A year after it was originally scheduled, a huge summer of football will finally take place over the next month when the delayed Euro2020 tournament begins across 11 cities in Europe as 24 sides battle it out to be crowned the European champions.
Portugal shocked the hosts France in the final in 2016 and it will be them who defend the title over the next month but some really powerful sides are gathering to attempt to snatch the title off them so this should be a fantastic tournament.
2016 – Portugal
2012 – Spain
2008 – Spain
2004 – Greece
2000 – France
1996 – Germany
1992 – Denmark
We might have a delayed tournament but the format hasn’t changed from 2016. The 24 teams have been divided up into six groups of four with the top two in each group plus the four best third placed sides going through to the knockout stages so for the first fortnight of the competition we have a raft of matches to lose just eight teams – 33% of the field. That is important to remember when betting on side markets. From the last 16 onwards the tournament is a straight knockout ending with the final at Wembley on July 11th where the winners will be crowned.
France were beaten in the final five years ago but they didn’t stand still after that, they went and won the World Cup and go into this competition as the favourites to be crowned the European champions once again. The obvious downside for the French is the group they have landed themselves in but that is more than swamped by the strength of their squad. They have the strongest squad in the competition with an attacking core to frighten anyone and look worthy 9/2 favourites despite the tough group.
England will be the host nation for the very latter stages of the tournament which will give them a massive advantage. Their big problem is getting that far as if they win their group they will run into a monster of a Last 16 draw. That is the negative but the positive is that this England side have some of the best attacking talent they have ever had and those players alone could carry them to the title. With full crowds being talked about for the latter stages at Wembley, England could be the team to beat if they get to the last four and will be popular at 11/2.
Belgium are the number one ranked side in the world and as such they are another side who are fancied to deliver the goods. I just wonder whether they would have been better suited to the tournament being staged a year ago when the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were nearer their prime, Eden Hazard was in slightly better form and Kevin de Bruyne hadn’t just got injured in a Champions League final. For as good as this generation of talent is, a World Cup semi-final is the best they have to show for their efforts which is a concern for 7/1 backers.
In a dog race they say the best drawn dog is the one to be with rather than the best dog and there is a strong sense that Italy could fit that position this time around. The Azzuri look to have a very comfortable draw in the group stages and then land themselves with a comfortable draw in the Last 16 should they win their section. Italy are on a lengthy unbeaten run and have a decent enough history in this competition. They can no longer be dark horses at 8/1, they are genuine contenders.
Germany are always considered a ‘tournament team’. I get the sentiment behind that but since they won the World Cup in 2014 they have largely disappointed at tournament level having bombed out in their group at the World Cup. Their defence looks an accident waiting to happen as it was three years ago and Timo Werner could hardly be in worse form so whether this Germany side is good enough to do anything remains to be seen. Finishing third in their tough group would leave them playing a group winner in the round of 16 which is less than ideal. They do have home advantage throughout the group stage though which might assist their fortunes.
Two other Home Nations have qualified for the competition this year along with the hosts England. Wales had their best tournament showing of all time five years ago when they surprised the continent to make it to the semi-finals where the eventual winners Portugal were too good for them. On paper they don’t look as strong as they were in 2016 but they have an incredible spirit and individuals who could still take them a long way if they shine at the right times. If they can escape Group A the draw could open up for them once again.
Scotland are at a major tournament for the first time in 23 years. They have already showed they can hold their nerve in the big moments when they came through two penalty shootouts to take their place at this competition and now they are here a mouth-watering group clash with England is sure to ensure they give it everything they have got. You would think coming out of the group would be a good achievement and that will be their primary aim. It doesn’t get much easier after that though so it is hard to see them going particularly deep.
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Portugal are the defending champions and there is a clear case to be made that they are much better than they were in 2016, certainly in attacking areas where it isn’t all about Cristiano Ronaldo anymore with stars such as Diogo Jota and Bruno Fernandes among others on board now. Defensively Ruben Dias has emerged as one of the leaders at the back over the last 12 months and the Portuguese have never struggled for stability or creativity. They’d be among the favourites had they not been dumped in with France and Germany in the group stage but if they come out of the group they could easily go quite far and shouldn’t be dismissed at 9/1.
We are used to Spain being among the favourites for the tournament in this era but that wasn’t the case this year even before a Covid outbreak hit their camp. That has seen them drift to 9/1 to win the tournament but while they still have a world class midfield there looks to be a lack of a truly top class striker should Alvaro Morata have a bad month. There is also an issue with the goalkeepers which could concern me but they remain technically proficient if Covid doesn’t rip the squad apart.
The Netherlands come next in the betting at 14/1 but you have to think their chances of serious progression in this tournament went when Virgil van Dijk was ruled out of the competition. He is as much a colossus for this side as he is for Liverpool. The absence of a top striker is another concern for the Dutch and another one could be that if their luck is out they could still win their group and run into third place from that Group of Death in the Last 16. There are more than enough reasons to give the Dutch a swerve before I even get onto the coach who is an accident waiting to happen!
There are two sides I fancy to go deep in this competition who I’ll back and another at a monster price that I need to pay to see how they go because their pedigree in the event is so good and this tournament might have come at a good time for them.
The main bet for me is the defending champions Portugal who look much better now than they did when they won it and aside from France and England I’m not completely sure that can be said about any of the other likely contenders. Cristiano Ronaldo left 2016 with a bittersweet feeling having won the tournament but left the final early so in what could be his finale in a Portugal shirt he’ll be eager to deliver once again but with the likes of Diogo Jota, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Renato Sanches and Andre Silva the support cast around Ronaldo is so much stronger. They certainly don’t look any weaker at the other end of the pitch and were it not for the group they were in they would be much shorter than 9/1. That group draw isn’t the end of the world though because they will surely beat Hungary and come out of it in third place at worst and then wouldn’t have to see France again until the final. Most of this Portugal side either play in England now or have played in England so they’ll know what to expect and they look like leading runners to me.
If we are looking at teams who are drawn the best, aside from Germany and Italy who I can’t go near at the prices, Denmark look fantastically well drawn. They are in the same group as Belgium but you would expect them to finish above Finland and Russia and from there they would face the runner up in Group A in the last 16 which in a worst case scenario ranking wise would be Switzerland. Then the worst quarter final they could get is the Netherlands barring a real surprise group result somewhere along the line. That all looks like as good a path to the semi-final as you are going to get in this competition and then when you look at the Danes, under new boss Kasper Hjulmand there is a much stronger attacking outlook in this side which is serving them very well. This is a squad that has a top notch keeper in Kasper Schmeichel, a wealth of good centre-backs, one of the best playmakers in the centre of the park on his day and an attacking core that is better than it looks. Denmark have to be on the staking plan.
Finally I’ll have a nibble on the Czech Republic who might just be coming to the boil at the right time. They had that eye catching result in World Cup qualifying recently when they drew with Belgium and they saw off England in qualifying for this in one of their matches so on their day they can certainly handle themselves. This is a squad with a strong Slavia Prague presence and their run in the Europa League inspires further confidence as do players such as Tomas Soucek in their ranks. The Czechs were the finalists the last time the tournament was in England and if they start well against Scotland could easily find that momentum that Prague had earlier in the year and run deep in another European Championship. At 150/1 I’ll pay to see how they go.
Back Portugal to win Euro2020 (e/w) for a 2/10 stake at 10.00 with Betfair (1/2 1-2)
Back them here:
Back Denmark to win Euro2020 (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back them here:
Back Czech Republic to win Euro2020 (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Bet365 (1/2 1-2)