You’d expect their quality to show through, but the likes of Croatia, the Czech Republic and Turkey will provide a stern test of their credentials.
Germany will be happy enough with their draw, and should breeze past Northern Ireland, Ukraine and Poland. It’s little wonder they’re the 10/3 favourite.
But here’s something worth a look: in recent memory France has hosted two major football competitions – the European Championship of 1984, and the World Cup in 1998. Who won both of those? Why, it was France themselves of course. Their draw is reasonable agreeable here – Romania, Switzerland and Albania will act as tune-up matches, rather than tough competition – and with history on their side who knows har far this French side could go. At 7/2, they look a fair investment.
When it comes to placing your top goalscorer bets in major tournaments like this, you have two sensible options: bet on a player whose team have a couple of easy opponents in their group, or alternatively back a goal-grabber who you expect to be in and around the final.
Happily, we can merge the two at Euro ’16. We’ve already mentioned how France should sail through Group A, and in truth they should go deep into the contest. Possibly shorn of the talents of Karim Benzema, whose off-field problems persist, it is Antoine Griezmann who may be thrust into a central role. He’s a natural finisher, as 17 goals in 30 matches for Atletico reveals, and at 12/1 he looks a great each way punt.
For a longer-priced outsider, why not give our very own Harry Kane a try at 28/1.
To Reach the Final
We can look for an outsider here given that we’ll get paid whether they win in the final or not, and two teams stand out here: Belgium (11/2) and Italy (8/1).
They have been paired in Group E, so one if not both should progress to the round of 16, and while the Belgians are prodigiously talented (if yet to show it on the big stage) the Italians have a fine history in knockout tournaments that often belies their thin squad of players.
Eliminated in Round of 16
Here’s an interesting market. Remember, in Euro ’16 the top two in each of the six groups plus the two best third-placed teams will progress to the knockout stages.
Opportunity knocks for punters then. Iceland (11/8) are one team that stands out in this bracket; they could well escape a group that contains Portugal, Austria and Hungary.
We can make a case for our Welsh cousins (13/8) too. They were so impressive in their qualification campaign that ties with England, Russia and Slovakia won’t faze them; although they may have to settle for second in the group.