We might be three months into 2021, but 2020 still has one last piece of unfinished business to deliver. The European Football Championship, which can best be likened to a Europe-only version of the World Cup will, at last get underway in June, and despite the 12-month delay, it will still retain its original designation, in honor of the Championship’s 60th anniversary.
It’s been in the pipeline almost as long as the new James Bond movie, and now that the start is just weeks away, we can hope that it will be equally explosive. Let’s take this opportunity to look back on 60 years of Euro history, as well as looking forward at the likely – and perhaps less likely – contenders for glory.
Leafing through the history books
This will be the 16th tournament of its kind. The first took place back in 1960, and was hosted by France. The Soviet Union beat Yugoslavia in the final, two nations that no longer exist. It shows how much Europe has changed in 60 years. Yet the European Championship has a knack for throwing up surprises. Only Germany (3 wins), Spain (3 wins) and France (2 wins) have won multiple titles.
Among the more surprising tournament victors, we have seen Greece, who beat the hosts Portugal in 2004, and Denmark, who surprised Germany in 1992. The current holders, Portugal, also went into the final as underdogs against France, especially given that their talismanic star player, Cristiano Ronaldo, was sidelined by injury.
Who are the favorites for glory in 2021?
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that at the European Championship, the form book can often be thrown out of the window. It means Euro 2020 betting tips can be divisive in nature, and looking at the bookmaker odds will only tell you so much. Duly caveated, let’s take a look at the early favorites.
England are the early favorites with all but a couple of bookmakers, and most have them at 5/1. On the strength of recent form, that’s no surprise. The Three Lions breezed through the qualifiers without getting out of first gear, and the team is young, talented and full of self belief. England has never won this title; in fact, they’ve never even made a final, and it is something they desperately want. Ultimately, with the final to be played at Wembley, that weight of expectation could be their biggest obstacle.
That’s part of the reason France are neck-and-neck in the odds, or narrowly behind at 11/2. Their performance in the World Cup final showed they have the big-match temperament, and they will still be smarting from that loss to Portugal last time out. A French team with a point to prove is a dangerous proposition that can beat anyone.
On the subject of teams with points to prove, it would be dangerous to rule out Germany. The European powerhouse of football for so long, it is still hard to believe they were knocked out in the Group stages of the 2018 World Cup. Luck has placed them in another tricky group here, alongside France and Portugal.
Only two can make it through, but surely it is unthinkable that there could be a repetition. If they can clear that hurdle and make the knockout stages, there could be no stopping them, and the 15/2 odds are probably the most tempting of all the front runners.
Back a dark horse
So much for the form book. We said this is a tournament that often delivers surprises, so where could this year’s curve ball come from? If you fancy an each-way bet on a dark horse, there are a few compelling possibilities.
Switzerland is a team that consistently makes the knockout stages, and it finds itself in a group where it stands a good chance of doing so again. This is a team that seems destined to “do a Croatia” and have a really good run sooner or later. At 66/1, it’s got to be worth a flutter that this will be their year.
Speaking of Croatia, the team has not self-destructed in the wake of its Russian heroics and stardom. They have been drawn alongside England in Group D, and should progress comfortably. 33/1 odds seem generous for a team with this sort of track record.
Finally, never rule out Italy. Failure to even qualify for the World Cup in 2018 is still a source of pain, and this is a team seeking redemption. That can be a powerful incentive, and the relatively innocuous company in Group A will give the team the opportunity to build up some momentum and belief. With that in place, they might just be a force to be reckoned with. Bookmakers have them at 12/1 to go all the way.