Take France, skip host England

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This summer’s UEFA European Championship — called Euro 2020 because it was delayed from last summer — looks like a very tough puzzle to solve if you are just looking at the odds. Amazingly, the top seven nations in the betting lists are all quoted in single figures with some bookies.

Many will be delving into the draws and qualifying routes of leading nations and looking at recent records and results, but the value for me is obvious.

World Cup holders France stand out as the team to beat at 4/1 (BetMGM).

The draw hasn’t been kind for the French. None of their matches will be held in their homeland due to coronavirus restrictions. Group F is the toughest group of the draw, and France starts the tournament with arguably the most difficult matchup — against the Germans in Munich. However, all that is certainly factored into France’s price and why they have been handed quotes of 4/1 as opposed to +250 if they were in another group. Still, the French look certain of making it into the knockout stages.

The French have the best squad in the tournament without question, and their reserve squad is good enough to beat most in the tournament. If there are any injuries or suspensions to key players, they have superb replacements with huge international experience in every position.

The French are always noted for their attacking flair — Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappé and Antonie Griezmann form a frightening front three — but they are equally as strong in defense; in midfield they have a great engine room with Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante doing all the hard work.

The French know how to get results in tournament football as they proved at the World Cup in 2018 in Russia with the best defense in the tournament.

My second team that looks like it has a touch of futures value is Spain at 8/1.

Unlike the French, the Spanish have been given a great grouping with Poland, Sweden and Slovakia in Group E. They also play all their group matches at home in the soaring heat of Seville, which is a huge advantage for Luis Enrique’s side.

Enrique shocked everyone by naming a squad that didn’t feature a single Real Madrid player and made the brave decision of omitting captain Sergio Ramos, instead deciding to go with youth. I think that was right call.

Ferran Torres
Spain’s Ferran Torres
EPA

The household names may have left for Spain, but they still have quality all over the pitch and I’m expecting a big tournament from Manchester City’s Ferran Torres and Villareal’s in-from striker Gerard Moreno.

Spain didn’t lose in qualification in 10 games and only conceded five goals, and they continued that form at the Nations League when they topped the group featuring Germany and beat the Germans 6-0.

Among other teams in the tournament, I tipped Denmark months back as a lively outsider at 80/1, but today they are down to 25/1; although I think they will perform well, they are of no value at the current prices.

Finally, I have to hit on my home nation England, the joint favorite to win Euros and end a 55-year drought without a major tournament title. Can they win it? Of course they can. Is there value at 11/2? No, certainly not.

England manager Gareth Southgate has assembled a young and exciting squad. Going forward they are electrifying, but defensively they are vulnerable. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is a big concern for me.

The Three Lions have the big advantage of playing all their group matches at Wembley, and providing they win Group D, they will stay at home for the last 16, semifinal and final.

With the abundance of talent in offensive positions, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Southgate fits them into a system that works, something that other past England managers have tried and failed to do.

England matches will be very entertaining, and I expect goals, but those defensive frailties could be their undoing when they meet the bigger nations in the latter stages. This is England’s best chance of winning a major tournament in many years, and as the tournament progresses, confidence will build in this young squad. They will go deep, but I don’t think football will be coming home this summer.

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