2008 Euro Value Bets
by Trevor Whenham - 05/21/2008
Euro 2008, the world's second most important soccer tournament after the World Cup, is just about two weeks away. We'll have lots of time to look at specific games as it gets closer, but we can use this time now to look at potential value spots. With 16 teams playing in four groups of four, and with such a staggering amount of depth and talent, there will inevitably be teams that don't get the respect from bettors that they deserve. That means value, and value is a bettor's best friend.
The one thing we do know is that England won't be providing any value. How they managed to screw up qualifying is beyond me. Ridiculous. Here are five first round spots that could provide value in the tournament. I'm not suggesting that these are all going to be winners, but they are very likely to go off at odds that offer more potential return than the risk involved:
Croatia - This is a team that is poised for a breakout at some point. They were a popular second choice behind Brazil in Group F at the World Cup. They played fairly well there with draws against Japan and Australia and a close 1-0 loss to the dominant Brazilians. Unfortunately, Australia beat Japan and that knocked the Croatians out. They were similarly solid in Euro 2004, but got stuck in a group of death with France and England. Their lack of both strong international showings and household names means that they won't get as much attention as other teams, though. They will struggle against Germany, but they match up well against both Poland and Austria. Their preliminary games will all be played in Austria, so there is a good chance that the Austrians will get more attention than they deserve from bettors and make Croatia even more attractive. Croatia would need a miracle to win their group, but they are clearly the second best team in the group, and they should provide real opportunities throughout. There very likely could even be some value against Germany. The Germans are the heavy favorites to win the tournament, so they will have piles of public money on them.
Switzerland - Like Austria, Switzerland will be playing their preliminary round games at home. Unlike Austria, Switzerland is a team I like. They were one of the true surprises of the last World Cup - they won their group over France, and then played Ukraine to a draw in the second round before losing on penalty kicks. They are a young and talented squad, and because their players aren't all widely known they have a good chance of surprising a team or two. They find themselves in a very tough group, having to contend with both Portugal and the Czech Republic. The combination of playing at home and being underestimated, though, should help us find value when they play.
Czech Republic - The Swiss aren't the only team that could be attractive in Group A. The Czechs are a talented team that could do some serious damage in this tournament, but they won't get nearly as much attention in this group as Portugal will. They were disappointing at the World Cup, but they made the semifinals in Euro 2004, so they have some experience with success. In particular, this team will very likely get much less respect when they play Portugal than they deserve. Portugal is the better team, but the gap between the two isn't as big as the public is likely to perceive it to be.
Group C - Any time a group is packed with competitive teams then value is inevitable. Those teams all have to play each other, and the public will almost certainly struggle to accurately assign prices to the teams. Group C is exactly that kind of group - France, Italy and Netherlands are all public teams, and all could win this group. The stakes will be very high for this group, because only two of the three teams can make the next round. There is no way of knowing now which teams will present value when, but it will be very important to watch this group to see how it is playing out - there will be opportunities there to be found.
Group D - The situation here is similar to what we find in Group C, but the circumstances are different. Unless something goes very wrong, Spain is almost certain to win this group. That leaves one spot for Russia, Sweden and Greece to fight for. Each of those teams has a lot to like, and there is very little of note to separate them. It wouldn't be an upset for any of those teams to emerge. That means that this group is going to be a fascinating war, and it also means that bettors could again struggle to figure out the correct chances of the teams winning. If you are only going to pay attention to two groups they should definitely be this one and Group C.