by Tom Allen
Euro 2012 promises to be the best international tournament for some time and
I can't remember a finals where some sort of case can be made for every nation
going all the way.
Spain and Germany head the market but 100/1 outsiders Ireland, Greece and
Denmark cannot be completely ruled out, the last-named duo have, of course, both
lifted the trophy in the last two decades, and its three weeks in which to
expect the unexpected.
Starting with the favourites; both hold excellent claims, despite tough
groups, but it is the defending European and World Champions that get my vote.
Germany have been all the rage to go one better than Euro 2008, when it was
the Spanish who denied them in the final, and while there is little doubt they
are a side on the rise under manager Joachim Low, I'm not entirely convinced
about them mentally.
Germany are dominated by Bayern Munich personnel and while the Bavarian club
are an excellent outfit, they came up just short in all three major competitions
Runners-up in the Bundesliga, German Cup and so agonisingly in that penalty
shoot-out defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League final, the majority have to
prove at club or international level they have got what it takes to get the job
done when it matters most, unlike their main rivals. And there are nough
question marks to oppose them at no bigger than 3/1.
In the likes of Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski,
Germany have any number of players that could easily be the star turn in Poland
and Ukraine but so too do Spain and talk of their demise is bafflingly
Sure it's been a long season for the La Liga legends but it's a punishing
schedule these days right across Europe and Spain are not handicapped in that
Suggestion too of Spain being burdened by the fact that no side has managed
three consecutive triumphs is wide of the mark. They've shown time and again
over the past four years they are a team for the big occasion and their quality
Spain and Germany are the standout candidates but there are a host of
countries queuing up in behind them in the betting, heading by the Netherlands.
The Dutch were widely criticised for their destructive tactics when
runners-up in South Africa two years ago but they are much better than the
bruising brawlers we saw in that 1-0 defeat to Spain and their attacking weapons
That said, the Netherlands' defence is hardly watertight and they look
correctly priced to me at around 7/1.
Of the other three countries no bigger than 20/1 to go all the way it is
France that have been the best-backed of the trio in the last week.
Now 20 matches unbeaten under Laurent Blanc, it's easy to see why but the
French, much like the Dutch, possess all their quality going forward and I'm not
quite sure they are good enough defensively.
France have certainly found a way to win of late but they same cannot be said
of Italy and they were embarrassed 3-0 by Russia in their final warm-up game.
Gripped by a match-fixing scandal once again, as they were when World Cup
winners six years ago, Italy are at their best when up against it but do they
represent value at around the 14/1 mark? I'm not so sure..
At the same price, England have been friendless in the betting due to a
potentially crippling list as well as Wayne Rooney's two-match suspension and
confidence is seemingly low.
However, levels of expectations on the Three Lions under Roy Hodgson have
never been lower and it could just work in their favour.
Defensively sound, England will do well to get out of Group D but in knockout
football anything is possible and should they make the last eight then Hodgson
will make England tough to beat.
While my selection at the prices in Group A is for Poland and Greece to
advance, it is Russia in that section that represent the best value in the
outright market and I'll be having a small play on Dick Advocaat's men at the
22/1 on offer with Bet 365.
Helped by a home-based nucleus, Russia played some of the best football at
Euro 2008 only to fall short in the semi-finals but they are a talented bunch
and showed their quality with that win in Zurich over the Azzurri on Saturday.
Russia, too, should be tough to break down and offer a genuine goal threat
from any number of places.
Advocaat's men are readily preferred to Portugal, too reliant on Cristiano
Ronaldo, who trade at a similar price and I want a couple of outsiders on side
at massive prices with a view to trade as the tournament progresses.
I give Denmark a chance of advancing from a devilishly difficult section and
if they can do so then a very attractive last eight clash with a Group A
That would make a mockery of three-figure pre-tournament prices and they've
looked decent on several occasions in which I've seen them over the past 12
If Denmark are un-fancied in Group B then there is no reason to believe that
their neighbours Sweden cannot make the knockout stage and they have plenty of
tournament experience to call upon.
If they do so, avoiding Spain in the last eight would obviously greatly
enhance their chances and Sweden have that sprinkling of quality, led of course
by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which could just take to them to a semi-final.
Anything can happen from there and just one step from the showpiece, the
Swedes certainly wouldn't be trading at the 66/1 currently on offer.
2pts Back Spain @ 11/4 (Ladbrokes,
1pt Back Russia @ 22/1 (Bet
0.0.5pts e/w Back Denmark @ 100/1 (William
0.5pts e/w Back Sweden @ 66/1 (Bet