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England Stumble Has Pundits, Fans And Bookies Needing a Re-Think

By Graham Thomas

It’s not just England fans who have had to adjust their thinking after two ragged performances at Euro 2024 – the bookmakers have had a re-think, too.

After starting the tournament as joint-favourites, England have fallen away in the odds market to third place, behind France and Germany.

Spain – whose youthful energy makes the Three Lions appear decrepit by comparison – are also closing in on England in the betting as rapid-rising fourth favourites.

DragonBet have France top of their list at 15/4, followed by Germany at 4/1. Then, come lurching England at 9/2, with surging Spain at 11/2.

Portugal are the other fancied team at 6/1, before the first of the outsiders, the Netherlands, come in at 16/1.

If you are Welsh, Scottish or Irish, there was a familiar feeling of satisfaction in watching England fail to live up to expectations in their 1-1 draw with Denmark.

They were eye-catching, but only in a bad way – lacking energy, tactical coherence and any solid foundations.

It is as if the goals of Harry Kane for Bayern Munich this season, the brilliance of Jude Bellingham at Real Madrid, the swagger of Phil Foden at Manchester City, the calm confidence of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, have all been sucked into some black hole, previously undetected in Germany.

At least their manager, Gareth Southgate, did not attempt to sugar-sprinkle his own verdict after the match as he admitted: “There’s a huge amount of work to do, that’s evident from the performances we’ve given.

“We have to stay tight, we understand people will be disappointed with the performances – and rightly so. We’ve got to make them better.”

Yet for all the outpouring of gloom and despondency among their fans and TV pundits, the truth is that England top their group with four points and already look assured of reaching the knockout stages.

Had Wales squeezed past Poland in that painful play-off final in the spring, then it is easy to imagine how a win against Serbia and a draw with Denmark might have been greeted rather differently for Rob Page’s side.

Or contrast the current mood of England fans with those of Scotland. They currently have a single point after two games and very likely need to beat Hungary on Sunday to progress and yet there is an upbeat feel about their campaign following their 1-1 draw with Switzerland.

It all comes down to expectations, of course. Scotland are 350/1 to win the tournament and even narrow outsiders at 8/5 to beat the Hungarians who are yet to earn a single point.

Scotland could still progress with a draw, if lots of other results pan out in their favour, and they would make history in doing so.

Not only would it be the first time the Scots have reached the knockout stages of a major tournament, but it would also be the first time a team with just two points had progressed out of the group stages.

The worst third placed team ever to reach the knockout stages was Ukraine in 2020 when they finished with three points and a goal-difference of -1.

The best third placed team to miss out on reaching the stage were Turkey and Finland who both finished on three points and a goal-difference of -2 in 2016 and 2020, respectively.

As ever, the weekend scheduling has some interesting match-ups to keep the pot boiling as to who looks the most likely nation to lift the trophy.

On Friday night, favourites France take on the Netherlands, with both having begun with victories and knowing a win will take them straight into the last 16 with a game to spare.

On Saturday, Turkey face Portugal in a clash between two teams who also began with victories.

The Turks – who topped Wales’ group in qualification – were adventurous in beating Georgia 3-1 in their opening match and they also produced arguably the goal of the tournament so far.

That was scored by Turkey’s teenager Arda Guler who netted a sublime curling effort from 25-yards to prove why Real Madrid were so keen to sign him last year.

At 9/2 outsiders to beats Portugal, the Turks look an attractive bet.

On Sunday, besides Scotland’s group game, the other attraction happening at the same time will be hosts Germany’s final game against Switzerland.

You can get the Swiss at 15/4 to cause an upset and sew some seeds of doubt in German minds.

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