Euro 2020: Group A Odds
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Handicapping international soccer is just as much art as it is science. The numbers remain the most important factor, but the nature of these tournaments means you need to consider the extenuating circumstances when you size up the field. Unquantifiable elements like squad chemistry,
On paper, Group A looks pretty straightforward. Italy is an odds-on favorite at -200 (66.7% implied probability), while Switzerland, Turkey and Wales are expected to battle amongst themselves for the No. 2 spot.
Should we expect Group A to go according to script? Or do one of the others pose a threat to The Azzurri?
It’s really hard to judge form going into an international tournament since the calendar is stop-start and riddled with meaningless friendlies, but there is no denying what Italy has done since the last World Cup. The Azzurri have not lost a match since Sept. 10, 2018 and have gone unbeaten since Roberto Mancini took over the squad, a streak that sits at 24 matches.
Throw in the fact Italy went 10-0-0 with 37 goals for and only four goals against in its qualifying campaign and it’s easy to see why bookmakers expect Italy to win this group nearly 67% of the time.
However, things aren’t always straightforward at the Euros. In 2016 (the first year the field was expanded to 24 teams), we saw Hungary top a group ahead of Portugal and a trendy Austrian side, while Wales beat out England to headline their foursome.
As usual, the Italians are built from the back to the front. Mancini has one of the world’s best goalkeepers — Gianluigi Donnarumma — and he’ll be helped by a backline anchored by veteran Serie A stars Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
The Azzurri also have plenty of star power in the middle of the pitch, with Jorginho, Marco Veratti (who is expected to miss the team’s opening match) and Nicolo Barella.
Italy’s success will likely come down to whether or not it can score enough goals. Although the Italians have productive goalscorers like Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti in their ranks, they don’t have that prolific target man other contenders have and thus you can expect the goals to be spread out for Mancini’s squad.
That said, there’s a clear gap between the Azzurri and the rest of this group. Italy has world-class talent at basically every position and enough depth to make adjustments for injuries, suspensions or poor form. They will be big favorites in each match and aren’t really a volatile squad. Italy might not light up the scoresheet, but its defense projects to be good enough that it won’t need to score three goals a game to get a result.
Italy is the clear frontrunner, but if you’re interested in investing in the Azzurri, I’d suggest going bigger, like backing them to win the tournament at 11/1 odds. Italy’s path to success looks more than viable, as they would likely play either Austria or Ukraine in the Round of 16.
A date with Belgium is the likeliest outcome after that, but it’s not worth getting too caught up in projecting that far ahead in a tournament with this many twists and turns. The point is, there’s no Group of Death, nor is there a daunting Round of 16 matchup looming for the Azzurri.
If you aren’t all that excited by +1100 in a tournament this deep, but want to invest in the Azzurri, you can look to the Players Futures market for some value. I am particularly interested in backing Nicolo Barella to win Young Player of the Tournament at +3300 odds via DraftKings.
Barella was terrific in the middle of the pitch for Inter Milan during their title-winning campaign. And although he isn’t a prolific scorer, Barella can be the key facilitator for a team that has a great chance to make a deep run.
Sleeper Watch: Turkey +5000
Turkey are a high-ceiling, low-floor team that has the talent to pull a result against any team in this competition on their day. To illustrate that point all you need to do is look at the Crescent-Stars’ results leading up to this tournament.
Over the past 18 months or so, Turkey finished bottom of a group that included Russia, Hungary and Serbia in the UEFA Nations League. However, it also earned 3-3 draws against Germany and Croatia; beat the Netherlands, 4-2; dismantled Norway, 3-0; and, then added further confusion by drawing a home against Latvia.
In other words, this is a team that can beat anybody, but also lose to anybody.
Turkey’s defensive record mirrors its Jekyll-and-Hyde nature. After allowing just three goals in 10 games during Euro qualifying, Turkey went ahead and shipped 19 goals over its next 11 matches. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Crescent-Stars have a solid defense on paper, with Merih Demiral (Juventus), Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester), Ozan Kabak (Liverpool) and Zeki Celik (Lille) featured in the back.
We have no idea which version of Turkey’s defense will show up, but backers can at least be confident that it has the talent to be a sturdy group and it shouldn’t be overmatched by Switzerland and Wales.
While Turkey’s defense and spine look to be in decent shape, its attack has the potential to make it a bona fide sleeper. Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan) is more than capable of pulling the strings and he will be supported by a cast that includes Zeki Celik, Burak Yilmaz and Yusuf Yazici, all three of whom are coming to the Euros on the heels of winning Ligue 1 with upstart Lille.
Just like with any longshot in this tournament, Turkey lacks some depth and has a couple of weak spots, but I’d also argue that the Crescent-Stars have the strongest starting XI of any team in the mid-tier and have the upside you need from an outsider.
In addition to the talent on the roster, Turkey also has a decent path to the quarterfinals if it can manage to finish second (or first) in Group A. If it finishes as runner-up, Turkey’s likeliest opponent in the Round of 16 would be Denmark and a possible showdown with the Netherlands awaiting in the quarterfinals.
We’ve seen some big longshots win the Euros in the past. In 1992, Denmark won the competition only after taking Yugoslavia’s spot in the tournament because of a civil war. Twelve years later, it was The Piratiko Greek team that won Euro 2004 as 80/1 outsiders.
While most of the time these tournaments will go to the headliners, there is always at least a little bit of chaos at the Euros and I think Turkey is a great candidate to be the causers of said chaos.
One thing I will note is that Turkey’s price has come down from 80/1 to 50/1 over the past few weeks. While 50/1 is still a good price, you can possibly get a better number by waiting out its tournament-opening match against Italy. The Azzurri are -175 favorites to win that match and if they do, the Crescent-Stars’ price should get longer.
Turnkey doesn’t need to win the match against Italy to advance, so while you run the risk of losing out on 50/1 should it win or draw with the group favorite, there is a pretty good chance you can get a much better number should it lose.
Don’t Forget About Longshot Switzerland at +7000
Switzerland always seem to be in the muddled middle when it comes to the Euros or the World Cup. They feel like a sure-fire bet to make it out of the group stage, but at the same time it’s hard to get excited about its prospects of making a deep run.
The Swiss do have a strong spine with Nico Elvedi, Manuel Akanji at the base; Denis Zakaria and Granit Xhaka in the middle; and, Breel Embolo at the top, plus the mercurial Xherdan Shaqiri is always a threat to steal a game at a moment’s notice. However, the Rossocrociati lack the depth and high-end talent I’m looking for in a team that could be a surprise package in an event that’s this top heavy.
It is worth noting Switzerland is actually slightly shorter than Turkey to win Group A, but Turkey’s outright odds are shorter to win the whole tournament. That makes sense because, while Switzerland projects to be a well-organized team that shouldn’t lose games to lesser opposition, it doesn’t really have the upside needed to pull off the string of upsets needed to crash the gates deeper in the tournament.
All that said, it’s more likely than not that Switzerland advances into the Round of 16, whether it be through finishing second or being one of the four best third-place teams. And if they do wind up in second, the path opens up and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if the Swiss win a knock-out game or two.
The Also-Ran: Wales +10000
There were a lot of shockers at Euro 2016, but Wales was the tournament’s surprise package. The Dragons made it out of a group with England, Russia and Slovakia, took care of Northern Ireland in the Round of 16 and then pulled off one of the results of the tournament with an upset of Belgium in the quarterfinals.
In 2016, Wales had Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey operating at the height of their powers and had a supporting cast that consisted of solid players like Ashely Williams, Joe Allen and Ben Davies. While Bale and Ramsey will be back for Euro 2020, they are now five years older and past their prime. They are both still capable of turning a match on its head, but it’s hard to imagine them carrying this team deep into the tournament at this stage of their careers.
Instead, I’d guess that Wales will try to play a conservative style of soccer and rely on players like Joe Rodon, Ethan Ampadu, Neco Williams and Ben Davies to keep the Dragons in games against superior opposition and hope Bale or Ramsey can create something to nick a point or three.
That strategy can work in a tournament that allows 16 of 24 teams through to the knock-out stage, but I still think Wales are a clear fourth in this set and being a bit overvalued thanks to its surprise 2016 run.
Best Bets for Group A:
- Turkey to win the Euros (+5000)
- Wales eliminated in group stage (-125)
- Nicolo Barella to win Young Player of the Tournament (+3300)