The Euro Football 2012 Championship Preview
Ah the Euro’s – the World Cup’s smaller, younger and indiscreet European cousin rears its head once every four years but unlike that annoying relative at a family reunion, this lot has plenty to offer in a good way – as do with some fantastic markets to bet on.
The matches in the tournament will be evenly split between both Ukraine and Poland, with the final played in Kiev, Ukraine on the 1st of July in the Olympic Stadium – the biggest stadium in the competition. This will be the last tournament in its reduced format, with the tournament expanding to 24 teams from 2016 onwards when it heads to France.
So, the venues have been chosen, the mascots have been chosen (in Slavek and Slavko a set of twins – one from Poland and one from Ukraine) and the ball has been designed and released to the countries to play with, and probably complain about when they exit the competition. Therefore, there isn’t much to do apart from sit back and wait for the tournament? Wrong – now is the time to paya visit!
This year the crowds and colours (cue the stereotypical comment about hordes of orange Dutch people and Swedish blondes) head to Poland and Ukraine for the tournament, with both teams enjoying having Europe on their doorstep for a major tournament for the first time in their respective histories. Neither nation has won the tournament (although Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union who won the title in 1960) and the odds on a host nation winning the tournament are fairly high with both teams priced at 50.00. Stranger things have happened though, remember Greece and their penchant for 1-0 wins on their way to the title in 2004 and Denmark’s team arriving last minute from the beach in 1992? If you think Greece will be the word this year then you can stake your hard earned cash on them at 100.00 to wrestle the title off Spain, who delighted the football purists on their way to their second European Championship crown in 2008, and even though Denmark have more time to prepare this time, but are still rank outsiders at 100.00 to win the title.
Unsurprisingly, the favourites for this tournament are the three European nations which made it to the World Cup Semi Finals two years ago, with World Cup winners and Euro holders Spain favourites for Euro 2012 at 3.75 alongside three time winners Germany at the same price. If both these teams win their groups they are on course to meet in the final, which is on paper an easier task for Spain with Germany in the notorious ‘group of death’ – and we could see a repeat of the World Cup Semi Final in 2010 where Spain’s ‘tiki-taka’s’ gave Germany’s young guns a footballing lesson. The odds on these two in the final I hear you ask? That can be backed with Unibet at 6.00. Spain have some key injuries to some big players in Puyol and Villa, and no team has ever retained the European Championship trophy, but they should have enough quality to win their group and progress to the Quarter Finals, with 78% of punters thinking that Spain will win their group. The other finalist in 2010, the Netherlands, are backable for the title at 7.50’s, which may seem slightly high for a team that only missed out on winning the World Cup by a whisker. However, they were only ranked as second seeds in the draw – which subsequently led to them being drawn alongside rivals Germany in the aforementioned group of death, with Portugal (17.00) and Denmark as the ‘lesser’ seeds in the group (by no means easy games with Europe’s standout player in Cristiano Ronaldo lurking with intent). Portugal would ordinarily be a much lower price but the tough group and indifferent form in the qualifiers means they are on the high side of the 15’s, with only 2% of punters thinking they can win the group. The three favourites in Spain, Germany and Netherlands won every qualifying game (expect the Netherlands who lost a dead rubber in Sweden after they had qualified), so they are surely the teams to beat, and that is reiterated with a look at the betting so far, with 85% of the tournament bets on those teams so far.
However, if you are looking elsewhere for a ‘value’ bet, look no further than the French who with manager Laurent Blanc, are currently sneaking up on the blind side of the favourites at 11.00’s. They have been gradually improving since the 2010 debacle in South Africa, and have a fairly winnable group containing Sweden (65.00) and hosts Ukraine. They have also beaten both Germany and Spain since then, but then again beating Spain in a friendly is no sure sign of quality – so did England. England are the other side in group D alongside France, and for once the stereotypical overconfidence is nigh in that fabled land (due to an ageing side and a less than satisfactory choice as manager in Roy Hodgson). The Three Lions can be backed at 12.50 for the title come July 1st, as long as they don’t have to take any penalties, having lost their last 5 out of 6 penalty shootouts in major tournaments since 1990. Italy have a strong pedigree in international competition and the one time winner and one time runner up can be backed at 15.00, and they finished their qualifying group unbeaten and only conceded two goals in the entire campaign. However, that group was lacking in quality shown by the fact that Estonia finished second – a team who have never qualified for a World Cup or European Championship. It is widely agreed that this isn’t the strongest Italy side to grace a major competition but one thing working in Italy’s favour is the strength of their group, with two of the outsiders making up the group (alongside Spain), in Croatia and Republic of Ireland. Italy should have enough to finish above them both, especially with the ageing Republic of Ireland outside chances for the title at 100.00 but Croatia have some talented players and can always threaten so they shouldn’t be written off completely, and they can be backed at 50.00 for the title.
By far the weakest group in the competition is Group A, with none of the sides in the group under 25.00’s in Unibet’s odds. The team available at 25.00 is Russia, but is widely accepted that any of the teams in the group have a decent chance of progressing. Russia won their qualifying group and only losing once, but the group wasn’t the strongest, and Russia do not have the advantage of playing in the fortress that is their home stadium. Two of the teams group A have already been mentioned in Greece and Poland, and home nation Poland’s passionate home ground should see them through the group, whilst the other team is Czech Republic, finalist in 1996, but generally anticipated to lack the quality to progress too far this time at 75.00.
Unibet has some markets on the teams to contest the final, and a matchup between rivals Germany and Netherlands can be backed at 11.00. An all Scandinavian affair between Denmark and Sweden is unlikely at 1000.00 while the happy go lucky Irish to meet their old foes in the English is 150.00.
The top goal scorer market normally achieves significant attention and with no Mr Messi at this tournament it is a chance for someone else to break some goal scoring records for once. Previous winners of this tournament include current UEFA chief Michel Platini (9 goals in 1984), and legends such as Van Basten and Gerd Muller. If we told you that the current player with the most European Championship goals due to play this summer was a Champions League winner and backable at 100.00 you would immediately log on and lump a hefty sum on him, correct? Possibly, but not when you found out that person was journeyman Czech Milan Baros! If you don’t like the look of the Euro 2004 top scorer, then Bayern stalwart Mario Gomez is favourite for the Golden Boot at 8.00 (41 goals for Bayern this season) and 10% of the money so far has been placed on him, closely followed by Dutchman Robin Van Persie of Arsenal at 10.00 and the shy and reserved Cristiano Ronaldo at 12.50. If you fancy backing a bit of eccentric, then Ibrahimovic of Sweden at 40.00 might be your choice or ‘Super’ Mario Balotelli can be backed at 20.00’s. Thomas Muller of Germany won the 2010 golden boot with 5 goals and is 30.00’s to repeat his success this year, whilst Klaas Jan Huntelaar had a poor World Cup in comparison, but is better odds at 16.00 after a strong club season for Schalke. England’s Wayne Rooney will miss the first two matches through suspension, and would ordinarily be a lot shorter than his 40.00 in price and he is the same odds as team mate Andy Carroll at 40.00. Mario Gomez may be the favourite to be the tournament’s top scorer but Robert Lewandowski of Poland has seen the biggest percentage of the money so far – and his odds have dropped from 100.00 to 20.00.
The major tournaments normally see a bigger amount of cards as the referees like to stamp out any ill discipline and Greece are favourites to pick up the most red cards at 8.00, whilst England are second favourites at 9.00, with Wayne Rooney probably doing some stamping of his own. Both Spain and Germany are normally doing too much attacking to pick up too many red cards and they are the least likely to see the most reds at 16.00, despite probably competing in more games than the rest. Those two are also the most likely to score the most goals in the competition unsurprisingly with Spain at 3.50 and Germany at 4.00. However it was Holland who scored the most goals in qualifying with 37 goals and they are available at 6.00. Italy are known for their staunch defence, and they only conceded twice in qualifying and they can be backed at 12.00 to concede the least amount of goals, whilst Spain have only conceded 5 goals in their last 13 games in major international tournaments, and are favourites again to concede the least at 6.50.
Whatever happens, four things are certain. Firstly, that the aforesaid Mario Balotelli will do something crazy and entertaining (like celebrating a win with fireworks on a plane), secondly, one of England, Netherlands or France will fail spectacularly, thirdly, Germany will be the ruthless winning machine they always are and make it to at least the semi-finals and finally, that Unibet is the only place you want to enjoy the action this summer.
Bring on the 8th of June!