Welcome to our Euro 2016 blog. The season is now over, Leicester are champions domestically, but just which country will be crowned kings of Europe? This summer, teams will battle it out in France in an attempt to hold that prestigious title. All 24 teams (with the exception of the hosts, France) have already fought through the qualifying stages in order to reserve their place in to the group stages, which is the next obstacle facing the final 24.
There are six groups in total and this stage will see the original 24 qualified teams whittled down to 16. The top two from each group will qualify, along with the four best third place ground finishers. There holds some disparity in quality from the higher ranking teams to the lowest, but the Euros has been known for it’s upsets.
Back in 1992 a team who didn’t even qualify ended up winning the tournament. Denmark got invited to the tournament after war torn Yugoslavia pulled out of the tournament. Then you have Greece, ranked outsiders winning the tournament in Portugal back in 2004.
This certainly makes the betting markets more interesting and may well tempt some to place a small stake on some of the more perceived ‘weaker’ sides. If Leicester haven’t provided anyone with confidence in the underdog this season then I don’t know what will.
That said I have been scanning the odds and will be working my way in to the tournament by firstly analysing the “to qualify’ markets, as well as the tournament outright winner market.
Below you will find information on each group, along with my own thoughts towards which teams will make it through to the last 16. You will also find the best odds on all to win and to qualify bet selections with handy links taking you to the relevant bookmaker mentioned.
Follow us on Twitter at @bettingapps for all the up-to-date news as it comes in as well as our reactions to all games throughout the tournament.
Euro 2016 group stage preview
France are hosts this year and as such did not have a gruelling qualifying campaign to endure. The team is oozing with quality. They hold a solid defence, a strong midfield and what looks like a sparkling forward line-up. That sparkling Didier Deschamps can afford to leave the likes of Karim Benzema at home!
I do fancy France to perform well. The last time they hosted a tournament was back in 1998 and they ended up winning it. (France ’98 World Cup) I certainly see them to qualify and wouldn’t be surprised if they do it with 3 wins under their belt.
Albania will be treated as one of the weaker teams in the tournament, but have a team that have individuals located all round Europe. None of the team representatives play in their home country and as such should have learned some of the continental formations, styles and skills to have the ability to hold their own in this tournament.
With Romania also featuring in this group, Albania really need to get off to a flyer in their first match against Switzerland and must feel like they have to get something out of that game to have a chance of progressing through.
My prediction is that they will fail to do so and slump at the bottom of the table after all matches are played. The group has not been fortunate and at best I see them fighting for qualification with Romania as one of the higher point scoring third place finishers.
Albania are Outside underdogs alongside Northern Ireland at 500/1 to become champions.
Names to keep an eye out for would be Lorik Cana, Emir Lanjani and Taulent Xhaka.
Romania qualified behind Northern Ireland to reach the tournament and did it without losing a match. That said the group was a kind one and five of the ten results ended in a draw. Romania certainly aren’t the side they were back in 2000 when they reached the quarter finals stage with the likes of hagi in the side.
The majority of the side play in their home country for domestically dominant side Steaua Bucharest, but also have players playing in Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey and England. Watford’s goalkeeper Pantilimon and Southampton’s Florin Gardos are both expected to feature.
Although Romania may not be the team of the past they managed to hold the tightest defence throughout the qualifying campaign. With only 2 goals conceded I can see them being equally hard to break down when the tournament kicks off.
The bookies don’t hold out much hope for the Romanians to go all the way and win the tournament, but if you do best odds are currently with 888sport at 250/1.
Switzerland were tipped quite highly to perform well in the last World Cup, but failed to live up expectations. They managed to qualify through the group stages, despite being beat 2-5 by France. They were then beaten in the round of 16 by Argentina in extra time. They also failed to qualify for Euro 2012.
That said, I can see Switzerland qualifying in second place behind France. I don’t see them as being real contenders for the tournament but can certainly see them progressing past the group stages.
Players to keep your eye on would be Leicester’s Gokhan Inler, Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Juventus’ Stephan Lichtsteiner.
France v Romania
Albania v Switzerland
France v Albania
Romania v Switzerland
Switzerland v France
Romania v Albania
Group final standing prediction
France – Best price = 1.02 with bet365
Switzerland – Best price = 1.33 with Stan James
Romania – Best price = 1.80 with Stan James
Albania – Best price = 2.50 with Marathonbet
Hodgson has just named his 26 man squad. There were a few surprises but overall a solid lineup. Rooney, Kane, Sturridge and Vardy will make up the frontline which leans heavier towards the new and up-coming rather than the knowledgeable and experienced. This pattern reverberates through the midfield and defence. This may or may not be a bad thing for England.
With only one major tournament win that stretches back to 1966, it’s difficult to see England holding up the trophy come the end of the tournament. I’m sure though hopes and aspirations will be high and that the England fans will get right behind the team to make sure they put every effort in to doing so.
In terms of the group, I see no reason why England should struggle to qualify. There will be some difficult matches ahead, but the quality on offer outweighs all of the other nations here. There will be very minimal acclimitisation needed as matches are just a hop over the Channel, which should also mean England supporters will be arriving in their droves to Spur the team on.
The team were the only team in qualifying with a 100% win record. This will put confidence in the team and may very well sway them through the Championship, hopefully with a nice bit of positive momentum They were also second highest scorers, finishing on 31 goals scored. This was just 2 shy of top goal scorer’s Poland who managed 33.
England are remarkably fourth tournament favourites right now according to the bookmakers, behind France, Germany and Spain and can be chosen at odds of 9/1 with 888Sport.
Wales displayed a one man mentality and capability throughout the qualifying stages. That one man obviously being Gareth Bale. Although he has been left out of the 29 named provisional squad, this is obviously due to the Champions League final game that he is expected to make an appearance in. It is highly expected that he will be making the final confirmed team and as long as he is there, Wales will always be capable of pulling off goals from nothing.
Bale himself will need to show a little more belief in the team around him if Wales are to progress through to the round of 16. He has tended to take the whole job of qualifying on himself rather than showing faith in the players around him. Premiership players are rife throughout the Wales side who are more than capable of complimenting Bale a lot better than what we saw throughout the qualifying period, in my opinion.
It is going to be a big task for Wales to qualify. It is only their second major tournament appearance, with the first being at the World Cup in Sweden back in 1958. It is their first time they have qualified for the European Championship. With the lack of experience, both on the pitch and on the sidelines, I can see Wales likely to have to rely on being one of the higher performing third place teams to qualify through to the next stage.
Russia had a strong qualifying campaign winning six of their ten qualifying games. That included remaining undefeated against Sweden both home and away. They have also since beaten Portugal in a friendly match. Russia are renowned for their organised nature and quick attacks and pose as a real threat to England and Wales in this group.
The main threat comes from Zenit player Artem Dzyuba, who bagged 8 goals throughout the qualifying campaign and ended up fourth highest goalscorer. Valencia player Denis Cheryshev and CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Shirokov are also capable of being a nuisance and will need a close eye kept on them.
Climate may play a factor though on the Russian players. They are renowned to be very difficult to beat when they play at home but less of a threat away from Russian soil. Doesn’t bode well for a team of which over 90% is made up of players who play in the Russian domestic league. A hot summer and warm conditions may well see Russia suffer a meltdown. A milder one and Russia may very well pull off some shock results to progress to the last 16.
This should be the team on paper finishing bottom of the group. They have an aged rugged side, yet still have shown that they can turn over the big boys on their day. This was proven when they beat Spain in qualifying. Although they are not blessed with real quality all over the pitch, they do have certain players that can do damage.
Napoli captain Marek Hamsik is a very capable player, Dutch player Adam Nemec has shown he knows where the net is and winger Vladimir Weiss finished up as the player with most assists throughout the qualifying stages with six.
I’m predicting Slovakia to finish bottom of the group and failing to qualify, but if they don’t I would be saying that stranger things have happened. England are involved here after all!
England v Russia
Wales v Slovakia
Russia v Slovakia
England v Wales
Slovakia v England
Russia v Wales
Group final standing prediction
England – Best price = 1.10 with bet365
Russia – Best price = 1.40 with Stan James
Wales – Best price = 1.57 with Marathonbet
Slovakia – Best price = 2.30 with Marathonbet
The current World champions should have no real problems progressing though the group. The team is a well experienced one, with mature players most of which are at the peak of their careers. There are a few that some may say are over the hill but in general look well oiled and prepared for another major tournament.
Germany will be looking to pick up their fourth European Championship this time round. The last time they lifted the trophy was back in 1996. They have arguably the best goalkeeper in the world through Manuel Neuer, a sturdy defence with the likes of Hummels and Boateng, a strong midfield lineup (Ozil, Draxler, Schurrle, Reus, Kroos to name a few) and a precision firing strike-force in the options of Gotze, Podolski, Kruse and last but not least Muller.
Germany qualified in first place in their group but failed to beat the Republic of Ireland in both the home and away fixture and also lost away in Poland. This shows some vulnerability and will put confidence in the Polish players that they might be able to get something out of their group fixture together. That said I have every confidence that they will progress and be a significant contributor towards the success of this year’s tournament.
They are second favourites behind France in the outright market and can currently be seen at odds as far out as 4/1 with Coral.
Poland finished second behind Germany in qualifying and ended up with the highest scorer in Robert Lewandowski who finished up scoring 13 goals in the 10 qualifying games.
Poland qualified for the European championships for the first time in 2008. They also qualified in 2012 but both times were knocked out during the group stages. This year I fancy them to do better and at least make it through the round of 16. I again see them finishing second behind world champion’s Germany.
They have strong goalkeepers in Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny an experienced defender in Lukasz Pizcheck, a capable midfielder in Jakub Blaszczykowski and deadly finishers in Milik and Lewandowski.
Fancy Poland to win the tournament as an outside bet? you can currently get up to 50/1 with bet365 if you do.
The Ukraine have a team that is predominantly built around the defence with quick counter attacking ability to compliment it. No major names within the team that you can reel off the top of your tongue, yet can be a frustrating team and style of play to contend with.
During qualifying, In Ukraine’s 12 games (Ukraine had to qualify the hard way through the playoffs) They only conceded 5 goals and managed to keep 7 clean sheets. That is a pretty impressive defensive record, especially when Spain were in the same qualifying group.
Players worth a mention would be defender Vyacheslav Schevchuk and also Dynamo Kiev players Oleh Gusev and Andriy Yarmolenko. Yarmelenko finished qualifying with six goals to his name.
If Ukraine are to qualify here, I fear it would have to be through the highest performing third place finisher system rather than through finishing in the top half of the group.
Northern Ireland are featuring here in their first ever European Championships and have a major uphill task if they want to successfully get out of it through to the next round. They were blessed with somewhat of a ‘preferred’ qualifying group (consisted of Greece, Hungary, Finland, Faroe Islands, Romania and Northern Ireland). Nevertheless, they have qualified for the tournament and thus, have a fighting chance.
Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill is in a bit of a win, win situation here. Being placed in to such a tough group means that overall expectation of qualification is low and therefore may keep the pressure off the players a little more, leading them to better performances.
There’s a lot of experienced players in the squad, but not experienced tournament players. There possibly may be too much experience and not enough youth in some people’s eyes. The team are ranked as joint least favourites in the outright market alongside Albania at 500/1 with Paddy Power.
Germany v Ukraine
Poland v Northern Ireland
Germany v Poland
Ukraine v Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland v Germany
Ukraine v Poland
Group final standing prediction
Germany – Best price = 1.02 with bet365
Poland – Best price = 1.30 with Marathonbet
Ukraine – Best price = 1.44 with Marathonbet
Northern Ireland – Best price = 3.50 with Marathonbet
Spain are current defending Champions and again are amongst the favourites to lift the trophy again this year. They are renowned for their quick passing, inter-changing, possession football that breaks teams down slowly but surely. Well, that’s the idea anyway.
Opposing teams have clicked on to this and have now started to adapt towards this style of play making it less effective than it once maybe was. That said, Spain achieved a very successful qualifying campaign winning nine of the ten matches faced.
Spain have talent spread all over the pitch and across the bench. De Gea, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Fabregasc, Iniesta, the list goes on. We’ve all heard of them and have seen what they are capable of, which is why I am fancying them to top Group D.
Fancy Spain to successfully defend their title? get odds of up to 6/1 with Stan James
Turkey maybe one of the surprise teams to enter after a poor Netherlands team failed to qualify from the same qualifying group. They managed to beat the Netherlands 3-0 in their home leg and drew with them in the away fixture.
Group have three very close sides battling for qualification so it will be very interesting in my opinion to see which teams succeed and which teams fail. Turkey will be up for the challenge but I can’t see them making it through personally. Only three squad players play outside the Turkish league (one of which is Barcelona star Arda Turan), which to me shows a lack of diversity in their play, which may lead to them being overrun by more globally experienced teams.
In terms of odds on the outright markets, Turkey are in the realms of the likes of Wales, Iceland and Ukraine hovering around the 90/1 region. Best price is with 888Sport.
The Czech Republic finished first in their qualifying group and possess the Premier League’s Golden glove keeper, Petr Cech. The Czech Republic were renowned for their defensive prowess back in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s – a trait that has lowly burned itself away to oblivion. The Czech Republic conceded the most goals out of all the first place group qualifiers by some margin with a total of 14 goals let in within their 1o matches.
This weakness is something that will certainly need to be addressed if they are looking at achieving anything from this tournament. Another weakness is that they are lacking a prolific scoring striker. midfielder Borek Dockal ended up as the Czech’s top qualifying scorer with 4 goals.
With this in mind the Czech’s will be my pick on finishing bottom of group D. If you disagree and quite fancy them for the tournament you can get up to 125/1 on it with Paddy Power.
Croatia qualified behind Italy in their preliminary group and looked like an impressive unit. They only lost one game a drew 1-1 with Italy in both the home and away fixtures. They play some attractive football at times and have a well travelled unit.
Players worth keeping an eye on would be defender Vedran Corluka, midfielders Modric, Kovacic, Perisic and Rakitic and Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic.
Croatia are my pick for second place qualifiers behind Spain. They are quite well regarded and as such find themselves 8th favourite by the bookies for lifting the trophy. Bet365 are best priced currently at 33/1.
Turkey v Croatia
Spain v Czech Republic
Spain v Turkey
Czech Republic v Croatia
Czech Republic v Turkey
Croatia v Spain
Group final standing prediction
Spain – Best price = 1.03 with bet365
Croatia – Best price = 2.30 with Marathonbet
Turkey – Best price = 1.36 with Stan James
Czech Republic – Best price = 1.80 with Marathonbet
Belgium have proven to be a team full of individuals of late unable to create a harmonious relationship to result in consistent winning form. This was very much evident in their defeat to Wales during the qualifying campaign alongside previous recent tournament performances. They failed to qualify for the 2006 and 2010 World cups as well as failing to qualify for the last three consecutive European championships.
they have the potential to do very well, it’s just a case of whether the team can gel in time to pull off decisive results, especially in a relatively tough group.
Standout players have lacked form and fitness seen in those previous. The likes of Hazard and Benteke have suffered with poor performing domestic seasons and Vincent Kompany will miss the tournament due to a groin injury suffered against Real Madrid in Manchester City’s Champion’s League clash.
My prediction here is for Belgium to finish third in Group E and to leave it in the fate of others to determine whether or not they qualify. If you disagree and fancy them to win the tournament you can get 11/1 with Skybet and Bet365 on them doing so. Belgium are currently 5th favourites according to the bookies.
Republic of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland crashed out of the European Championships four years ago suffering four losses and unfortunately, I can see the same thing happening this year amidst such a competitive group. The Group four years ago also held similar caliber (Italy, Croatia and Spain) and The Republic of Ireland ended up conceding nine goals and scoring only one.
The other teams in the group will definitely see this fixture as the best opportunity of picking up three points and as such Ireland may receive more attacking pressure in their games than fixtures from the group that Ireland are not involved in.
In terms of experience, they don’t come much more experienced than Robbie Keane, who has just been announced in to the Ireland preliminary squad and has been assured some kind of role within the outfit even if he were to miss out on the final 23 man squad. Shane Long and Jon Walters will also headline in the attack.
This Ireland team definitely has a lack of youth element about i t and may fail to maintain the stamina of the other teams within the group. I’m hoping I’m wrong but as you may have guessed by now I’m predicting the Republic of Ireland to bottom the group.
Italy qualified through to Group E without losing a game and could be unleashing a new breed to the tournament. Experienced veterans such as Pirlo and Giovinco have been left out and seven new players get their chance as Conte calls them up for the first time.
This brings somewhat of a cloud of unknown hanging above the Italians, but I feel Conte has made the right decision. It was time for the Italians to go through a period of change and this way they will earn valuable tournament experience at the same time.
New players always want to impress and I can see this move propelling the Italians up to the top of the Group table come final standings. The strike-force of Borini, Immobile and Insigne is looking like a formidable one and all are capable of causing problems to the greatest of defences.
Italy are currently 6th favourites according to the bookmakers and can be chosen at odds as long as 18/1 with Coral.
Another team here that may well be regarded as a one man band through Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Sweden have a poor major tournament record in recent times, failing to qualify for the last two world cups and being knocked out in the group stages of the previous two European Championships. this should mean that the team will grab this opportunity by the scruff of the neck with the desire to ride it for as long as possible.
Although the mighty Zlatan is by far the standout player of the team, the team itself finds itself scattered all across Europe from a domestic perspective. No player is really excelling at a top European club, but certainly holding their own in the top Leagues throughout Europe.
Martin Olsson, Sebastian Larsson and Ola Toivonen all play in the Premier League as well as having players playing in Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia and Scotland.
I quite fancy Sweden to be the surprise package of the tournament and can very much see them finishing the group in second place behind the Italians.
There certainly are big odds on them going all the way to the final and winning it. They are currently out at 100/1 with betvictor on lifting the trophy.
Republic of Ireland v Sweden
Belgium v Italy
Italy v Sweden
Belgium v Republic of Ireland
Italy v Republic of Ireland
Sweden v Belgium
Group final standing prediction
Italy -Best price = 1.16 with bet365
Sweden – Best price = 1.67 with Marathonbet
Belgium – Best price = 1.10 with bet365
Republic of Ireland – Best price = 2.25 with Marathonbet
Portugal – the ultimate one man team with Ronaldo, some might say. Difficult to analyse reallya s their group was arguably the easiest to qualify from. The group consisted of Albania, Denmark, Serbia, Armenia and of course Portugal. Even with that group Portugal managed to lose one game to Albania 0-1.
Their defence was strong throughout though, only conceding five goals and would be an insult not to provide them with some sort of praise. They are not as one sided as it may first appear. The defence is made up of Bruno Alves, Carvalho, Pepe and Coentrao which is certainly nothing to be embarrassed about.
Luckily for Portugal they have been dealt another superb hand in my opinion by being placed in one of (if not the) easiest groups in the tournament. This should therefore see them breeze on through the group stages with no problems at all.
Portugal are seventh favourites at time of writing and can be selected at odds as far out as 22/1 with Coral.
Austria had a fantastic qualifying campaign, picking up 9 wins and a draw to top the group. Not bad considering that group also included Sweden and Russia. With those stats in mind it is hard to not see them qualifying from a group that includes Iceland and Hungary.
Will Christian fuchs see two miracles in one year? NO is my answer, but I can see them qualifying through to the last 16. Kevin wimmer, Marco Arnautovic, Marc Janko and David Alaba are all expected to make appearances and are players capable of working together and individually to get goals.
With that in mind my prediction is for Austria to finish second in the group behind Portugal. Surprisingly Austria are 9th favourites according to bookie on winning the trophy. 40/1 is the best price currently by bet365 if you do fancy them to go all the way.
This is Iceland’s first ever major Championship attendance, finishing second in their qualifying group behind the Czech Republic. They have shown they have the capacity to turn up and be a handful, but also to have a tendency to switch off at times as well.
During qualifying Iceland were capable of pulling off wins against The Netherlands (2-0), Turkey (3-0) and the Czech Republic at home, but then fail to show those winning ways away from their homeland. The lack of experience and poor away form leads me to believe that they will not be strong enough to finish in the top half of the group.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson have all been selected in the provisional squad and can quite easily create an upset on their day and will need special attention come the actual tournament.
Iceland are way down the pecking order in the outright winner odds rankings, as long as 125/1 with Coral.
Hungary’s journey to group F came through the playoffs after finishing third in their group behind Northern Ireland and Romania. They beat Noway in both legs to see their name stuck in to the tournament draw.
Hungary had the least wins throughout qualifying than any other country featuring in this year’s tournament with only four from the ten games they played. They also had the lowest goal difference of all qualifiers with just +2 managed.
the stats don’t stack well for the Hungarians and therefore my expectations of their success past the group stages isn’t great either. These will be my fourth place prediction come the end of the group stage.
If you fancy them as potential European Championship winners you can get best odds at 400/1 with Paddy Power. Only Northern Ireland and Albania currently have greater odds than that.
Austria v Hungary
Portugal v Iceland
Iceland v Hungary
Portugal v Austria
Iceland v Austria
Hungary v Portugal
Group final standing prediction
Portugal – Best price = 1.10 with bet365
Austria – Best price = 1.25 with Stan James
Iceland – Best price = 1.67 with Stan James
Hungary – Best price = 2.40 with Marathonbet
***PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ALL ODDS DISPLAYED WERE CORRECT AT TIME OF WRITING (17th May 2016) AND ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT ANY TIME***