EURO 2016 isn’t quite upon us just yet, but the markets are already in full swing. We look at Group B, spearheaded by England, and weigh in on Group Soccer Betting markets complete with predictions.
Group B Preview
England lead the charge in Group B according to EURO 2016 Group Betting Outrights, installed as the -120 favorites to win and the runaway -500 favorites to finish in the Top 2. Indeed, expectations are high for the Three Lions, augmented by an impressive qualifying campaign that saw them win each and every qualifying fixture.
In the broad spectrum of the competition, however, expectations are tapered and few really expect the Three Lions to lift the coveted Henri Delaunay Cup.. England are the only European nation to have won the World Cup but failed to win the European Championship. What's more, their best result came in the previous century, semi-final appearances in 1968 and 1996.
To be fair, England's draw is anything but straightforward with two former champions contained within the mix: Russia, inaugural winners of UEFA European Championship under the Soviet Union in 1960, and Slovakia, central to the Czechoslovakia side that won in 1976. Russia's resume in the competition also includes runner-up finishes in 1964, 1972 and 1988.
Finally, Wales, making their first-ever European Championship, have high hopes in the competition largely down to Gareth Bale and a crop of young players that have propelled the Principality into the international stage for the first time since making an appearance at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. They might not have the pedigree but they don't lack the ambition, which makes the Dreigiau (Dragons) quintessential dangerous floaters of the competition.
Consider the quality of all these nations, it's really no surprise that Group B stacks up tightly with each and every nation figuring on realistic soccer odds to advance into the knockouts. It wouldn't be remarkable to suggest an upset could occur in this section either.
Table 1: Group B Betting Odds at Pinnacle Sports
Must Read: Group A Betting Preview and Predictions
England Favoured to Win Group B, but only just at -120
England enter the EURO 2016 as one of the contenders to win it all, with the best current price of +900 available at Pinnacle Sports, 888sport and Ladbrokes, amongst several others. They are a good distance away from the top three tandem in the exchange that includes hosts France (+275), defending World Cup champions Germany (+300) and two-time defending European champions Spain (+500), but there are many soccer fans excited about the Three Lions and their prospects in France this summer.
Roy Hodgson appears to have assembled one of the best-looking instalments of the national squad in recent memory that's revelling in its new role as goal scorers. They capped off a stellar 10-0-0 EURO 2016 qualifying campaign with 31 goals – the most of the entire field, spanning all groups.
A lot about their qualifying campaign had to do with a relatively easy draw in Group E, which included Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino. Aside from the first two nations in the aforementioned list, the rest are hardly renowned footballing nations on the European stage, and, as such, it's important not to get carried away with England's chances in the tournament. Not to be churlish, but the last few campaigns under Roy Hodgson were minor disasters – a forgettable EURO 2012 and, equally so, World Cup 2014.
To put it simply, England will be hard pressed to run away with the coveted trophy. We'd go so far as to suggest that winning Group B isn't going to be a straightforward ask either. It's not an easy group England falls into by any stretch of the imagination with a Gareth Bale-inspired Wales and Eastern Block hopefuls Russia and Slovakia both thrown into the mix,
Russia, Wales and Slovakia all Dangerous Floaters
Russia, second Faves at +225 to win Group B, and Wales, third favourites at +500 to win Group B, pose a serious threat to England's so-called favorable status in the group as the team to beat. One could go so far as to suggest that, even, Slovakia, at their large +900 soccer odds to win Group B, are also credible threats.
Russia went 6-2-2 in qualifying and finished second in Group G behind Austria but ahead of Sweden. Wales finished second in Group B with a 6-3-1 record in qualifying, behind Belgium and ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Slovakia finished second in Group C with a 7-1-2 record behind Spain and ahead of Ukraine. Indeed, Slovakia's notable scalps during qualifying include a 2-1 win over two-time defending Euro champions Spain and an undefeated mark with Ukraine (an away win and home draw).
The opening round for Group B is going to be pivotal towards the outcome of group play and it wouldn't surprise us one bit if there were an upset to be had in this section, in one or both openers to boot. Consider if the unthinkable happens and Russia upsets England in their opener and, at the same time, Slovakia upsets Wales, the whole section goes tits up and the importance of round 2 will go up tenfold when England face off against neighboring Wales and Slovakia and Russia lock horns.
Quite rightly, this is one of the toughest groups to predict especially in the here and now, two months ahead of the tournament getting underway. The way it stacks up already suggests it could come down to the wire between these four nations. In the spirit of making early predictions, however, we're going to hang our hat on a couple of early soccer picks, but don't go betting the farm on these.
Group B Predictions: England and Slovakia to advance