This summer’s UEFA European Championship looks like a very tough puzzle to solve if just considering the odds. Amazingly, the top seven nations in the betting lists are quoted in single figures with some bookies, which deceivingly makes it appear hard to find a winner.
Many will be delving into the draws and qualifying routes of leading nations and looking at recent records and results, but I can see the cream rising to the top over the next month, and the value for me is obvious.
Here is my full Euro 2020 preview (yes, it’s called that because the tournament was delayed from last summer), including my favorite title value bets.
For me, World Cup holder France stands out as the team to beat at 5-1.
The draw hasn’t been kind for the French, with none of their matches in their homeland due to coronavirus restrictions. And they start their tournament with arguably the most difficult ask facing any nation — against the Germans in Munich. However, all that is certainly factored into their price, and this is the reason they have been handed quotes of 5-1, not + 250 if they were in another group.
Group F is the toughest, but with three teams heading into the last 16 and Hungary the very likely whipping boy, the French look certain to make it into the knockout stage, where they will have the experience and the squad strength to take on anyone and be confident of the win.
Without question the French have the best squad in the tournament, and their reserve squad is good enough to beat most tournament teams. If any key players are injured or suspended, they have superb replacements with huge international experience at every position.
Ideally, the French will want to win the group, as the Group F winner has what on paper seems an easier route through the tournament, but nothing is as straightforward as it seems in tournament soccer. Portugal won the Euros in 2016 after finishing third in the group and had a dream run to the final, where it beat France.
The French are always noted for their attacking flair, with Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe and c forming a frightening front three. But they are equally strong on defense. In midfield they have a great engine room with Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante doing all the hard work.
The French can be attackingly brilliant but at the same time grind out results in a professional manner, as they did in the 2018 World Cup. They know how to get results in tournament soccer, as they proved in Russia with the best defense in the event.
The worry for all other teams in this competition is that the French are arguably stronger now than they were when they won the World Cup. With that added experience, it will be very hard to prevent them from adding the European crown to their World Cup title.
Among the other teams, I tweeted about Denmark months back as a lively outsider at 80-1, but today it is down to 28-1. Though I think Denmark will perform well, it is of no value at current prices.
My second team that looks like it has a touch of futures value is Spain at 9-1.
Unlike the French, the Spanish have been given a great grouping with Poland, Sweden and Slovakia in Group E. They also play all their group matches at home in the soaring heat of Seville, which is a huge advantage for Luis Enrique’s side.
The Spanish were in turmoil just before the last World Cup when their manager was fired just before the tournament. But since Enrique has taken charge of La Roja for the second time in his career, their fortunes have improved.
Enrique shocked everyone in naming his squad, which featured no single Real Madrid player, and made the brave decision of omitting captain Sergio Ramos, deciding to go with youth. I think that was the right call.
The household names might have left for Spain, but quality remains all over the pitch, and I'm expecting a big tournament from Manchester City’s Ferran Torres and Villareal's in-form striker, Gerard Moreno.
I expect the Spanish to improve as the tournament progresses, and with a fairly easy draw this young side will be very dangerous in the knockout stage as they know how to win tournaments.
Spain didn’t lose in qualification in 10 games and conceded only five goals, and that form continued at the Nations League, topping the group featuring Germany and beating the Germans 6-0.
Finally, I have to hit on my home nation, England, the joint favorite to win Euro 2020 and end 51 years without a major tournament title. I have traveled the world watching England, and nothing would give me more pleasure. Can England win it? Of course. Is there value at 5-1? Certainly not.
Manager Gareth Southgate has assembled a young and exciting squad. Going forward, England is electrifying, but defensively it is vulnerable. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is a big concern for me.
The Three Lions have the big advantage of playing all their group matches at Wembley, and providing they win the group they will stay at home for the last 16, semifinal and final — which is why they are the joint favorites.
With the abundance of talent in offensive positions, it will be very interesting to see how Southgate fits it all into a system that works, something that previous England managers have tried and failed to do.
England’s matches will be very entertaining, and I expect goals, but those defensive frailties could be their undoing when the English meet the bigger nations in the latter stages. This is England’s best chance to win a major title in many years, and as the tournament progresses, confidence will build in this young squad. England will go deep, but I don’t think a title is within its grasp.