It is here, the blinking Euro 2016 is finally here. Since the wind down of the predicted league winners in their respective European countries – Juventus, Barcelona, PSG and Bayern Munich total dominance balance thrown off by that Leicester fairy-tale.
The likely squad: who’s in? Who’s out? The friendlies: Trying out plan A, B or even C. Finally it happened. Players were picked, some persecuted, players rejected, dreams dejected. But it happened. Tonight it all kicks off (some England fans already have it seems) and we can stay transfixed to our TV screens for the coming weeks. Supporters’ blood pressure will be higher while their work attendance will be lower. It is about to start.
Now, being a Welshman, this if the first time our national team has qualified for an international tournament and I will enjoy every minute of it. Considering there may only be 270 of them – 3 x 90 (I can do maths too) I better enjoy it.
What better way to add a little more excitement to already bubbling atmosphere than to wager a little money (sick pay perhaps) on the tournament and help pay for a couple more rounds of beers – where vicious circle can become a victory circle.
Bias aside I think Wales will do well for their Maiden tournament. Russia have been struck down by injuries, Slovakia are beatable and if England try to shoehorn Rooney into the team at the detriment of others, then I can see Wales progressing through that group with a handy 4 points.
Dark horse perhaps and the Belgians have been the previous holders of this tag (curse) a few times. Like Spain, the perennial underachievers until tika-taka become total domination, the time it seems is now for Belgium.
They have 4-5 players that would work into any European team, bar Kompany due to his recent injury of course! This amount of talent can’t go to waste and although Wilmots isn’t the most talented of managers – he has the golden ticket.
There are some teams with some serious firepower up front and this is a delicious prospect for top goal scorer. All the smart money is on Muller & Ronaldo. Nobody likes a smart arse. Giroud looks tasty at these odds and him being prone to goal scoring spurts could very well see him getting to 5 goals in as many games.
With the expansion of the tournament from 16 to 24 teams there is bound to be a dip in overall quality and more mismatched games. I can see majority of teams picking up unexpected points but that is where Iceland bucks the trend.
A valiant achievement to be in this tournament but may be a step too far. If I had to bet on one team finishing the group with zero points, yup you guessed it – Iceland.
Belgium to win Euro 2016 – 11/1 – Paddy Power
Iceland to lose all their group games – 64/1 – Bet 365
Giroud top goalscorer – 14/1 – William Hill
Gareth Bale each way – 50/1 – William Hill
Wales to reach quarter finals – 13/5 – Bet 365
France to win first game – 7/19 – Bet 365