Whilst the new bloated format has led some to predict that the matches will be cagey and defensive, the easy path to qualification could see teams employ a more care-free attitude at this early stage. Here’s a group-by-group preview of the opening games and the best betting opportunities in the early stage of the tournament.
The hosts France kick-off against defensively resolute Romania, who conceded only two goals in qualifying and will sit very deep on Friday night. Their compressed defensive block will be extremely difficult to break through, which could lead to France being frustrated with aimless possession in the final third.
However, the piercing dribbling skills of Anthony Martial provide them with the directness needed to outmanoeuvre the Romanians, whilst Dimitri Payet presents an explosive option from the bench. They should have just about enough to earn a narrow victory: since France could well win by just a single goal.
Romania’s odds to win with +1.5 goal handicap: 1.925*
Switzerland are not the most exciting team at this year’s tournament but should easily beat Albania. The Swiss are particularly strong down the flanks, where the full-back pair of Ricardo Rodriguez and Stephan Lichtsteiner bomb forward. Albania won’t have enough to cause an upset, whilst Switzerland will be eager to get points on the board;
Switzerland’s to win against Albania: 1.854*
Russia will be happy to grind out a draw in their opening game against England, standing off and happily conceding the majority of possession to Roy Hodgson’s team. However, England have plenty of experience playing in this sort of match and the excellent fluidity of their midfielders Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney should see them easily prise the Russians apart.
England’s odds to win against Russia: 1.884*
Wales come into this match on the back of a difficult few friendly fixtures, and indeed the pressure to win their opening match against the group’s weakest nation could further damage their confidence. If Gareth Bale is not at the top of his game then they may struggle to break the deadlock in what will be a cautious match defined by few goals.
Wales vs. Slovakia - Under 2 goals’ odds: 1.793*
Ukraine’s propensity to attempt to control possession could prove catastrophic against Germany. Joachim Lowe’s side are excellent at counter-attacking and have a ruthless streak that will punish bravery from minnow nations such as Ukraine (who averaged 55% possession in qualifying). As such, expect a heavy Germany victory.
With Italy’s strong defensive trio and Belgium’s tendency to start off flat, there is value to be found in the Under 2 market.
Germany’s odds to win against Ukraine with -1 handicap: 2.07*
Northern Ireland face almost certain defeat against a strong Poland side that will attack aggressively from the off. However, if Michael O’Neill’s men can keep a clean sheet until half-time then their defensive tactics could see them grind out a result – particularly if they can capitalise on their set-piece speciality.
Northern Ireland vs Poland – Draw: 3.64*
Croatia and Turkey are both expected to qualify from Group D and thus will not need to settle for a point in this match. The remarkably strong midfields of both –Arda Turan, Nuri Sahin, Hakan Calhanoglu, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, and Mateo Kovacic – will battle it out in a surprisingly technically proficient game. Expect Turan to dominate against a Croatian midfield that lacks defensive resolve.
Croatia vs. Turkey - Over 2 goals: 1.813*
Spain should easily beat Czech Republic, who have shown little signs of quality in recent matches. It is certainly worth assuming Spain will win by two or more goals.
Spain to win against Czech Republic with -1 handicap: 1.840*
Ronaldo is expected to score plenty of goals in Group F, starting with the game against Iceland, making the Portugal -1 handicap market a good betting opportunity.
Sweden and the Republic of Ireland are in a straight fight for third spot, meaning that a draw here will not be enough. As such, we can hope for an end-to-end match that sees Martin O’Neill’s side occasionally over-commit to the counter and leave Zlatan Ibrahimovic with too much space.
Sweden’s odds to win against Republic of Ireland: 2.440*
Italy possess the remarkable defensive trio of Andre Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, and Gianluigi Buffon, whose Juventus side conceded just 20 Serie A goals last season. Belgium are often guilty of looking flat in the final third at major tournaments, and thus in such an important opening game we might see one of the most conservative matches of the tournament.
Italy vs. Belgium - Under 2 goals’ odds: 1.970*
The least interesting group should see easy wins for both Portugal and Austria in the opening week. Hungary and Iceland are two nations that would not have qualified in previous editions, and will most likely only take points from each other. Cristiano Ronaldo can hope to score plenty of goals in Group F, starting with the game against Iceland.
Portugal to win against Iceland with a -1 handicap: 1.714*
Euro 2016 Group betting previews by Alex Keble
Odds to win the Euro 2016*
See the latest Euro 2016 odds, including Top Goal scorer, who will reach the semi-finals, over/under points and much more under the left-hand side menu Bet Options/Specials!
See the latest Euro 2016 odds, including Top Goal scorer, who will reach the semi-finals, over/under points and much more under the left-hand side menu Specials!
*Odds subject to change