WITH attention quickly turning towards Euro 2016, The Football Lab’s Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) gave WeLoveBetting readers five key points to follow in France.
A Warning For The World Cup Winners
Germany are already the champions of the world, so surely becoming champions of Europe will be a breeze for them, right? Wrong – here’s why:
Since winning the World Cup, Die Mannschaft have kept only four clean sheets in 17 games, two of those coming against Gibraltar.
Key cogs in their defensive armour are injury-prone, this theme noticeable in the middle of the park, Sami Khedira, Ilkay Gundogan and captain Bastien Schweinsteiger all struggling of late. Should two of those players suffer from fitness problems, one might question where the balance will come from.
Toni Kroos has passing ability but is often criticised for a lack of defensive diligence and if Mesut Ozil plays in the hole, the team cannot afford many more luxury players.
The Germans have been praised for their attacking options but The Football Lab is unconvinced. Mario Gotze has arguably gotten worse since his move to Bayern Munich in 2013, in which time namesake Gomez has had a mixed club career, proving himself only in Turkey.
All three of their attacking midfielders move into central areas while full-backs Matthias Ginter and Jonas Hector are not notably quick, meaning a lack of width is likely.
Germany have lost to England, France and the Republic of Ireland in the last eight months, only beating Georgia 2-1 after a late winner. They should get through Group C and favourable prospective knockout fixtures dissuade this blog from tipping an early exit.
For that reason, predicting an unexpectedly modest progression to the last-16 is the way to go. Only a third of the teams who qualify for the competition’s knockout round pick up more than six points, so William Hill’s 11/8 on Joachim Low’s side to accumulate Under 6.5 Points in Group C looks tasty.
That bet will come off if they lose a single game, or draw two.
Polish For Perfection
Like a stat? Poland scored an incredible 33 goals in 10 qualifying matches – in the last two decades, only Germany, Holland and Spain can say they have averaged more goals-per-game in a Euros lead-up campaign.
Biale Orly have the world’s best striker in Robert Lewandowski, a generous 16/1 with Bet365 to win the competitions’ Top Goalscorer award. The Bayern number nine has netted 48 times in 10 months and scored more goals (30) than starts (29) in the Bundesliga last term.
The 27-year-old is ably supported by Arkadiusz Milik, who recently equalled Luis Suarez’s record for scoring in six straight league games for Ajax, netting 43 goals for club and country in two years. For a more daring punter, 22-year-old Milik is 100/1 (Paddy Power) to top the scoring charts.
Manager Adam Nawalka has helped his formidable front men by creating an attacking setup, young midfielder Bartosz Kapustka enjoying the freedom to push forward. Nawalka has also improved the atmosphere within the camp, ending long-held criticisms of a lack of spirit and togetherness at major tournaments.
Top spot would hand the now unified Poles a favourable last-16 tie against a third-place team in Group A, B or F, while second-place may pair them with Switzerland or Romania. The likely avoidance of a giant in the last-16 entices me to the 21/10 (SkyBet) on Poland to reach the quarter-finals.
Awesome Austria To Top Group F
Austria are showing a new-found ability to remain focused and close games out, led by influential captain Christian Fuchs, a Premier League champion.
Fuchs’ Leicester City have proved the importance of quick transitional play and similarly, only two teams averaged fewer passes before taking a shot than Austria in qualifying.
Their swift attacks could prove fruitful against aging defences in Group F, Marcel Koller’s side possessing quick wingers on both flanks in Martin Harnik and Marko Arnautovic. The duo will create chances for talismanic aerial specialist Marc Janko, who has been in excellent goalscoring form for Basel.
At the other end, Unsere Bursche’ benefit from the performances of centre-back Aleksandar Dragovic, the Dynamo Kyiv man key to organization.
By contrast, Portugal’s centre-backs are a rash Pepe and a 37-year-old Ricardo Carvalho. Their only attacking threat comes from Cristiano Ronaldo, who has recently suffered from injury and could not carry his side at the previous World Cup.
Iceland have a good defence but little attacking depth while Hungary’s squad resembles Premier League match-attax cards from 10 years ago.
Austria are 9/4 with BetVictoro win this group – sounds generous.
Belgian Ready To Make Their Breakthrough
Nine of the 13 European Championship tournaments have been won by either the host nation, or a country that borders the hosts. Ok, Andorra haven’t qualified this year, but there may be value in getting Belgium onside.
De Rode Duivels squad had their first taste of a major tournament at the World Cup in 2014 and with frightening strength in depth, they are hungry for more.
Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois might have had poor seasons at Chelsea, but the former previously won Player of the Year while the latter has kept 74 league clean sheets in four seasons.
Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld should help Courtois keep more shutouts this summer, the composed duo having formed a strong centre-back partnership at White Hart Lane.
Midfield enforcer Radja Nainggolan has earned rave reviews for his battling performances at Roma, while Kevin De Bruyne wowed Man City fans with his flair and dribbling ability.
Up front, manager Marc Wilmots could turn to the fourth top scorer in either the Premier League or Ligue 1, Romelu Lukaku or Michy Batshuayi, both of whom provide pace and power.
The 47-year-old has options, allowing him to change games that are not going Belgium’s way. Winger Dries Mertens – whom Diego Maradona called his favourite Napoli player – has proved himself to be an efficient super-sub, while Marouane Fellaini and Christian Benteke can threaten in a long ball system.
Despite makeshift options at full-back, The Football Lab believes that Belgium have a better squad than Spain and England. They could reap the geographical benefits of playing in France, without the added media pressure of being the host nation.
Euro 2016 – Germany to pick up Under 6.5 Points in Group C (11/8 William Hill)
Euro 2016 – Poland to reach the quarter-finals (21/10 SkyBet)
Euro 2016 – Robert Lewandowski to be Top Goalscorer (16/1 Bet365)
Euro 2016 – Austria to win Group F (9/4 BetVictor)
Euro 2016 – Belgium to reach the semi-finals (5/2 SkyBet)