France and England may be favourites to win Euro 2020, but we reckon we've found a dark horse worth backing in this race.
It still feels bizarre to be looking ahead to Euro 2020 midway through 2021. Even stranger, however, must be the fact that England top the betting boards alongside World Champions, France.
The other heavyweights to keep an eye out for are the likes of Belgium, Germany, Spain and Portugal.
To Win Outright
Bizarre Recent History
It’s worth remembering that this tournament has seen some strange outright results over the last 30 years. Denmark claimed the title in 1992 having not even qualified for the tournament.
They ended up winning the final with against Germany by blatantly exploiting the back-pass rule. In addition to all of this, they achieved the feat without Michael Laudrup who is widely considered Denmark’s finest ever player. He refused to play in the tournament citing differences with manager, Richard Moller Nielsen.
Take a look at Denmark abusing the back-pass rule below in the final against Germany:
12 years on, Greece produced an extraordinary performance to bag the title. They scraped through the group stage on goals scored to set up a quarter-final against France which they won 1-0. They would go on to beat the Czech Republic 1-0 in the semi-final before beating hosts Portugal 1-0 in the final.
It’s difficult to see a surprise victor emerging this year. The likes of Denmark and Turkey jump out at you. Both form part of groups that they should be able to get out of, and once the knockout football begins, anything can happen.
That said, the competition’s top teams look a class apart from the rest and it’ll take a massive effort for one of the middling teams to upsell the applecart.
The Big Guns
France understandably top the betting boards. I’ve lost count of the number of listicles floating around the internet focussing on players that missed out on selection. Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette, Tanguy Ndombele, Dayot Upamecano and Illan Meslier all failed to make the cut.
There isn’t much point in harping on about the French and how good they are. There is, however, concern in the goalkeeping department. Hugo Lloris is never too far away from his next howler and you don’t really see the likes of Steve Mandanda and Mike Maignan cracking the nod in latter stages of the tournament.
The biggest story around the French squad has centred around the inclusion of Karim Benzema. Benzema – whose involvement in a sex tape extortion plot against Matthieu Valbuena in 2015 stalled his international career – has been brought in from the cold by Didier Deschamps.
The Real Madrid striker netted 23 times for his club last season and widely expected to partner Kylian Mbappe up front.
England boast one of the most exciting squads at the Euros, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can cope with the unique pressures of tournament football.
In Harry Kane they have the world’s premier goal scorer.
The Tottenham man certainly is the crown jewel in the England attack, but he isn’t the only talent Gareth Southgate can call upon in advanced areas of the pitch.
Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden are all players who can turn a game on its head in an instant.
Despite this, England haven’t been particularly good in their two 1-0 friendly wins over Austria and Romania. It is worth noting, however, that their Manchester City and Chelsea contingent were absent from these games after being afforded time to recover from their Champions League final exploits.
Though the hype around the squad may be justified this time around, questions remain. Harry Maguire is dealing with injury problems which means the back three will likely be made up of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Tyrone Mings. Stones has been much-improved at Manchester City this season, but he isn’t called into decisive defensive action very often for his club.
Jordan Pickford doesn’t inspire confidence between the sticks either. Southgate is likely to persist with the Everton stopper who suffers from the occasional rush of blood.
The Italian Job
Personally, I really like the look of the Italian squad. Roberto Mancini has managed to get the best out of experienced heads like Leonardo Bonucci, Georginio Chiellini and Ciro Immobile while also successfully integrating players like Nicolo Barella, Federico Chiesa into a very well-balanced side.
Looking at their last 15 games, they’ve only conceded on three occasions and found the back of the net 67 times. Granted, many of these games were against lower-tier nations, but their defensive resolve and ruthlessness on attack bode well ahead of the tournament.
If the stars align, Italy really could go all the way this year. They’ve been dealt a kind hand in terms of their group draw. Should they win Group A, they’ll face the runner up of Group C which will likely be one of Austria or Ukraine in the last 16.
From then on, it’s anyone’s game and you back the defensive capabilities of this Italian outfit to give even the best attacking sides at the tournament grief. At 8/1 to win outright, not a bad dark horse.
Verdict: Italy 8/1
While it’s difficult to look past France, I really feel like Italy can go all the way. Their favourable draw puts them in a great position before the tournament gets underway. 8/1 is a great price.
Value Bet: Ciro Immobile to top score at 20/1
If you’re not sold on the Italy verdict, you can get Ciro Immobile to top score at the tournament at 20/1. IF the Italians go deed, he’s going to be the one banging in the goals. Again, big value here!