American sports gamblers are used to the seasons. Baseball junkies bet a lot less over the winter, and football fans will always think of a calendar year as “August through January, plus 6 months of waiting.”
Soccer-action enthusiasts don’t have that problem. Betting odds on The Beautiful Game run all year-round.
One reason there is so much soccer betting available from New Year’s Day through Christmas is because the sport is played in so many different leagues, tournaments, countries and hemispheres. Even the FIFA World Cup didn’t slow the Premier League down – the English exhibition schedule began just weeks after Les Bleus prevailed in Russia.
But another reason is that international tournament schedules tend to be spread out. As in really spread out, especially when it comes to qualifying.
Take the Euro 2020 competition. UEFA’s “Nations League” schedule comes with a gigantic gap between round-robin play and the elimination matches – the semifinals will take place in June of this year with the final match to come on 6/9. But UEFA’s more time-honored international brand is drawn-out over a long period, even in the qualifying stage. Euro 2020 fixtures began early in the year and qualifiers will continue (with the aristocrats of the sport likely having secured spots already) until November.
Other events run qualification cycles through time-spans of months or years, such as the FIBA World Cup. We don’t notice that as much, since top-money professionals aren’t always invited. The United States is able to qualify for FIBA with a team of D-league reserves and college kids, but you can expect Stephen Curry and/or other NBA stars to show up for this summer’s showdown.
Soccer is the ideal international sport because its owners and CEOs recognize the value in allowing the best players to leave their club squads to play in FIFA and UEFA matches.
Even Ronaldo, who sat-out the group stage of Nations League, is playing football for Portugal in Euro 2020 matches. Star-studded lineup from the best teams and managers has led a competition in which surprises have been few and far between.
At least so far.
Euro 2020: How the Favorites are Faring
England is off to a flying start in Group A. The Three Lions have punished the Czech Republic and Montenegro with 10 combined goals, Raheem Sterling netting a hat trick on Matchday 1.
Germany has won its lone Group C match and will face another showdown with The Netherlands on September 6th after beating the Flying Dutchmen 3-2 in March.
Group D stalwarts Switzerland and Denmark had one hell of a match on March 26th. Scroll down for highlights and a bit more about that corker.
Spain, France, Poland, Belgium and Italy have each won twice without dropping any points.
Is Ronaldo’s side the lone struggling team out of all UEFA favorites? Portugal has only managed 1 goal in 2 matches, lucky to escape matches against Ukraine and Serbia with draws. Rocket Ronaldo pulled a hamstring during the Serbia fixture, causing the Navigators’ attack to come up limping.
Meanwhile, there hasn’t been a truly splendid upset in 10 groups and dozens of games. You could argue that North Macedonia drawing with Slovenia was a surprise, along with the Ukrainians and Serbians giving Portugal a fight. Hungary’s 2-1 victory over Croatia on Matchday 1 was a nice triumph for the National Eleven, considering that the Croatians were silver-medalists in Moscow – but nothing that sent shock-headlines around the world.
One headline that doesn’t need to be printed is “Bettors live and die with results of European football matches.”
We’ll handicap a ton of spring UEFA meetings in-depth, looking at the late line-movement at soccer betting sites to try to find the best wagers.
But for now, here’s a quick glance at where futures lines for 6 Euro 2020 groups stand after 2 rounds of matches…and some potentially winning strategies for gamblers whose job when it comes to UEFA is to see far into the future.
Favorites’ odds are listed in each header.
Group A (England (-6600) Odds to Place 1st from Bovada Sportsbook)
Why are Three Lions such an overwhelming favorite to win Group A? The 2nd-shortest betting line belongs to the Czech Republic at (+2000). That’s a massive gap.
Part of it is because England has rejuvenated its national program. The Premiership is not only the deepest competition in the world but its lower-tier sister leagues are stronger than the 2nd tier of any other country, meaning that young players get to develop faster against tough rivals.
Harry Kane was considered a youthful unknown quantity in international play as little as 12 months ago. How time flies. Kane plays a straightforward style compared to the dazzling ball-control of Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi, but his deadly-accurate strikes count for goals just the same.
My apologies if you are waking up as you read this and expecting a typical “reserved” UK voice on commentary. “FROM CLOSE QUAH-TAHS BY HARRY KANE, CAPTAIN!” isn’t what you get from across the pond every day, but it’s nice to hear some excitement for once.
The heavy betting action is not all simply a credit to England, however. The group that the Brits are playing in is also fairly weak. Bulgaria could be an interesting long-shot pick at (+5000) given that the English team is likely to start slowing down by the end of 10 Matchdays, if for no other reason than boredom and the fact that Three Lions have already qualified for a playoff bid.
- Lean: None
Group B (Portugal (+110))
The Portuguese will face the Ukrainians again on October 14th.
There are obviously a few gamblers who believe that match will decide 1st place in the qualifying group. Ukraine is a (+185) bet to finish on top.
But don’t forget Serbia at (+275). The Eagles fought hard against Brazil and Switzerland at the 2018 World Cup and drew with Germany in a friendly prior to the 1-1 UEFA draw with Portugal.
Serbian forward Aleksandar Mitrović is a rising star with Fulham, while experienced midfielder Dušan Tadić has helped Ajax into a quarterfinal matchup with Juventus in the Champions League. That’s a good way to gain extra experience playing against Ronaldo.
Finally, the team’s backline is underrated, featuring stalwarts like Stefan Mitrović and 21-year-old Nikola Milenković from the French and Italian leagues respectively.
- Lean: Serbia
Group C (Germany (-300))
Bovada Sportsbook’s Group C odds set up a classic favorite vs underdog choice for the bettor. The Netherlands are standing at (+250), making the Oranje a 5x-6x payoff on the winner compared to Germany at 1-to-3 payout odds if Nationalelf finishes 1st.
1-to-3 is a major risk without a ton of reward. But is the underdog a worthwhile pick at 2.5-to-1?
The meeting between the sides last month came down to the final minutes. Leroy Sané scored to give the favorites a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute, but over an hour later the score was deadlocked at 2-2. Bundesliga midfielder Nico Schulz finally broke the game open with a 90th-minute winner.
Germany will enjoy host-advantage for the 2nd meeting in September. But Northern Ireland ((+2500) odds-to-win Group C) has won its opening 2 matches and could be a wild card, spoiling either of the top 2 squads’ bid for 1st place. The Germans don’t look as shaky and inconsistent as they did at the recent World Cup, but I’m still not liking them at (-300).
- Lean: None
Group D (Switzerland (+110))
Group D’s maiden marquee meeting between Switzerland and Denmark ended in stunning fashion. The Swiss racked-up a 3-0 lead through most of 2 halves, causing me to tear-up and throw away my prediction of a tough challenge by the Danes.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so rash…because I wound up fishing that bet slip out of the trash.
Danish Dynamite got set-off in the final minutes. 3 goals in less than 10:00 evened the score and produced a draw that felt kind of like that old Harvard-Yale headline:
The teams may have walked away sharing qualification points, but there’s no doubt about where the momentum lies. Denmark beat Switzerland, 3 to 3.
The Swiss must visit Copenhagen for the rubber match in October. With the Danes at (+125) to win the group, I’m liking the autumn hosts more than the favorites on the futures board.
- Lean: Denmark
Group E (Croatia (-250))
Easily the weakest of all minus-odds favorites to finish 1st in Euro 2020 qualifying, the Croatians are overvalued thanks to their Cinderella run in Russia last year.
Not only did Croatia lose to Hungary on Matchday 2, the squad struggled to get past a country you’ve never heard of in the earlier round.
Hungary is a terrific long-shot bet at (+2200) and I’m also fond of Wales at (+900).
While whoever loses the June 11th fixture between the aforementioned underdogs is likely to fall into the (+5000) range, the futures odds on the victor won’t change as much. I’m liking the winner of that outcome to take on and potentially upset The Blazers this fall.
- Lean: Hungary or Wales
Group F (Spain (-800))
Once again a prohibitive futures line on the favorites forces bettors to make a difficult choice – take the probable 1st-place group finishers at immensely short odds, or take an underdog that isn’t likely to win even with a few good breaks?
It helps that Sweden (+800), the only other proven commodity in the group, drew 3-3 with Norway on Matchday 2 while Spain soared over Malta.
But the Spanish had their problems with the Norwegians too, winning a tense 2-1 result on Matchday 1 despite playing at home in Valencia.
It took a Sergio Ramos penalty kick for Spain to out-last “The Lions” in the 2nd half.
Sergio Ramos live penalty goal Spain vs Norway 2-1 pic.twitter.com/uffzA6LMAY
— ESM SPORTS (@ESMSPORTS3) March 23, 2019
The results so far simply don’t auger well for the proud football nation’s chances to prevail in group play, at least not at such short odds. Spain could finish 1st as always…but it won’t be so easy.
- Lean: Sweden
Stay Tuned for More Predictions on Euro 2020 Qualifying
We welcome so many newbie gamblers at the LegitGamblingSites.com blog that loyal readers know my “system” for introducing new leagues and competitions. We start with the basics, look at some futures lines and an overview of the whole thing, and then finally progress to in-depth analysis.
For instance, fans of the Australian Football League are probably wondering when we’ll advance past all of the cultural and historical background and dish-out some hard analysis on current players, teams and matchups in the AFL. Don’t worry – we’ll get there! Legit Gambling Sites is a blog for checkout girls and old handicapping hands alike.
But a “beginner” blog with tiny capsule previews of the final 4 Euro 2020 groups? That won’t wash, since there are so many great teams and players competing in those matches – Poland, Belgium, Russia and Italy just to name a few. And of course Paul Pogba and the reigning World champions from France.
Stay tuned for more – much more – on Groups G through J as punters look forward to UEFA football in springtime. With any luck, we’ll see a few more upsets and major headlines as the Champions League gets a little competition for clicks from its own organization’s international tourney.