Euro 2020: Is There Value In Backing Teams With Longer Odds?
Few football tournaments have had as complicated a history as Euro 2020, given the manner in which UEFA’s flagship international competition has been moved from pillar to post ahead of it getting underway. Indeed, at the time of writing we can’t even be certain that it is going to go ahead in the manner intended by the governing body for football in Europe, such is the extent to which circumstances are beyond UEFA’s control.
From a betting point of view, what has happened to the Euros means that there is potentially some room for manoeuvre for punters hoping to get one over on their bookmaking adversaries. The state of play of football heading into the summer of 2021 is very different to what it might have been in the summer of last year, so there could well be some value in looking to back a team with longer odds than the favourites.
Even without the one year delay the tournament was set to be very different anyway, instead of being played in one host country it will be held across 11 cities in a pan-European format. This format has not been tried before and that in itself adds in some new variation that bookies may not be able to factor into their odds very easily.
It Was Already Going To Be Unique
We all know about the global crisis that resulted in the European Championship being delayed from taking place in 2020 and shifting to 2021, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this summer’s Euros were destined to be unique even before the shifting of dates. Typically, the European Championship takes place in one country, or the honour is shared by two neighbouring nations at the most.
Yet Michel Platini, the then-president of UEFA, mused during a press conference in 2012 that the 60th anniversary of the tournament should be celebrated in a unique manner, with matches held across the continent. Numerous European cities would be selected as hosts, copying a format that had already been used for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship’s Elite Round. No one host would mean no automatic qualifier too.
Regardless of what would later happen to mean that the tournament had to be delayed by a year, Euro 2020 was always destined to be a version of the competition like no other. Presuming, as we currently are, that it will take place in the manner originally intended, even if not at the original time, there is plenty to suggest that countries may suffer from having to travel around Europe rather than being based in one place.
Here’s a look at the venues and countries that will see matches played in them during the tournament:
- Wembley Stadium – London, England
- Olympic Stadium – Baku, Azerbaijan
- La Cartuja – Seville, Spain
- Stadio Olimpico – Rome, Italy
- Krestovsky Stadium – Saint Petersburg, Russia
- Arena Națională – Bucharest, România
- Johan Cruyff Arena – Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Hampden Park – Glasgow, Scotland
- Allianz Arena – Munich, Germany
- Puskás Aréna – Budapest, Hungary
- Parken Stadium – Copenhagen, Denmark
Each of the cities will host three Group Stage matches, as well as one match of the Round of 16 or the Quarter-Finals. The only exceptions to this are Saint Petersburg, which will host six Group Stage matches, and London, which will play host to two of the Round of 16 games. Whichever way you cut it, it looks likely that teams will be flying around Europe to play a number of their games during the competition.
Teams That Will Have Home Advantage
The nature of the tournament means that some teams will have home advantage for certain matches. At this stage of proceedings, we can’t say for certain what exactly that will entail, given that we don’t know how many, if any, supporters will be allowed to attend the matches. Even so, the following teams will play at least one of their Group Stage matches in the stadium that is located in their own country:
The Quarter-Finals will then be held in Munich, Saint Petersburg, Rome and Baku, before the Semi-Finals and the Final will all be hosted by Wembley. In other words, if England make it as far as the Semi-Final stage of the competition then they’ll have played at least four matches in front of a home crowd. There is also the chance that they could place their Round of 16 match at Wembley, should they win their group.
In terms of the teams that are more likely to be considered as underdogs for the tournament, you’d put the likes of Denmark, Russia, Scotland and Hungary into that group, possibly with Italy in there too. Given they’ll all play matches in their home stadiums, does this put them at an advantage over teams like Portugal, France, Finland and Switzerland, who are also underdogs but won’t play in their home stadiums?
Why Long Odds Bets Might Be Worth Considering
Euro 2020 will be no other tournament we’ve seen at the top level of the International game. Whether it be limited numbers of fans in grounds, travelling around Europe to play games or simply the truncated nature of the season that is preceding it making fitness a major issue, teams will struggle for any sense of consistency during the competition. The result of this is that nations with longer odds might just be worthy of your consideration.
At the time of writing, the Premier League is still underway with as many as five matches left for most sides. Whilst many of the players in the division are British, there are plenty from other countries around Europe such as Spain and Germany. All teams in Spain have three games left to play, whilst the German league will have reached its conclusion in 11 days time and both of the Champions League finalists are English teams.
To put it another way, players plying their trade in the Premier League will have a much shorter break before heading off to join up with their national teams to prepare for Euro 2020 than teams playing in Spain, Germany, France and other European countries. This could be costly for England and for nations that have players who ply their trade in the English top-flight, such as Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne, Scotland’s Andy Robertson or France’s Paul Pogba.
At the time of writing, Portugal are 10/1 to win Euro 2020. That’s not exactly outrageously long odds, but it is nearly double what you’d be able to get for a bet on the joint-favourites of England and France, who are both available at odds of 5/1. If you don’t want to go as outrageous as the 500/1 available for Finland to win the competition then 10/1 is a decent price for a country that has plenty going for it heading into the tournament.
Had the competition taken place in the summer of 2020 as originally planned, many of the things that point towards Portugal being in a position to enjoy some success wouldn’t have been in place. As an example, Diogo Jota had had a perfectly reasonable season for Wolverhampton Wanderers put has since turned into a goal-getting machine for defending Premier League champions Liverpool.
Equally, Cristiano Ronaldo had just won Serie A with Juventus as well as the Supercoppa Italiana with the Italian club. Whilst he will play in the Coppa Italia with his club, they did not retain the title. The stalwart of Portuguese football is now 36 and approaching the end of his career, meaning that this is likely to be the last time he plays in the Euros. Could he enjoy one last hurrah and help his country defend its European Championship title?
If 10/1 isn’t interesting enough to get a bite from you then perhaps you might want to consider the 80/1 outsiders that are Sweden. The Swedes have never won a national football tournament, with their most impressive achievements to date coming in the 1948 Summer Olympics, when they won the gold medal, and a second-place finish in the World Cup in 1958, when they were the hosts.
In the European Championship, Sweden’s best performance came in 1992 when they reached the Semi-Final stage. Again, they were the host nation during this competition, suggesting that they are able to up their game when playing in front of a friendly crowd. Though Sweden isn’t hosting any of the matches this summer, it might well play into their hands that crowds will be, at best, severely depleted.
Heading into the tournament last summer, Sweden were not playing well and had lost most of their UEFA Nations League matches during the year. This time around, however, they are playing well and will fancy their chances of making it out of a group that also contains Spain, Slovakia and Poland. Pull that off and who knows where the tournament might take them, especially if some of the better teams under perform.
The last outsiders worth considering are Wales, who are available for as long as 200/1. Heading into the tournament, the country’s manager, Ryan Giggs, is once again in the newspapers for all of the wrong reasons after being charged with assaulting two women. Though the Wales manager claims his innocence, it is certainly far from ideal preparations for a small country that will consider itself lucky to be at the finals at all.
The Welsh team has struggled in national competitions since the Home Championship was ended, but they will be reasonably confident heading into this tournament in spite of the accusations faced by the manager. They won Group 4 of the UEFA Nations League B, not losing any games during the run. This meant that they actually finished top of the 16 teams in League B, which included the likes of fellow Euro sides Scotland, Turkey and Slovakia.
Add to that the fact that Gareth Bale, the country’s main hope, has hit some decent form playing with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League this season and you can see why there is a sense of quiet confidence from within the camp. There’s a reason they’re available at such long odds, of course, but if this is to be the summer when something unexpected happens then why couldn’t the Welsh be part of that conversation?
Favourites That Might Underperform
The other reason why it might be worth considering a bet on one of the outsiders for the tournament is that some of the bigger teams might well struggle to reach the heights that would be expected of them. There are differing reasons why that is the case, but the likes of England and Germany are unlikely to perform as impressively as might be expected of them, as we’ll explain in more detail here.
Let’s face it, Gareth Southgate is a rubbish manager. England’s performance at the World Cup in 2016 led many to act as if he was the reincarnation of Alf Ramsey when in reality they did little more than should have been expected of a team made up of the players he had available to him. They contrived to come third in a group with Tunisia and Panama in it, losing to the only decent team it contained in the form of Belgium.
They then needed penalties to beat Colombia and lost to Croatia after extra-time when the stage looked set for them to reach the final of the tournament. Though there’s no question that they breezed through their qualifying for the Euros, it’s not as if they came up against any difficult teams as they sought to do so. Southgate then confirmed his ineptitude when he chose to drop Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold from his squad for World Cup qualifiers.
Whilst it’s unlikely that England will fail at the Group Stage, it is worth noting that both Croatia and the Czech Republic have got the better of them in recent years and old enemy Scotland would enjoy nothing more than a win against them. Many of the England players will be coming off the back of the aforementioned long Premier League season, so a decent performance from the Three Lions is far from guaranteed, even if they can play most of their games at Wembley.
There is a difference between underperforming in general and underperforming by your own high standards, with the latter being what we’d expect to see from Germany this summer. The country was the best-rated team in history according the Elo ratings at the end of 2014, having won the World Cup for the fourth time that summer. They’ve also won the European Championship three times, so they’re no slouches in this competition.
Germany were in high spirits heading into the 2018 World Cup, having won all of their qualifying matches as well as the Confederations Cup the year before. They failed to make it out of the Group Stage of the tournament proper, however, which was the first time they’d failed to make it out of the group since that format was introduced in 1950. Their struggles continued into the Nations League, meaning they’re not in good form as the Euros approach.
In March of 2021, it was confirmed by the German football federation that Joachim Löw would step down as manager in the wake of the European Championship. That announcement came on the back of a 2-1 home loss to North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying match, which was their first such defeat since 2002. Whichever way you look at it, there will be a lack of confidence in the German camp as the tournament rolls around.
With Germany due to host the Euros in 2024, when it returns to a single-host country format, they will perhaps have their eyes set further into the future.