England can win a major tournament for the first time outside England at Euro 2016 in France this summer. In 1992 and 2004 Denmark and Greece defied the odds and all logic to win the European soccer championships and Poland and Austria are the best equipped sides of the outsiders to do something similar. France have won the last two tournaments played in their own country but other nations are preferred this time.
The Euros have been expanded to include 24 teams which gives some of the minor nations an opportunity to play in a tournament. However, the 16 team format was just about perfect and the extra eight qualifiers means four teams will proceed to the knockout stages by finishing third in four of the six groups. Thirty six of the 51 matches will be required to eliminate 8 of the 24 teams. With every match being shown live on ITV or BBC at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm the tournament will be a bonanza for live betting. Indeed Euro 2016 could be the biggest sports betting event ever.
England are always expected to win the World Cup or Euros but never do. It’s 50 years since “they think it’s all over” and all that but England have not reached another final. Euro 1996 was there for the taking when football came home but we lost to the Germans in a penalty shootout, as at Italia 90 when Gazza cried and Nessun Dorma topped the singles chart. And don’t get me on Mexico 86 and the Hand of God. Given a shade more luck England could have won at least one more World Cup and Euros since 1966. Some say the 1970 squad was better than four years earlier but Gordon Banks got sick the night before England lost to West Germany.
The heart might be ruling the head but England look genuine contenders this time. Joe Hart is a solid keeper and the back four are not convincing but England’s strength lies further up the field. Dele Alli can do anything including playing in Harry Kane to score the goals to prove he is one of our own. Jamie Vardy might be a one season wonder but that is this season and England can feed on his story. When Euro 2012 was took place he had just joined Leicester from Fleetwood Town. Wayne Rooney is now the elder statesman but he could have a great tournament in him.
The combined price for France, Germany or Spain to win Euro 2016 is 4/6 which means its 11/10 for the rest of the field. We have England running for us in that bet and Austria and Poland who have the players and form to do a “Denmark” or “Greece”. Both squads have a solid unit which is important in tournaments over several weeks. Team spirit and unity can go a long way to overcoming better players. Leicester have just proved that by winning the Premier League which is the biggest upset in the history of professional team sports.
Austria have sneakily made their way up the FIFA world rankings. They qualified for the Euros by winning nine and drawing one of their 10 matches. Austria’s captain is Christian Fuchs who can bring some of the Leicester spirit to the squad. In David Alaba they have a world class talent proven at a high level with Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga. All but the first choice goalkeeper play in major leagues around Europe and he is the only regular squad member who plays in the Austrian league.
Poland are not a one man team but Robert Lewandowski is a brilliant player. They also have a good spine with players who are proven in Germany and other leagues in Europe. Lewandowski is the complete striker who has silenced critics who questioned his commitment to the national team. The question mark is whether the bit-part players are good enough to contribute in a positive way. The draw has been kind to Poland but champions must eventually beat all-comers.
England could be those champions at Euro 2016 and Harry Kane the leading scorer. The squad has a good blend of carefree youth and experience with most members not tainted by past disappointments. The golden generation were ultimately not that golden and underperformed. The World Cup in Brazil was a debacle so England owe the country something special this summer. Alf Ramsey was knighted after winning the World Cup so it could be a case of arise Sir Roy!