Spain and Germany are jockeying over which team should be favourite for Euro 2012 and it looks as though the Spanish will go off as jolly with the majority of firms, although a German win against Portugal on Saturday will see the 10/3 (Coral free bets) slashed to odds of around 5/2.
Indeed, both teams at the head of the market have difficult opening fixtures, with Spain playing Italy in a match where both teams might be content to draw ahead of slightly easier contests against Croatia and Republic of Ireland. Even so, some will regard Vicente del Bosque’s team at 3/1 as a value bet.
Despite being fortunate to reach the 2010 World Cup final, there is plenty of love for the Netherlands ahead of the European Championship and the Dutch are as short as 11/2 in places, although Ladbrokes are standing firm with their 7/1 quote and there’s a feeling amongst some that they are defensively vulnerable.
Indeed, Bert van Marwijk might have a collection of vibrant attacking players but he also has a flaky defence and Holland could be vulnerable in the opening match against a more balanced Denmark side who know their limitations but might spring a surprise or two.
The big market move has been for the French, who play England in their opening game and Les Bleus have been hammered in from 12/1 to as short as 9/1 in places. Laurent Blanc’s side easily swept aside Estonia recently by a 4-0 scoreline and there seems a feeling that they can do the same thing to a limited Three Lions side.
As for England, preparation for this tournament has hardly been ideal although the team will still look pretty decent when they line up against France in Donetsk, with Joleon Lescott lining up alongside John Terry in central defence and Danny Welbeck set to play as the lone striker with Ashley Young in an advanced role.
Roy Hodgson’s team have been written off in some quarters although odds of 15/1 (Betfred free bets) is almost starting to look like a decent bet and let’s not forget how well the team played on their travels when qualifying for this tournament.
Italy are a similar price to England and are very much an unknown quantity despite a fairly impressive qualifying campaign, with Cesare Prandelli having some thinking to do after his team were soundly beaten 3-0 in a friendly by Russia.
The Azzurri could be vulnerable against Croatia and Italy in the group stage and odds of 16/1 are available that they win Euro 2012, although it’s worth noting that they could have a winnable quarter final game against England or Ukraine if they do get through.
Perhaps the next two teams on the outright market merit more consideration and it’s hard to be put off Russia’s chances of success considering they have such a comfortable-looking section.
Dick Advocaat’s men have been trimmed from 25/1 to 20/1 and are now even shorter with some bookmakers and that is because they have the most logical route through to the last eight, whereas Spain, Germany and France might have to work a lot harder to reach the quarter final.
The Russians reached the semi-finals four years ago at Euro 2008 after some vibrant performances and they have another Dutch manager who could be prepared to follow in the footsteps of Guus Hiddink.
Portugal are the other side in the ‘dark horse’ category and their price of 20/1 (Betfred) would be a lot shorter if they hadn’t been drawn in the Group of Death where they have to finish above Denmark (something they didn’t manage in qualifying), not to mention one of either Germany or the Netherlands.
Can we look outside this top eight when trying to find the winner of Euro 2012? Co-hosts Poland and Ukraine obviously have home advantage for the first three games of the tournament although they both look somewhat limited compared to the top teams.
However, the fact they were made top seeds along with Germany and Spain means they have a realistic chance of making it into the quarter final and Poland are actually second favourites to emerge out of Group A, with odds of 50/1 (Paddy Power) that we see the Poles go all the way.
As for Ukraine, they would love the chance to beat England in the final group game to go through so it’s imperative that they stay within two points of the Three Lions going into that last match which looks highly achievable.
The Republic of Ireland are rank outsiders with most bookmakers and that’s on account of a supposedly tricky Group C although Italy could be anything and Croatia are not the force of old despite having quality talent such as Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Nikica Jelavic in the side. Perhaps the Irish are worth a speculative punt at 100/1.
As for Greece, we shouldn’t forget that the Greeks came bearing gifts in 2004 before claiming the spoils and they have a winnable group to kick things off although much depends on that opening match against Poland.