UEFA Euro 2020 betting guide: Best bets, futures and props
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One day shy of one year after the tournament was originally scheduled to begin, Euro 2020 kicks off in Rome on Friday, with Turkey facing Italy in Group A.
Before making a few picks, a reminder of the format, which drastically affects odds to advance and team strategy throughout the group stage.
The 24 teams are divided into six groups, and after round-robin play the top two teams in each group advance, plus the four best third-place teams based on points (then goal difference and goals scored). So two-thirds of the participants will reach the knockout stage.
In previous tournaments with this format, such as Euro 2016, over 90% of teams advanced after getting exactly four points in the group stage. About half of teams with three points advanced, and a better goal difference of course improved those chances.
There's a reason for laying out all these regulations and numbers: Conservative play abounds in this format, because goal difference matters, and three or four points can get a team through. Just ask defending champion Portugal, which advanced four years ago after drawing all three group games. That included a wild 3-3 group finale versus Hungary in a game that shut down in the final 25 minutes when both teams realized a point would send them through.
Even with that six-goal match, the Euro 2016 group stage averaged 1.9 total goals per game, down from 2.6 goals per game over the previous four tournaments, which had only two teams advance from each four-team group.
Between strategy and the congested schedules most of the players have had over the past year, I expect the low-scoring nature of group play to continue this year. The lines reflect this, with several default over/unders set at 1.5 goals, which is rarely seen in league play.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
First set of group games
Switzerland win vs. Wales (+120) on SundayWales was a great story at Euro 2016, riding hot finishing to a first semifinal appearance. But goals are always a problem for Wales, which scored only 10 in eight qualifiers, with multiple goals in one of the eight games. The veteran Swiss have more firepower with Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri running the midfield and Haris Seferovic coming off a 22-goal season with Benfica.
Croatia in the final (4-2) and Argentina in the round of 16 (4-3), but France found its form slowly in the tournament, with four total goals in the group stage. Germany never found its form at all, going out in the group stage for the first time. With Germany's relative struggles and France easing into the tournament again, both teams will look to keep this one tight and stay alive in a tough group.
Turkey over 3.5 goals (-150)
Striker Burak Yilmaz is 35, but he's coming off a 16-goal Ligue 1 season for Lille, and he has 29 goals in 67 caps for Turkey, including five goals in his last four games. (If you want to get crazy, take Yilmaz to win the Golden Boot at +5000.) Turkey is in a defensive-minded Group A (with Italy, Wales, Switzerland), but I expect Turkey to advance, and four goals in at least four games is very reasonable.
Finland to finish fourth in Group B (-225)Finland and North Macedonia are each at a major tournament for the first time, and Finland has the tougher group, featuring Belgium and Denmark, plus a Russia team that had the fourth-most goals in qualification. Finland would be thrilled with a point or two and could easily be the victim of an opponent that needs to run up the goal difference.
Netherlands to advance further than Portugal (-110)This is simply playing the odds. The Dutch should win Group C handily and then have the aforementioned favorable knockout path. Portugal may struggle to get out of a group that includes France and Germany, and even then a group winner likely looms in the round of 16.
I'll take Belgium to win the tournament at +600 title odds that are priced accurately. France or England might be a better team, but Belgium has easier group and knockout-stage paths on paper, facing a third-place team in the round of 16 and likely no team better than Italy in the quarterfinals. Belgium has as much talent in its starting lineup as any country, particularly if Kevin De Bruyne is healthy by the knockout stage, and the experience of finishing third at the 2018 World Cup should only help Roberto Martinez's side.
Beyond the initial pack of favorites, Netherlands is somewhat appealing at +1400, again because of a relatively easy group (Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia) and two knockout games against a third-place team and a group runner-up.
And if you want a longer shot, I'd look at Denmark (+2800). Even though the Danes are grouped with Belgium, they play all three group games in Copenhagen, and if they finish group runner-up, they get a beatable Group A runner-up in the round of 16.