The action gets underway in Euro 2012 tonight, and England are the biggest price they have ever been for a major tournament (15 Betfred).
Here we take a look at the Group Stages in a bid to unearth some value bets to get the ball rolling in what promises to be a cracking competition.
Poland: 3.5 to win Group and 1.91 to qualify
Arsenal’s Wojciech Szcesny kept Ronaldo and Nani at bay in the co-hosts 0-0 draw at the end of February in the first game played at the new National Stadium in Warsaw. Poland have only competed in one previous barren European Championship and will be looking to break their duck when they entertain Greece in Warsaw tonight.
Their 26-man squad features a trio from dual-Bundesliga Champions and double winners Borussia Dortmund in Lukascz Piszcek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski. The latter pair scored all four goals in their recent 4-0 win over Freiburg which gave Dortmund a record number of points for one season in the Bundesliga.
Greece: 6 to win Group and 2.25 to qualify
They caused a huge shock when beating hosts Portugal in Lisbon back in the 2004 Final; will meet Russia for the 3rd successive finals tournament in Warsaw having lost out in both 2004 & 2008. The 2-1 defeat in Faro was their sole defeat suffered in six games en route to the title. Finished top of an ordinary Group F in qualification where they only conceded five goals in 10 but have failed to win any of their subsequent three friendlies and look up against it here.
Russia: 2.37 to win Group and 1.4 to qualify
Sole win came in the inaugural European Championships back in 1960 although they were beaten semi-finalists four years ago. Fulham’s Pavel Pogrebnyak, former Chelsea midfielder Yuri Zhirkov, ex Gooner Andriy Arshavin, and recent Spurs departure Roman Pavlyuchenko will be familiar names to followers of the Premier League. In qualifying,they finished top of a weak Group that included the Republic of Ireland but they still look a solid punt to win this one as they are by far the classiest side.
Czech Republic: 4 to win Group and 2.25 to qualify
Winners of the 1976 Championship in Belgrade on penalties from holders West Germany, they finished runners-up to Spain in qualification and then readily disposed of Montenegro (who had finished runner up to England)in the play-offs winning both games. Chelsea’s Peter Cech and Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky are key members of an experienced side but they don’t look to have the cutting edge that’s required.
Recommended bets: Robert Lewandowki to be top goalscorer – (3.75 Paddy Power)
Russia to win Group – (2.37 Paddy Power)
Netherlands: 2.75 to win Group and 1.5 to qualify
Superb winners of back in 1998 and have done no worse than the last eight in the last six competitions. They won their first nine games in qualification before going down 3-2 to Sweden. Runners up to Spain in the 2010 World Cup Final and star studded squad includes Footballer of the Year Robin van Persie and Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben.
Denmark: 5 to win Group, 7 to qualify
Inspired by Peter Schmeichel the Danes won the 1992 Tournament in Sweden despite the fact that they didn’t originally qualify for the eight team event, gaining a late entry as a result of the war in Yugoslavia. They finished top of Group H in qualifying, but they are not surprisingly rank outsiders to survive in the so dubbed “Group of Death”. Liverpool’s Daniel Agger, Arsenal’s Sunderland loanee Nicklas Bendtner and Stoke’s Thomas Sorensen provide interest for PL fans.
Germany: 2.1 to win Group and 1.5 to qualify
Second favourites behind holders Spain and three time winners in 1972, ’80 and ’96 makes them the most successful country in European Championship history. They had a perfect record in qualification, and coach Joachim Low has called up eight members of the Champions League finalists Bayern Munich to his provisional 27-man squad with Arsenal bound Lukas Podolski joining fellow Gunner Per Mertesacker in a squad jam packed full of talent.
Portugal: 5 to win Group, 2.6 to qualify
Beaten finalists in 2004 but, not for the first time, unimpressive in qualification before thrashing Boznia & Herzegovina 6-2 in the play-offs to book their place in the finals back in November. Coach Paulo Bento has lots of talent at his disposal but in truth they are relying totally on Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Man United’s United Nani to get them through. If they don’t perform then they will crash out of this.
Spain: 1.57 to win group, 1.14 to qualify
Winners back in 1964, World Champions, current holders and worthy outright favourites to make it a hat-trick of Major Tournament wins. They have a squad packed full of
world class players with the ability to open up any defence, and although teams are likely to put 10 men behind the ball to frustrate them it’s hard not to see them proving far too classy for their rivals
Italy: 4.5 to win Group, 1.5 to qualify
Their sole win in the Euros came back in 1968 but the four-time World Champions shoudl never been underestimated. Recent home defeats to Uruguay and the United States
suggest the Azzurri are still a work in progress despite winning their group by 10 points, but they did beat Spain 2-1 in Bari last August. Man City’s Mario Balotelli is a key player in their squad and is likely to influence how far they go.
Republic of Ireland: 19 to win group, 5 to qualify
Only the second time the Irish have reached the Finals and, at first glance, hard to see Giovanni Trappattoni’s side making it out of the Group stages. But they have been written off before, and go into the tournament under no pressure whatsoever as rank outsiders. The evergreen Robbie Keane remains their key influence, while Sunderland’s James McLean has been one of the finds of the season and now has the stage to prove just how good he really is.
Croatia: 8.5 to win Group, 2.6 to qualify
Reached the quarter-finals four years ago when beaten by Turkey in a penalty shoot out and Spurs‘ playmaker Luka Modric is likely to be key if they are to progress to the knockout stages. Everton’s Nikica Jelavic, who has been outstanding for the Blues since leaving Rangers in January, and looks worth a small punt at 17 to be top goalscorer in the Group.
Recommended bets: Spain to win group – (1.57 Betfred)
Jelavic to be top Group scorer (17 Paddy Power)
Ukraine: 5.5 to win Group, 2.37 to qualify
Coach Oleg Blokhin has named three goal-keepers in his squad with only one cap between them following the news that veteran Olexandr Shovkovskiy must undergo shoulder surgery and joins Andriy Dykan on the sidelines ahead of their first European Championships. The co-hosts have ten players from Dynamo Kiev in their 26-man squad including legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko and are unbeaten in their last five friendlies. They are likely to put a a good fight on their home soil, but France and England look stronger and they look set to fall at the first hurdle.
Sweden: 7 to win Group, 3 to qualify
The Swedes qualified as the best runners up from the Group stages with 24 points from a possible 30 including a 3-2 home success over Holland back in October. This will be the nation’s fourth consecutive Championships and their best show in the Euros came back in 1992 when they reached the last four. However their squad lacks strength in depth, and they are relying solely on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to make it through the first stage.
France: 2.5 to win Group, 1.44 to qualify
Dual winners in 1984 and 2000 and unbeaten in their last 18 internationals. The squad contains eight players from the PL including Newcastle United duo Yohan Cabaye and Hatam Ben Arfa. The French side may lack the brilliance of the Michel Platini winners of 1984 or the Zinedine Zidane inspired 2000 Champions, but they are proving a formidable team under Laurent Blanc and look sure to go far and a great bet to top the Group.
England: 3 to win Group 1.67 to qualify
The Three Lions have gone into major tournaments with hopes high in recent years only to disappoint. There is no doubt there is not the same level of expectation ahead of Euro 2012, and the fact that Wayne Rooney is suspended for the first two group games is a massive blow. His fellow United team mate Danny Welbeck is likely to take his place following a sublime goal in their recent friendly, and the young striker has the ability to make a huge impact. it’s not going to be easy for Roy Hodgson’s men, but they haven’t lost under the new coach and have a guts to make it through this stage of proceedings.
Recommended bets: Ukraine to be eliminated at Group Stage: 1.57 (Paddy Power)
France to win Group (2.5 Paddy Power)
England to qualify (1.67 Blue Square)