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The 2020 European Championships are fast approaching. That’s a sentence you shouldn’t be able to say in 2021, nor is it logical for the tournament organisers to stick with the branding, but nevertheless we persevere and hold our collective breath.
But, it’s probably wise to evaluate just where we are now in order to get the value before all the last-second cling-ons turn up with their fivers and back England into Even money because Jack Grealish appeared in an ad for Call of Duty.
Is it possible to have shrewd antepost bets for the outrights of a major tournament? You can bet your life it’s possible. Here are your Best Bet, One to Avoid and a Dark Horse.
Best Bet: Italy
When you’re factoring in a tournament outright, you need to be aware of managing the schedule. What you really need is an uncompetitive group, so you can gradually build up at half-pace before hitting your peak in the knockout rounds.
Now, you’d need a qualification in calculus to truly understand the way that the match-ups work with the third-placed teams but basically, if you win your group, there’s a seismic chance you’ve a very handy tie in the last 16.
Italy have a group with Turkey, Wales and Switzerland with each of those being at home in Rome. If they win their group, they’ll play either Ukraine, Austria or North Macedonia in the first knockout round.
They’ve got a prolific goalscorer in Ciro Immobile, the right blend of youth and experience, along with one of the best goalkeepers in the world. They are my idea of a perfect winner.
Dark Horse: Croatia
If you want value, you’ve to be clever here. Yes, it’d be lovely to have a big dominant side who’ve just gone under the radar and picking a team who got to the last World Cup final is hardly a major shout – but the Croats have a handy group, you know.
They’re in there with Scotland and the Czechs, as well as England who are liable to combust at any given moment. Not to mention the last time those sides met in a high stakes game, by the way.
And being runner-up in their group actually lands you an easier tie in the last 16. They’d likely face one of Sweden, Poland or Slovakia if they finish behind England – or face one of Portugal, France or Germany.
Who made this system up? Either way, it’s a sneaky bet at a price that should genuinely see you in the last eight at the very least. Cushty.
Of course, this ties in with the fall of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but it’s not actually linked – merely a funny coincidence. The longest-standing issue with Germany is their lack of a true goalscorer.
I’m in better form when my mother-in-law comes around than Timo Werner is right now. They’ve got plenty of threats from wide areas, but lack a bit of pace in their back four. Everything feels like it goes through Kimmich but if he’s off, they’re off.
Even Manuel Neuer has been slightly off coming into this. They’re still among the favourites in the betting, but that’s largely down to stereotype rather than anything tangible. Combine that with the fact they’re coming off the back of a 2-1 loss to North Macedonia and a single-goal win over Romania and you’d be wrong to back at the prices.
Oh, and their group? It contains both sides who contested the last European Championships final, and current World Cup holders.
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