Chelsea’s climatic victory and “treble” of upsets over 3-time-jilted Citizens of Manchester City feels like an “end” to the 2021 European football season for many supporters. But as punters who follow The Beautiful Game – and its gambling odds – across 6 continents all year ’round happen to know, the soccer calendar never really pauses so much as it resets itself for whatever’s next in the cycle.
With major domestic leagues taking a break until August, it’s time for national teams to shine. The “2022” World Cup is still light-years further away than the “2022 Winter Olympics,” the latter of which begins this coming winter, while FIFA supporters will wait 3+ more seasons of the sun to finally experience the kickoff in Qatar. Until then, the UEFA’s Euro 2020 title is the most prestigious thing on the ledger by a wide margin, and it’s happening closer to the World Cup (and the Olympics) than organizers had ever thought possible. What does that mean from a prediction POV?
For a start, national squads could be found in greater riches of talent and experience, having already tuned-up for the start of World Cup qualification cycles. We’ve witnessed Japan and other FIFA stalwarts losing to upstart nations under a continental Federation banner just months or a single year after a World Cup, since powerful teams gear everything toward vying for the biggest prize, and managers make sure that if there’s a brief downturn or caution-flag period for the depth chart, it’s after a World Cup, not right before the gala, or still worse, in the midst of trying to qualify.
Crazy as it sounds, some national teams didn’t mean to be as strong as they are coming into a rescheduled Euro 2020. If they beat up on everybody, it’s only an accident!
Speaking of the long-delayed UEFA schedule, flag-waving supporters confused by the “Euro 2020” tournament taking place in 2021 will find refuge at FanDuel Sportsbook. FanDuel’s odds for the UEFA’s postponed Euro 2020 tournament are labeled “Euro 2021,” a realistic label that a lot of providers will hopefully wind-up using despite any efforts to keep the previous title in place.
We’ll see if sportsbooks refer to the Olympics, still officially known as the “2020 Tokyo Olympics” while being held in summer ’21, as “The 2021 Olympics.” If FanDuel’s clients see “2021” next to the Olympics and “2021” on their calendars, perhaps they’ll be appreciative of the common sense behind the maverick move, even as the IOC is sure to frown and call it “an unfortunate re-branding.” (WagerBop is splitting the difference by using the official year/brand, but also referring to the actual date here, so that any newbies can rest assured our “UEFA Euro 2020 preview” is not a Dadaist prank.)
Let’s look at where Group B teams stand in futures odds-to-win Euro 2020, then preview the maiden round of Group B fixtures in the round-robin, set to begin on June 12th in Copenhagen.
Odds to Win Euro 2020 Outright (June 11 2021 – July 11 2021)
(Courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook)
France : +470
England : +500
Belgium : +650
Spain : +750
Portugal : +800
Germany : +800
Italy : +1000
Netherlands : +1400
Denmark : +2900
Croatia : +3200
Turkey : +5000
Poland : +6000
Switzerland : +6000
Russia : +7500
Austria : +7500
Sweden : +7500
Wales : +10000
Scotland : +10000
Slovakia : +10000
Hungary : +10000
Ukraine : +10000
Czech Republic : +10000
Finland : +10000
North Macedonia : +10000
Belgium’s reliance on Premier League stars presents the same type of conundrum for futures gamblers as potential bets on the England National Team at 5/1. With the Premier League slowly taking over UEFA Champions League brackets, it may be only a matter of time before representatives of English clubs are foremost in all world competition, with Three Lions and Red Devils becoming the foremost national teams to flourish right along with the aristocratic club squads.
However, no national team is likely to shed all of its shortcomings in a few cycles (just ask Stars & Stripes supporters), and the historical angle of picking Premiership-dominated sides as a rule is not promising. Harry Kane’s national team has not won a European Championship or even qualified for the semi-finals since Team England fell just short of the title fixture on home grounds 20+ years ago. Belgium will get plenty of action as the side that had England’s number at the last World Cup, but Red Devils have never won the Euro title and last played in the UEFA Euro final in – wait for it – 1980.
Denmark’s rank-and-file is trained in the underrated Danish Superliga, and the Danes have posted 3 consecutive clean sheets to begin the new FIFA cycle, making 29/1 odds rather appealing.
I make it a point to look at Team Russia and Team China’s odds for everything, since any gambling site with a majority of American and/or Canadian clients will experience a stark deficit of “sentimental” wagers on Eastern powers that spit political vinegar at the west. Russia’s ice hockey team was dreadfully undermanned at the IIHF Worlds in 2021, though still quite capable against a field thinned of All-Star lineups. Nevertheless, western ice hockey handicappers gave Russia an optimistic futures line in 2021. It’s easy to see why Team Russia’s 5-to-1 Bovada odds to win Group B (FanDuel isn’t offering Euro 2020 Group Winner futures bets for some reason) are so much shorter than Russia’s odds to win the European title, but it’s also nice to see that bookmakers outside the Eastern Hemisphere are disregarding politics and giving Moscow’s boys some credit, even as the thinner odds make it more difficult to turn a profit.
Euro 2020 is not a mid-cycle tournament as it was once expected to be, meaning it’s much harder for a quasi-World Cup contender to sneak up on every favorite. It’s far easier to imagine Russia conquering the Danes and upsetting Belgium, or at least drawing with Red Devils to earn a win on the Group B table.
Denmark is an even-stronger underdog pick to win UEFA Group Stage honors, offered at (+225) odds at Bovada Sportsbook. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is coming off another wonderful season in the Premier League, and other stalwarts of the EPL help man the back line in front of the vice-captain. Team Denmark’s forwards could be among the younger units at Euro 2020, however. Once again, it’s easy to see the squad surprising in Group Stage and then running out of steam in knockout matches.
WagerBop’s Group B Futures Pick: Denmark
UEFA Euro 2020: Group B Game Lines, Match Predictions, and Recommended Bets
Saturday, June 12: Denmark vs Finland
Group B kicks-off on Saturday with Denmark the (-195) and (-220) favorite at Bovada Sportsbook and FanDuel respectively.
Not to make too many ice hockey comparisons in 1 soccer blog (’tis the season after all) but it’s amusing that Finland’s national football team is inspiring cautious O/U lines, since Team Finland is becoming known as the lock-down defending squad of all international pond shinny. Finland just went an entire IIHF World Championship without giving up more than 2 goals in regulation-time of any of 10 games, and now the Finns and Danes are (+136) with “Over” bets on a total of (2.5) at FanDuel, indicating that bookies think Finland’s scores at Euro 2020 will have the same low-key vibe as Suomi’s results on the pond.
Finland does have some quality on the attack, starting with forward Teemu Pukki of Norwich City. Midfield mainstay Robin Lod, a familiar name to MLS supporters, has scored 4 international goals in 45 appearances for the “Eagle-Owls.” Regardless, cheering for Team Finland can remind Americans of cheering for the Stars & Stripes, with most of the team’s hopes pinned on a handful of noteworthy players. Finland has fared very poorly in recent friendlies, losing to Estonia and rival Sweden while going 5 halves of matches without a goal.
The “trap” of an Under (2.5) wager is that an ordinary 2-1 victory for Denmark beats the bet. It’s unclear how the Danes can rally for 3-4 goals at a time against vulnerable Euro 2020 opponents, especially since forward numbers will only risk counterattacks instead of providing a real threat. Andreas Christensen of Chelsea Football Club is the epitome of steady at center-back, but he’s hardly what you would call a dangerous striker. The same can be said for Danish captain Simon Kjær of Milan.
With a limited attacking favorite, and an underdog that can’t get into the box without sacrificing good clearance, it’s wiser to gamble with the likely scenario as opposed to against it.
Pick: Handicap Draw (Denmark (-1)) (+210)
Saturday, June 12: Russia vs Belgium
Bovada Sportsbook is giving Russia just 4/1 odds on the moneyline, but FanDuel is shrugging-off any rush to bet on the Russians, offering (+440) on the underdog for Saturday’s Group B follow-up in Saint Petersburg. Certainly, the Russians’ advantage of playing on familiar grounds in their homeland is an impetus to wager on the ‘dog, or at least a motivation for FanDuel’s odds managers to try to tempt punters into picking Russia.
Russia also has a pretty good record of starting-off tournaments with a bang, which led to an iconic photo being taken after The National Team exploded for 5 goals against Saudi Arabia to begin the 2018 World Cup.
Still, there are other various ingredients that would need to go into a serious Russian upset bid against Belgium:
A) Red Devils looking conflicted and tentative on the pitch to begin a pressure-filled event, much like Germany against Mexico at the start of FIFA’s Group Stage in 2018
B) Russia goalkeeper Anton Shunin must play the ball out from the back or otherwise consistently abide possession-time for the upstarts, instead of kicking it out to midfield and, once a few formalities have taken place, allowing Romelu Lukaku to charge into the box all over again without rest for the back line
C) Young footballers from Russia’s national team must play with surprising skill, quality, and poise, with at least 1 new attacker emerging as a threat in the tournament
It’s not clear whether ingredients A, B, or C will be helping the Russians on Saturday. Belgium has played well in recent friendlies, with Lukaku scoring a go-home goal just to rally the supporters’ base headed into UEFA competition. Red Devils have had a few hiccups in Nations League, but overall, Belgium’s strength in recent UEFA championship matches and qualifiers has been remarkable.
Russia’s forwards and most of its midfield play in the decidedly 2nd-tier RPL. Artem Dzyuba won’t catch opponents by surprise in his 30s, and outside of solid midfield talent from the Spanish, Italian, and French leagues, it’s hard to pinpoint just where the necessary infusion of youth is coming from.
Forget B). Shunin can play any type of game against Belgium, and it might not be enough. Parlaying favorites at Euro 2020 could be even riskier than usual, but Red Devils aren’t juiced-up at Bovada Sportsbook as only a (-140) pick to beat Russia in 90+ minutes.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.