This article is part of our Soccer Picks series.
Euro 2020 is starting less than two weeks after the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City. Following an already breakneck league campaign, a major European competition is taking place less than a month later for most players.
Fatigue will play a factor; there will be injuries. Maybe that means the youngest and freshest teams will be more successful or maybe that's not giving enough respect to professional athletes who are built to play a ton of minutes in a short period of time.
Belgium are the oldest team at the Euros, but they're also the most experienced and one of the favorites to win it all. Sure, their back line is full of past-their-prime players, but they're experienced and that's probably enough when combined with the talent up front.
There are a lot of strategies to betting the Euros: you could incorporate age and rest, or you could simply bank on talent and cohesion. Or you could ride upsets and hope you hit the right one(s).
Five years ago, Portugal drew every match in the group stage in arguably the weakest group and then won it all on the heels of a couple penalty wins in the knockouts. In that same tournament, Portugal beat a surprising Wales team led by Gareth Bale in the semi-finals. Needless to say, Wales weren't expected to go that far.
In prior tournaments, even when the competition had just 16 teams (there are now 24), teams like Russia, Turkey and Greece have had success the last couple decades.
It's usually best to bet on favorites, but as seen in both the Europa League and Champions League finals, favorites are far from guarantees.
Group Stage Bets
I'm not sure there's any value in betting teams to win it all. The favorites are around +500 and +600, which isn't great for a 24-team tournament, especially in this sport. France are probably the best team and won the last World Cup, but they're also in the Group of Death and you'd probably get better odds on them to win all four knockout matches and letting it ride rather than taking them at +500 right now. France are good, but they have a tired roster that features numerous players who battled injuries this season. Everyone loves to tout N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, among others, but they all struggled with injuries during the league season.
If you want to fade France, I'd probably look at a certain matchup like Belgium at -118 to finish in a better position. The odds aren't great, but Belgium are almost a lock to get out of Group B and then don't have to face one of the top teams from Group F until the semi-finals.
In terms of betting groups, there isn't a ton of value if you like the favorites. Italy are -186 to win Group A and Belgium are -136 for Group B. For odds, Belgium make the most sense, mainly because they've won two recent meetings against Denmark, their biggest competition in the group.
For value, I'd probably go against Netherlands and Spain, while Italy is also an option to drop points early. Playing at home helps, but I'm not sure recent results are that telling for the Italians, especially after scheduling San Marino in their first friendly. They had success in UEFA Nations League, but scoring seven goals in six matches doesn't scream confidence.
I wouldn't be surprised if either Turkey or Switzerland took points off Italy, while Wales and Bale are lurking. Both Turkey and Switzerland have younger back lines built on experience, and while I don't trust either to score against Italy, I'm not sure I'd trust Italy to score on them. Instead of betting Turkey or Switzerland to finish Top 2, you can get Turkey at +540 and Switzerland at +475 to win the group. You could make both those bets, but then if Italy win all three games, you'll probably want to give up betting the Euros completely.
I'm slightly more comfortable betting against the Netherlands and Spain because neither have been as consistent defensively. Both have seemingly rebounded from a down decade, but it's not like they're playing at their peaks. Spain had a huge 6-0 win over Germany in the Nations League, but they lost 1-0 to Ukraine before that. They've also conceded a goal in each pf their last three World Cup qualifiers, which came against Greece, Georgia and Kosovo. If you haven't been following, this is not the back line that ran through the 2010 World Cup that featured Carles Puyol along with the young and vibrant Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos.
Sweden is probably the play at +650 to win Group E, mainly because Poland have often struggled in international competitions. The losses to Senegal and Colombia in the last World Cup are still fresh in my mind, and I wouldn't blindly bet them just because Robert Lewandowski is on the team (he was on that World Cup team and didn't score in three matches). Sweden made some noise in that World Cup and have mostly the same roster. I also wouldn't put much into their Nations League performance because most would've struggled against France and Portugal. If you still like Lewandowski, Poland are +700 to win the group.
As for the Netherlands, both Ukraine and Austria are in play to take Group C, though I'd back the latter. There's not a ton to like about Ukraine outside of them being young and fresher than most other teams. They have a recent win against Spain and a 1-1 draw against France, but it's hard to see them actually winning a group with their roster and style of play.
Then again, it's not like Austria are safer given recent results, including a 4-0 home loss to Denmark. I still like their roster better, mainly because it's composed of a lot of standout Bundesliga players from David Alaba to Marcel Sabitzer and Xaver Schlager. My hope is that they don't rely on an aging Marko Arnautovic up front. Either way, I'm not sold on the Netherlands, so Austria at +525 and Ukraine at +575 are reasonable bets to take the group.
Team vs. Team and Prop Bets
Instead of betting winners, there are other ways to capitalize on the group stage, and that's mainly against teams I've already faded. Even if Spain won their group and their first knockout match, they'd get a Group F team or possibly England in the quarter-finals. I think the knockout route for Denmark is more favorable if they finish second in Group B, as they'd play the Group A runner-up and then possibly the Netherlands as the Group C winner. This is all projection, but the route for Denmark should be easier than Spain's and you can bet them +135 to finish in a better position.
Similarly, I have no interest in betting on Russia, who will have a hard time getting out of their group against Belgium and Denmark. You can bet Poland -125 and Ukraine -112 to have a better finishing position than Russia, which seems like pretty good odds if Russia lose two matches as expected.
I scoured the rest of the odds and a lot of them aren't worth betting. I'd consider betting on team goals, but those also correlate to my prior plays. You can get Belgium at -125 to score more goals than Netherlands despite being -182 to have a better finishing position. Netherlands are in an easier group, but it's not like Belgium can't score five against each of Finland and Russia.
It's kind of the same for England -118 to have more goals than Spain. I'm not sold on Spain's younger squad in a big tournament just yet, and while England are rarely easy to trust, they at least have experienced firepower.
For a bigger payout, you can get Belgium or England at +450 to finish with the most goals. That seems like a better idea than betting Belgium +600 or England +550 to win it all, mainly because those teams could score the most goals and still lose in the semi-finals or final. Even then, there's a chance they score five-plus goals in a group match and build from there.
Diving into player futures, Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku at +700 are worth considering if you like England and Belgium. Both should be on penalties for their respective sides, especially since Kevin De Bruyne will probably miss a match or two, and both are also central strikers, which usually leads to the majority of goals. On their respective teams, I'd be surprised if Marcus Rashford +4000 or Eden Hazard +5000 finished with more goals than Kane or Lukaku, as those two are next in terms of odds.
In that same vein, you can get Kane -155 to have more goals than Memphis Depay and Lukaku -167 to finish above Kylian Mbappe. Those are higher odds, but I like their chances. Betting assists is a little trickier, especially since De Bruyne is the favorite for the tournament at +800 despite likely missing a match or two.
I think Antoine Griezmann at +2500 to have the most assists is worth a look because of set pieces for France, though Kylian Mbappe at +1700 apparently assists more with the national team. In Wednesday's friendly, Griezmann had five chances created and no assist, while Mbappe had an assist from two chances created.