England are priced up by most bookies as the fourth favourites to emerge triumphant, ahead of seasoned winners like France and Italy, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and both host nations. They are as low as 8/1 with some bookmakers but do England really have a chance of winning Euro 2012?
History clearly suggests not, given England have just one major tournament to their name and their best result at the European Championships are two semi-final appearances (one on home soil in 1996, the other way back in 1968). By some reckoning this places England as the 12th most successful nation in the competition, behind Belgium, who made the final in 1980!
However, English fans have a seemingly incurable addiction to believing the improbable is in fact probable. Every two years (that is, every two years if England have qualified for that summer’s major tournament) fans and, less forgivably, journalists and pundits try to concoct a handful of reasons why this time will be different and the Three Lions really can go on to glory. With no trace of irony, the main reason they think England could win this year is that nobody thinks they can.
The “logic” states that with a new coach at the helm, a man appointed just six weeks prior to England’s first game, the weight of expectation will be lifted and somehow the side will produce the glorious football they are supposedly capable of.
Roy Hodgson has a history of getting strong performances out of average players. He took Switzerland to the last 16 of the World Cup in 1994 and to the finals of the following European Championships, at a time when they had not qualified for a major tournament since the 1960s. He led Finland to an all-time high FIFA ranking of 33 and more recently led Fulham to their highest top flight finish ever and also to their first European final. In his most recent job he first guided West Brom to Premier League safety from a very precarious position and subsequently consolidated their Premier League status for following season.
However, helping unfancied sides achieve respectability is one thing – achieving success at the very top is another basket of buns entirely. In his biggest jobs to date, at Inter Milan in the 1990s and Liverpool in 2010, he categorically failed. He is the first England manager not to have played professionally and there have to be question marks over his ability to command respect from the top players; having said that, the appointment of Gary Neville to his staff will certainly help on that front.
Even putting these doubts aside we are still left with England’s woeful record, their culture of failure and their inability to perform when it really matters. If you remain tempted by the 25/2 on offer with Bwin (which is the standout price from a bookie daring /sensible enough to buck the trend) then consider the fact that England must make do without Wayne Rooney for their games against France (whom they haven’t beaten in their last five encounters) and Sweden. Oh, and don’t forget that Andy Carroll (six goals in 42 appearances for Liverpool) is considered one of England’s finest strikers, that an aging and divisive John Terry will be leading the defence with a race charge hanging over him or that there is no continuity at all within the set up.
So there it is, there will be no repeat of the unlikely triumphs of Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004, at least not by England. However, thankfully there are plenty of other betting opportunities concerning the Three Lions.
The “stage of elimination” market seems relatively straightforward. The quarter final is the strong favourite for England and whilst it’s conceivable they could slip up in the group (7/4) or limp through to the semi final (5/1) we prefer the 2/1 available with Betvictor on their traditional point of departure in the quarters.
Another interesting bet is regarding who will finish as the top England goalscorer. Rooney somewhat ludicrously leads the way at 6/1 but given he may only play one game that looks a crazy bet. Steven Gerrard could be one to consider at 10/1, with the captaincy likely to bring the best out of him, whilst Ashley Young has scored five goals for England since the start of 2011 and looks like value at 8/1 with William Hill.
Finally we consider England’s group points. It is very hard to see them beating France and in fact a win for Laurent Blanc’s side looks the most likely outcome. The games with Sweden and Ukraine really could go either way and despite tipping England to progress, our preference here is to take a chance on them garnering just three points and almost certainly being eliminated. Three points is available at 13/2 (Bet365) and with three draws or a win and two defeats both plausible scenarios this looks like a value bet.