The 15th European Championships are staged in France this summer and the Euro 2016 dates are June 10th to the final in Paris on July 10th. The deciding match of the tournament will be played at Stade de France which was involved in the terrorist attacks last November so that will be a poignant occasion. Fifty three members of UEFA embarked on qualifying with the aim of securing one of the 23 qualifying places and joining France who were exempt as hosts of the tournament. The finals have been expanded to include 24 teams rather than the 16 that have been involved since the tournament was last expanded to 16 qualifiers for Euro 96 in England. It is debatable whether a 24 team format Euro 2016 Championship will be a good development. Four third placed teams from the six groups will progress to the knockout stages. Thirty-six of the 51 matches will be required to eliminate just 8 of the 24 qualifiers. All these fixtures will be on the Euro 2016 TV schedule.
The final of Euro 2016 will pit France against Portugal at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday. The hosts overcame World champions Germany 2-0 thanks to two goals from Antoine Griezmann. That game was a real test of France's credentials in this tournament and they were able to withstand the substantial pressure they were placed under and still managed to come out on top. They have long been considered as one of the favourites for the tournament and having dispatched one of the others in Germany, they will head to Paris as the red hot favourites.
Portugal stand in France's way of a third tournament triumph on home soil and the Portuguese have certainly surprised a few people to have made it this far. They finished third in their group having drawn each of their three games with Iceland, Austria and Hungary. They required extra-time to get past Croatia and penalties to see off Poland, meaning that they had not even won a game in 90 minutes prior to their semi-final with Wales. However they ran out 2-0 victors over the heroic Welsh side and will now contest their first major tournament final on foreign soil.
Antoine Griezmann's two goals against Germany saw him move on to six goals for the tournament, double the amount of any other player. Barring something spectacular in the final, that tally should be enough to see him win the tournament's golden boot and he is also the red-hot favourite to be crowned the player of the tournament. Perhaps the greatest threat to him for that title is Portugal's talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star has three goals in the tournament thus far and though he has flattered to deceive at times, an inspirational performance in the final could yet see him crowned Euro 2016's best player.
Euro 2016 could be the biggest event ever in sports betting. The outright market is the most popular but just one of many ways of betting on the tournament. Live betting will be huge with all matches on terrestrial television and at punter friendly times. The range of betting markets is massive and here is a selection of some of the most popular:
Euro 2016 betting odds pre-tournament markets include:
Bookmakers will offer many in-play markets for each match. Live betting on mobile devices will be massive during the Euros so online bookmakers will be updating an extensive range of markets as each match develops. With three home nations and Northern Ireland qualifying there will be a match involving one of these teams on most days in the group stages.
In 1992 Denmark won the Euros as big outsiders and in 2004 Greece were not seen as potential winners when champions of Europe. There are precedents for shocks and Austria could be the side to upset the more fancied teams and win Euro 2016 at 40/1 with Skybet. Since 1993 Austria’s average FIFA ranking is 53 and they are now at 11 having peaked at 10th place in 2015.
It might be a case of the heart ruling the head but England have the potential to win the European Championships for the first time and their first tournament outside England. The more fancied teams have a number of negatives and there is no obvious favourites. One team is not dominating like Spain did from 2006 to 2012 and that scenario lends itself to an upset that could be provided by England or Austria.
England are almost one fifth Austria’s price at 9/1 with William Hill and that is not based on the usual patriotic money but an accurate assessment of their chances of winning Euro 2016. Roy Hodgson has been set a target of the last eight to keep his job but the draw and structure must make that a minimum requirement and England should have more ambition. This could be the year that football comes home!
Granted England had an easy qualifying group and with 24 teams making the finals it would have been hard not to qualify. The toughest assignment was the first match in the campaign, away to Switzerland which England won and then recorded another nine victories. The debacle of the last World Cup has not been totally forgotten but England are now playing decent football.
This season might be freakish in terms of the Premier League but England can benefit from the best two teams being Leicester City and Tottenham. Jamie Vardy might be a one-season wonder but this is that season and he can take his confidence and fearless approach into the Euros with England. Mauricio Pochettino has built his Spurs side around young English talent and England can profit by taking Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker to France.
Joe Hart is solid in goal and Chris Smalling is emerging as one of the best defenders in the division. John Stones has the potential to partner Smalling in the middle of defence for England for the next two Euros and World Cups. There are options all over the field including solid operators like James Milner and wildcards like Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling. Hodgson must be brave and positive and given the right mindset and motivation the current England team could win Euro 2016.
On official FIFA rankings Austria should be shorter in the betting but the more fancied teams have skewered the market. Spain have won the last two Euros, France are playing at home and Germany are the world champions. Their odds are more about reputation than performance and interestingly England have beaten two of the three (not Spain) in the last six months. The win over France came a few days after the Paris terrorist attacks so the value of the form is questionable but England beat Germany away earlier this year in a proper fixture.
Austria won their qualifying group for Euro 2016 with nine wins and one draw in 10 matches, scoring 22 goals and conceding five. The group included three relatively weak teams but Austria also finished ahead of Russia and Sweden. The latter qualified via the play- offs and in Zlatan Ibrahimovic have one of the best strikers in Europe. Austria beat Sweden 4-1 away during the qualifying campaign and that represents outstanding form.
The current Austrian squad is predominantly made up of players from the German Bundesliga and only the first choice goalkeeper Robert Almer plays in the Austrian league. The squad includes David Alaba, a regular for Bayern Munich who has won 44 caps and is just 23 years of age. The captain is Christian Fuchs who should take some confidence from his domestic season with Leicester into the tournament. Overall the squad does not contain many household names but could gell and develop in France and progress deep into the Euros this year.
Aside from the outright winner market, the tournament's top scorer is another of the most popular. With a host of the game's finest players strutting their stuff for their respective nations, who is going to be amongst the goals? This market is often dominated by the big names playing for the teams that are expected to perform well but the top goalscorers in international tournaments can also come from the left field somewhat, as demonstrated by James Rodriguez winning the 2014 World Cup golden boot.
The favourite at present is Germany's Thomas Muller and given the fact the World Champions are sure to give a good account of themselves, you would expect the Bayern Munich man to be amongst the goals. Despite not even being an out and out striker, he already has 10 World Cup goals to his name and averages nearly a goal every other name for his country.
Cristiano Ronaldo has enjoyed yet another stunning season with Real Madrid but lead Portugal to the latter stages of the competition? It's arguably the last contest where he'll be in his prime, so wouldn't it be fitting for the former Manchester United man to cement his legacy in the international arena?
After that pair the market opens up with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane all amongst the frontrunners. If you're thinking of putting a couple of quid on an outsider, why not consider Jamie Vardy? After his remarkable campaign with Leicester, it really would be fairytale stuff if he were to enjoy a successful summer with England. Other good long-shots include Spain's veteran striker Aritz Aduriz and Russia's Artem Dzyuba, who scored eight time in qualifying.
Ten stadiums in nine cities will host the matches on the Euro 2016 schedule and here are details for each venue:
|Stade de France||Paris||81,338||7|
|Parc de Princes||Paris||48,712||5|
|Stade de Lyon||Lyon||59,186||6|
|Stade Pierre Mauroy||Lille||50,186||6|
|Stade de Bordeaux||Bordeaux||42,115||5|
|Stade de Nice||Nice||35,624||4|
|Stadium de Toulouse||Toulouse||33,150||4|
Four of the stadiums have been built for specific use during the tournament and several others have seen major renovation work. France proved during the World Cup in 1998 that they have the infrastructure and organisational skills to host a major multi-team soccer tournament. However, things have changed over the last 18 years and safety and the security of fans and players will be a massive undertaking.
In addition to the final the opening match between France and Romania will take place at Stade de France. The host nations other group games are being played in Marseille and Lille. It is traditional for the host nation to play all their matches at one stadium which is usually in the capital city but things are being done differently this time. No team will play more than one group match at Stade de France.
Stadia and group fixtures are set in stone before the draw for the finals is made. That would explain that the match between England and Wales for which tickets are in huge demand is being played at the Lens stadium that has a capacity of just over 38,000. Stade de France has a capacity of more than double that number and although the Euro 2016 opening game will be sold out subsequent fixtures involving Ireland and Sweden, Germany and Poland and Iceland and Austria may be played in front of empty seats.
The group qualifying stages for Euro 2016 finished last October and there were some shocks with regards the teams that qualified automatically for the finals. Holland, who reached the semi-finals at the 2014 World Cup, finished fourth in their group and Iceland and Czech Republic made the finals by right. Turkey earned their place in France as the best third placed team from the nine groups.
Wales finished second behind Belgium to qualify for a major football tournament for the first time since 1958. The expansion of the tournament helped but even with just 16 nations making the finals Wales could still have qualified. England, Northern Ireland and the Republic play this time and only Scotland of the home nations missed out. England were the only team not to drop any points and won all ten matches in a perfect qualifying campaign and finished ahead of Switzerland. Northern Ireland won their group and are joined by Romania at the finals after they finished second.
The usual suspects like Germany, Spain and Italy earned their place in France. Poland and Austria were impressive during qualifying and have the players and organisation to make an impact in France. Russia, Croatia and Portugal qualified and can progress well into the tournament but Slovakia and Albania will be happy to not lose all three group matches. Ukraine, the Republic of Ireland, Hungary and Sweden qualified through the playoffs.